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Nassau Essentials

cloisters bahamas The Cloisters -- it's right in front of the Ocean Club -- is a 12th-century cloister, built in France by Augustinian monks and reassembled here stone by stone. Huntington Hartford, the A & P grocery heir, purchased the cloister from the estate of William Randolph Hearst at Sam Simeon in California. This is one of only four cloisters that have ever been removed stone by stone from France.

Don't forget to spend a day or two enjoying Nassau's beaches. Some say the most beautiful one here is Cabbage Beach, on the north shore. Another good choice is Cable Beach, with all the usual beach amenities and dazzling beachfront resorts along baby-powder-soft sand. For great snorkeling, try Love Beach near Gambier Village, about 12 miles west of downtown Nassau. If you're looking for a little more seclusion, Caves Beach in Rock Point (close to the airport turnoff on Blake Road) is a good out-of-the-way choice.

Where to Eat
Nassau's dining scene offers everything from upscale restaurants serving fine European cuisine to casual beach bars where you can nibble on fried conch fritters as you look out over the sea. Seafood abounds here, particularly conch, rock lobster and boiled fish stew. And be sure to try Kalik, "the beer of the Bahamas," which is brewed at Nassau's Commonwealth Brewery.

The food at Graycliff is great, they have more than 250,000 bottles of wine (worth millions of dollars) and they make their own cigars. What's not to love? We say go all out and order the Perigord goose liver with black truffles! Dinner reservations are essential.

Everyone loves Cafe Matisse for its excellent Italian food. The sweet potato gnocchi topped off with gorgonzola sauce, radicchio salad and walnuts is amazing. Reservations are recommended.

The oceanfront restaurant at the Compass Point Beach Resort offers West Indian dishes like Bahamian cracked conch and lobster salad. We love the ultra-colorful dining room and the beautiful sea views.

Think T.G.I. Friday's ... Caribbean style. At Anthony's Grill, you'll find grilled or fried grouper sandwiches, excellent ribs doused in an awesome barbecue sauce and warm-weather cocktails bigger than a house. It's located in the Paradise Island Shopping Center.

Consider Crocodile's Waterfront Bar & Grill on East Bay Street if you're looking for funky-casual waterside dining under thatched tiki huts -- along with island drinks galore. The Bahamian-style fried chicken is excellent.

atlantis paradise island nassau bahamasWhere to Stay
Nassau is home to one of the world's most famous hotels: the sprawling Atlantis mega-resort, with its nearly overwhelming wealth of activities and entertainment options. But for travelers more interested in peace and quiet than casinos and water parks, New Providence Island also offers charming guesthouses and serene beachfront cottages in a variety of price ranges. Winter is the busy season here, and rates rise accordingly.

There's so much to do at Atlantis -- the biggest, splashiest mega-resort in the Bahamas -- that you may be hard-pressed to tear yourself away. Kids will love Aquaventure, a 141-acre water park, and the Marine Habitat, which is home to a number of animal exhibits (including Dolphin Cay, where you can swim with dolphins and sea lions). For adults, there are numerous bars and lounges, a theater, a comedy club, an adults-only pool and the Caribbean's largest casino. With nearly 3,000 rooms and suites in six different parts of the resort, there are accommodations to fit many interests and price points (though this is not the place for budget travelers).

If the Atlantis is a little too over the top for your tastes, you'll find peaceful, beautiful beaches and balmy sea breezes at the Compass Point Beach Resort. These luxurious, brightly colored cabanas and cottages are located right on the beach and offer amenities like flat-screen TV's, refrigerators, microwaves, and DVD and CD players.

Dating back to the 1920's, the elegant British Colonial Hilton is situated in Nassau's city center, making it a convenient option for business travelers or for those who are looking for proximity to shopping, dining and the cruise port. There is a private beach here, but it's not the island's best; those strictly looking for a beach getaway might be happier at one of the Cable Beach or Paradise Island properties.

For budget travelers who aren't looking for a resort experience, Orange Hill Beach Inn is a laid-back, affordable option. Studio rooms are the least expensive; for a splurge, rent out the private cottage (which has a lovely ocean view).

Perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean, A Stone's Throw Away is a charming B&B escape from the busier parts of Nassau. Travelers looking to unwind can enjoy the views from the generous wraparound porch or relax by a pool surrounded by lush gardens.

Where to Shop
Nassau is one of the Caribbean's premier duty-free shopping destinations, with visitors flocking to the shops of Bay Street to seek out deals on jewelry, crystal, fragrances and other upscale items. Keep in mind that all duty-free goods are not necessarily good deals; if you have a particular item in mind for purchase, be sure to research prices at home before your trip to make sure the "deals" you see in Nassau really will save you money. If you're looking for more traditional souvenirs of your trip, visit one of Nassau's street markets to find local handcrafts and artwork.

The Straw Market is perhaps Nassau's most popular attraction. You'll still find all things straw and artwork made by locals, including shopping bags, handbags, hats and wonderful dolls -- though you'll also see plenty of cheapie sunglasses, tacky trinkets and knock-off purses. Those who are willing to browse -- and barter -- may come up with some great finds.

Just near the Straw Market is Bay Street, where you'll find tonier shops like Gucci as well as a variety of upscale duty-free goods. This area is well frequented by the island's many cruise ship passengers.

Also nearby are the dozens of shops inside the Nassau International Bazaar at Woodes Rogers Walk and Charlotte Street. Designed to look like a small European town, complete with cobblestone streets, the bazaar offers goods from all around the world.

The conch vendors are just part of the scene at Potters Cay, a Bahamian marketplace beneath Paradise Island Bridge. Here, you'll find plenty of vendors selling locals goods to both the locals and tourists.

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