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Best shore excursions for Bahamas cruises

May 01, 2022
9 min read
Royal Caribbean CocoCay_RC
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From lazy lounging on the beach to action-packed water adventures, cruise ship shore excursions in the Bahamas are packed with fun in the sun and sea.

Whether you're looking to get wet, get chill or get stuff, you'll find a way to do it on a shore excursion here. You can swim with pigs and dive with sharks. You can cruise the islands on ATVs or skim across the water on a wide array of vessels. Tours often include time to shop the straw markets, and many also include traditional Bahamian lunches, snacks and/or beverages.

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The list of Bahamas tours and activities includes options to suit almost everyone. We sorted through the choices to find you the best Bahamas shore excursions. Ready? Let's dive in.

Prices for the same tours can vary across cruise lines and third-party sellers, so tours are listed below by price ranges, using the following shorthand (per adult):

$= $0-50.
$$= $51-99.
$$$= $100-199.

Best Nassau, Bahamas shore excursions

The Atlantis resort in Nassau, Bahamas. (Photo by Justin Crowder/EyeEm/Getty Images)

Island food and culinary tour

3-3.5 hours, easy, $$.

Bahamas food and beverage excursions are an ideal way to immerse yourself in the culture of the islands. You'll feast on island specialties and favorites such as conch fritters or salad, rock lobster, traditional cornbread-like Johnny cakes and tropical punches laced with rum. Most cruise lines offer food tours that stop at multiple local eateries. There may be walking involved, so be sure to read your cruise line's description.

Blue Lagoon beach break

Varies, easy to moderate, $$-$$$.

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Some of the best excursions in Nassau are to Blue Lagoon Island, a privately owned island with a beach, food, water sports and other activities. You can choose the standard beach break option with lunch, beach games and use of water noodles and tubes. Or you can upgrade to a tour that includes snorkeling or swimming with stingrays, dolphins, sharks and even sea lions. Additional activities can be purchased upon arrival on the island.

Scuba diving with sharks

4.5 hours, moderate, $$$-$$$$.

If you are a certified scuba diver and have ever considered diving with sharks, this is your excursion. The shark dives involve one reef dive, followed by a second dive with everyone kneeling in the sand on the bottom as the shark feeder doles out his goodies. You've heard the term "sharknado?" It's a real thing and being in one is an adrenaline rush you'll never forget.

I should warn the shark-timid among you that because Caribbean reef sharks are plentiful in the waters surrounding Nassau and because dive shops have been doing baited shark dives here for years, you may encounter sharks on any dive in Nassau, though at a bit more distance than during the shark feeds. In fact, I've never not seen a shark while diving here.

Paradise Island and Aquaventure Oasis Waterpark

All day, moderate, $$$$.

Excursions that include access to Atlantis Paradise Island Bahamas seem to no longer mention the name of the mega-resort that made Paradise Island famous. If you've always wanted to go, excursions labeled Aquaventure are your ticket.

The day pass includes access to miles of beaches, the on-site casino, and the Aquaventure water park featuring 141 acres of slides, swimming areas, river rides, and wave areas. The pass also allows you to dine in the resort’s eateries, explore a myriad of shops or even add an aquatic animal experience like a dolphin swim.

You can purchase Atlantis day passes independently, but the advantage of booking your visit as an excursion is that transportation will be included.

Related: A day in Nassau, Bahamas: What to do while your cruise is in port

Best shore excursions in Freeport, Grand Bahama Island

Freeport Grand Viscaya. (Photo by Chinedu Ernesto/Getty Images)

Freeport island tour, beach and shopping

4 hours, easy, $.

Shore excursions that bundle a tour with a beach break and shopping are always a good choice in the Bahamas. You get to see a bit of the island, learn its history, shop for souvenirs and get in some coveted beach time, all with easy transportation. This kind of tour is especially useful if you've never been to Grand Bahama Island. For a small amount of money, you get to scope the place out for your adventures on your next Bahamas cruise.

Pirate's Cove beach, zipline and waterpark

4 hours, moderate, $$$.

If zip lining is your thing, this is a good place to get your fix. The beachside zip line has options for starting at 50 feet up or 30 feet, making it ideal for newbies wanting to try the experience. Since this excursion also includes time at the beach and floating water park, consider it a deal.

Glass bottom boat shark experience

3 hours, easy, $$$.

Want to see Caribbean reef sharks without putting your toes in the water? This excursion takes you on a glass-bottom boat ride to waters where Caribbean reef sharks have been fed. The boat has ample deck space for sunning when you aren’t watching the action below the boat. It's a fun way to spend a day out on the water with an opportunity to see these predators and other colorful tropical fish without fear. Typical Bahamian refreshments round out the fun.

Blue hole snorkeling

5 hours, moderate, $$$.

My rule of thumb is to snorkel at every opportunity while in the Bahamas. It's a fun and easy way to take a peek beneath the waves at the colorful sea life found in these waters. When you book a snorkeling excursion in the Bahamas, gear is provided, including snorkeling vests to keep you afloat.

For the best Bahamas snorkeling, choose a blue hole snorkeling excursion. Blue holes are found throughout the Bahamas and are essentially open-topped caverns, so it’s like swimming in a fishbowl. Some are landlocked, where they may be filled with either fresh or salt water, and inhabited by a wide range of aquatic life, including crabs, lobsters, octopus and fish. Others are offshore, below the surface of the ocean, creating a mini reef environment to explore.

This excursion involves a lengthy ride, but it’s definitely worth it.

Swim with the pigs

1.5 hours, easy, $$$.

Swimming pigs are kind of a big deal in the Bahamas. Animal lovers can enjoy time in shallow water watching (and even feeding) these silly pigs. Most of the cruise line private islands also offer pig swims, but the one in Freeport does not involve a boat ride, which may make it more appealing to some. You'll also get time to hang out on Crystal Beach and buy lunch.

Related: Bahamas cruise guide: Best itineraries, planning tips and things to do

Best Bahamas shore excursions from cruise line private islands

(Photo by Stephen Frink/Getty Images)

Snorkeling from shore or by boat

Varies, moderate, $-$$.

Cruise ship private islands make snorkeling easy. Most of the islands will offer snorkeling gear for rent, and you can snorkel right from the beach. (If you, like me, never miss an opportunity to put your face in the water, consider buying your own snorkel gear for future sailings.) Optional boat excursions to primo snorkeling spots are also possible from some islands.

Kayak tour

1-1.5 hours, moderate, $-$$.

Kayaking from the cruise line private islands gives you a new perspective of these fun playgrounds. Tours are led by experienced guides who can point out sea life in shallow water while leading you along the shore of the tropical paradise. Beginners are welcome and life jackets are provided.

Stingray City Bahamas

1.5 hours, easy, $$.

While the Stingray City experience has been popular in Grand Cayman for years, it's relatively new to the Bahamas. Stingray City Bahamas is located among the Berry Islands, home to Royal Caribbean’s Perfect Day at CocoCay and Norwegian’s Great Stirrup Cay. You’ll be taken on a short speedboat ride to a shallow sandy spot in a location where stingrays congregate. Your guide will provide fish to feed the rays, which swoop in and suck the fish from your hand. It's a fun outing if you haven't done it before and it doesn't take away too much of your beach time on the island.

Horseback riding by land and sea

1.25 hours, moderate, $$$.

Carnival offers a horseback riding tour from Half Moon Cay that includes a brief venture into the sea with your horse. The minimum age is 10. As the mother of a horse-loving daughter, I can tell you that riding in the ocean was one of her favorite cruise memories ever. No riding experience is required, but you must be able to follow directions and pay attention to your guide for your own safety as well as that of the horses and other riders. One other thing to know: There will be poo, both on land and in the water.

Related: Visiting a cruise line’s private island? Don’t make these 11 mistakes

Bottom line

Bahamas shore excursions typically focus on activity in the water, but if shopping, food tours or sightseeing are more your thing, you’ll find those options as well. The Bahamas is made up of a culturally rich collection of islands that have a reputation for welcoming visitors with arms wide open. From simple beach break excursions to full-day tours, you can easily find something that floats your boat in the Bahamas.

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Featured image by Royal Caribbean CocoCay. ROYAL CARIBBEAN
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.