Breezes Bahamas is one of the best deals in the islands. Credit: Breezes
The bitter cold reality of life in the Northeast early in the new year dares you to flock elsewhere. So it’s not surprising that the peak season for the Bahamas, and those lands in the adjacent Caribbean, lies in the bleak midwinter.
The glut of tourists from the U.S. has made for a curious culture. On one hand, those who live and work in the Bahamas year-round maintain the Arawak lifestyle that links them with South America. On the other, they’ve made room for American things. Indeed, Bahamian Independence Day is only a few days after its American equivalent. Because tourism is the islands' No. 1 economic driver, they celebrate both, one right after the other, for one crazy bash.
The Bahamas teem with fancy hotspots, especially in the capital city Nassau, located on the island of New Providence. It's here that James Bond has returned again and again, including in his maiden voyage, “Dr. No.” Breezes Bahamas was the first of what are still only three all-inclusive resorts on Nassau, and it remains one of the best deals — which is to say it’s more affordable than most.
This isn’t a sleek castle that protects one from everything but the weather and beach time. It’s a getaway that tries to keep you close to island life. At Breezes, there are the expected multiple pools, beachfront hang spots and an ever-flowing parade of Girl Drink Drunk cocktails whose names you’ll quickly forget. But there’s also Kalik, the Bahamas’ most cherished local beer — a refreshing, fruity brew named for the sound produced by two smacked coconuts.
The mix of local and, to Americans, familiar is also reflected in the food. The two fancy restaurants and the all-day buffet fling “continental” food, but slip in Bahamian delicacies and twists on American standards. You’ll have to go offsite to take in the country’s most cherished foodstuff: conch salad, a refreshing, filling mix of peppers, tomatoes and the white, tangy meat pulled from shells, topped with a liberal squeeze of lime juice. A bowl of the stuff will run you $10. We recommend the one from Twin Brothers.
Breezes offers trips downtown, where one can partake in the considerable tourist trade. The biggest draw is the Straw Market, the legendary, cavernous home to local goods, from straw hats to art, some repurposed from aluminum cans. Rum can be purchased here, but see if you can’t make it off the beaten path to John Watling's Distillery, located atop one of the highest hills. They make craft rum, including Buena Vista Rum, which is closer in taste to a nursable cognac.
But Breezes does its best to keep you engaged in its own confines. There are myriad activities, including lessons on kayaking, sailing or even — if you want to grasp the extent of your weakness — rock climbing. Or relax with a hot stone massage and realize, as your body tenses up and rebels, the extent of how wound-up your life has made you. Each night features its own special kind of show in the main hall: some tailored for visitors, with bands performing covers of Top 40 staples, plus nights where they play strictly Bahamian music while decked in the kinds of gear you’d see at Junkanoo, a street parade that dominates several holidays. When that happens, you finally feel far enough from home.
To learn more about Breezes, consult their website.