By Myscha Theriault, McClatchy-Tribune News Service
11:33 PM EST, December 28, 2011
When winter sets in and your soul craves sand and surf, booking a trip to the Bahamas might be just what the doctor ordered. These travel tips will help keep budget concerns at bay while still allowing you to enjoy a bit of luxury.
Experiences: Dinner guests at Graycliff — an antique Bahamian mansion that's played host to the likes of Winston Churchill and Aristotle Onassis — enjoy free viewing tours of the on-site cigar factory and the Graycliff's award-winning wine cellar, which boasts one of the largest private wine collections in the world. Reservations in the cellar's private dining room ring in at roughly $1,000, but five-star entree prices at the restaurant begin at less than $50, providing a comparable — if slightly less private — experience. Western Esplanade Beach is free to access, and strolling through Straw Market in Nassau will score you affordable souvenirs. Hiking the 18th-century limestone steps of the Queen's Staircase will take you to historic Fort Fincastle, which is accessible for only a buck.
Perks: Many hotels and resorts in the Bahamas offer sweet perks to entice penny-pinching vacationers. For example, the Sandals resort on Great Exuma includes unlimited scuba sessions for certified divers, premium wine and spirit selections and spa facility access with their room rates. Comfort Suites on Paradise Island includes hot American-style breakfasts for guests, and complimentary day passes to the Atlantis water park facilities, where brave souls can experience the massive Mayan-themed water slide. These park passes typically cost $110 per adult! The One and Only Ocean Club includes the water park day passes as well, along with free use of bicycles, complimentary morning beach yoga and a number of day camp adventures for young travelers.
Transportation: Cab costs can be significant in Nassau. Fortunately, a number of cultural attractions are easily accessible on foot. For those that aren't, public busses — known as jitneys — run from the hotels to downtown Nassau several times per day for a one-way cost of $1.25. Also of note are the ferry boats, which will take you from Nassau to Paradise Island proper. The roughly $6 ride will take approximately 10 minutes, and includes a waterfront view of Nassau's harbor. Hotels offering free shuttle service are an additional avenue to savings. For example, guests of the Atlantis resorts can access no-cost passenger vans between venues, and travelers staying at Paradise Island's One and Only Ocean Club receive complimentary transportation via private vehicle to a number of nearby casino and restaurant venues.
Theriault is the best-selling co-author of the book "10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget," and founder of TrekHound.com, a web site for independent travelers. She also founded TheLessonMachine.com, a website for teachers.