I arrived in Nassau on my cruise on Norwegian Jade. I could see from my balcony that the waters were as blue as you can imagine.
The skies were clear, as well, with just a few white clouds. Yes, it was going to be the typically sunny 80-degree day in the beautiful Bahamas, just ideal conditions to get out and enjoy a beach day.
I also noticed that there were four other cruise ships in port.
This also is what cruisers often get when they come to Nassau. The destination can be idyllic once you get past the hassle of the crowds, which isn’t always easy. Many first-time visitors are enticed to book an experience at the popular mega-resort Atlantis, and there definitely are plenty of fun things to do there. It’s a great spot for families.
But we’ve got a cheap and easy solution for cruisers who want to save a few bucks and a lot of time to have a classic beach day in Nassau. Junkanoo Beach offers a simpler and more laid-back experience — imagine swimming in warm waters, listening to music, playing a little volleyball, trying new foods and drinks and relaxing in the sunshine.
Junkanoo Beach is a fantastic option because it’s close to port. You can get there with just a 15-minute walk, which means your excursion is free if you can handle an easy stroll. This small city beach is open to the public, and you will be joined there by other tourists and native islanders. It can be busy when several ships are in port and also around spring break.
How to Get There
Once you leave the ship and make your way down the pier to exit the terminal facility, you will notice a colorful and vibrant plaza. This area is full of vendors and kiosks selling souvenirs and hair-braiding services.
It’s also filled with music and small bars and restaurants. You will have several tour operators asking whether you want to have an island tour or go to a beach or buy a boat ride or go snorkeling or got to Atlantis. You get the idea. It’s pretty hectic.
Walk past all this and exit the fenced-in area that denotes the limits of the secured port facility at Prince George Wharf. You are now on Woodes Rogers Walk. Turn right and follow the waterfront until you reach Senor Frog’s. You will pass the popular Straw Market facility, which is filled with more vendors selling items like T-shirts, wood carvings, scarves and other souvenirs.
Bear to the left away from the water at Senor Frog’s and continue to follow the sidewalk, along Marlborough Street (you’ll see a Dunkin Donuts and McDonald’s) to West Bay Street. You are now heading back toward the water and will soon reach Junkanoo Beach.
The beach features restaurants, food stalls and bars. Many of these are small, quaint shacks with wooden decks offering some shaded areas perfect for relaxing and enjoying the drinks specials. We have found that the establishments usually offer deals like three beers and three shots for $10. You can find food like conch fritters, burgers, blackened shrimp and jerk chicken and rice Bahamian lunch plates.
Loungers and snorkel gear are available to rent. The water is clean and fantastic for a swim, but you won’t see much when snorkeling. The beach offers a bathroom and changing facilities. The Tiki Bikini Hut is the popular beach club/bar in the middle of the action. You can’t miss it as it blasts loud music and runs volleyball tournaments and other activities.
If that’s not your scene, wander farther down the beach to find more quiet spots away from the crowds. The beach also features two concrete piers that you can use to swim from, jump into the water or just sit down and enjoy the scenery.
Junkanoo Beach has a nice view of Nassau harbor, so you can see your cruise ship in the distance and watch other ships coming and going through the channel.
Junkanoo is not the prettiest beach. There are no long stretches of pristine sandy shoreline, but the appeal is that it’s free and close to port. This is an ideal pick for people who want a frugal option or for those who have visited Nassau a few times and have experienced most other activities and just want to sit back and enjoy the beautiful weather.
Depending on the time of year, the beach can be either fairly crowded or blissfully people-free. U.S. holiday time and weekends will see more visitors to the beach.
John Roberts is a freelance writer and operator of InTheLoopTravel.com. He writes about cruising and active travel, highlighting how people can connect with the world and other cultures through rewarding travel experiences.