When to Go
The temperature in The Bahamas averages between 75°F and 85°F (24°C-29°C) in both winter and summer, although it can get chilly in the early morning and at night. The Bahamian winter is usually like a perpetual late spring — naturally, the high season for North Americans rushing to escape snow and ice. Summer brings broiling hot sun and humidity. There’s a much greater chance of rain during the summer and fall.
The curse of Bahamian weather, the hurricane season, lasts (officially) from June 1 to November 30. But there is no cause for panic. More tropical cyclones pound the U.S. mainland than The Bahamas. Hurricanes are actually fairly infrequent here, and when one does come, satellite forecasts generally give adequate advance warning so that precautions can be taken.
If you’re heading for The Bahamas during the hurricane season, you might want to visit the National Weather Service’s website at www.nws.noaa.gov.
For an online 10-day forecast, check the Weather Channel at www.weather.com.
In The Bahamas, hotels charge their highest prices during the peak winter period from mid-December to mid-April, when visitors fleeing from cold north winds flock to the islands. Winter is the driest season here.
If you plan to visit during the winter, try to make reservations at least 2 to 3 months in advance. At some hotels, it’s impossible to book accommodations for Christmas and the month of February without even more lead time.
Avoiding Spring Break — Throughout March and into mid-April, it’s spring-break season in the Caribbean for vacationing college and high-school students. Expect beach parties, sports events, and musical entertainment. If the idea of hundreds of partying fraternity kids doesn’t appeal to you, beware. When you make your reservations, ask if your hotel is planning to host any big groups of kids.
Saving Money in the Off Season — The Bahamas is a year-round destination. The islands’ “off season” runs from late spring to late fall, when tolerable temperatures prevail throughout most of the region. Trade winds ensure comfortable days and nights, even in accommodations without air-conditioning. Although the noonday sun may raise temperatures to uncomfortable levels, cool breezes usually make the morning, late afternoon, and evening more pleasant here than in many parts of the U.S. mainland.
Dollar for dollar, you’ll spend less money by renting a summer house or fully equipped unit in The Bahamas than you would on Cape Cod, Fire Island, Laguna Beach, or the coast of Maine.
The off season — roughly from mid-April to mid-December (rate schedules vary from hotel to hotel) — amounts to a summer sale. In most cases, hotel rates are slashed from 20% to a startling 60% off. It’s a bonanza for cost-conscious travelers, especially families who like to go on vacations together. In the chapters ahead, we’ll spell out in dollars the specific amounts hotels charge during the off season.
Other Off-Season Advantages — Although The Bahamas may appear inviting in the winter to those who live in northern climates, your trip may be more enjoyable if you go in the off season. Here’s why:
- After the winter hordes have left, a less hurried way of life prevails.
- Swimming pools and beaches are less crowded — perhaps not crowded at all.
- To survive, resort boutiques often feature summer sales.
- You can often show up at a top restaurant without a reservation and still get a table for dinner.
- The endless waiting game is over: no lines for a rental car, no long wait for a tee time on the golf course, and quicker access to tennis courts and watersports.
- The atmosphere is more cosmopolitan than it is in winter, mainly because of the influx of Europeans.
- Some package-tour fares are as much as 20% lower, and individual excursion faresmay be reduced by 5% to 10%.
- Accommodations and flights are much easier to book.
- Summer is an excellent time for family travel, which is not always possible during the winter season.
- Finally, the best Bahamian attractions — sea, sand, surf, and lots of sunshine — remain absolutely undiminished.
Off-Season Disadvantages — Let’s not paint too rosy a picture. Although the advantages of off-season travel far outweigh the disadvantages, there are nevertheless some drawbacks to traveling here in summer:
- You might be staying at a construction site. Hoteliers save their major renovations until the off season — thus you could wake up to the sound of hammers.
- Single tourists find the dating scene better in winter when there are more visitors, especially unattached ones.
- Services are often reduced. In the peak of winter, everything is fully operational. But in summer, many programs (such as watersports) might be curtailed in spite of fine weather.