Great surf, great sun, great people… the Bahamas is made for families. There’s Atlantis (natch!), but there’s more. We combed the sea for the three isles guaranteed to impress even the pickiest brood.
FOR THE SPORTY FAMILY
If your clan’s idea of a good time involves swimming, spelunking, or anything that works up a sweat, pack your gear and head to Andros’s Small Hope Bay Lodge, a rustic resort hidden in acres of mangrove and Andros pine. This unpretentious charmer feels like tropical summer camp but is actually a world-class diving destinationand the best place for kids to get their first taste of scuba diving. The string of simple coral-rock cottages is anchored by a lodge with batik-covered daybeds and a bar fashioned from the hull of an old sailboatbut has no phones or TV. You don’t miss them, though, with all the kayaking, snorkeling, nature trails, shelling, and diving. At night, kids eat in the ramshackle rec room, stocked with board games and coloring supplies, while adults mingle with staff members over conch fritters in the lounge. Communal tables and ample portions of home-style foodthink cracked conch, freshly baked orange cakegive things an easygoing dinner party feel; hey, even sports fans need some downtime (242-368-2014; smallhope.com; doubles, $470, all-inclusive).
FOR THE LAID-BACK FAMILY
Admit it: You hate planning. (We understand.) Non-type A families will love Hope Town on Elbow Cay, an islet that’s a short ferry ride from Great Abaco. With a low-key vibe and an easily navigable layout, it brings to mind a tropical Nantucket. Book at the cheeryHope Town Harbour Lodge; the ferry will drop you right at the hotel’s pier, and the staff will carry your gearbodyboards, strollers, and allup to your room. Oceanfront cottages have decks so you can keep an eye on the sand-castle construction from above (242-366-0095; hopetownlodge.com; doubles, $175-$225). The tiny town is best explored on foot or bike, and because it’s closed to motor vehicles, kids can run free.Sun Dried-T’s, a harborside kiosk, rents bikes with big baskets for beach gear (242-366-0616; bike rentals, $10 a day). The more ambitious should call Froggie’s, which can arrange daylong snorkel trips to nearby Abaco National Park (242-366-0431;froggiesabaco.com; day-trips, $70). At night, hit the beloved Harbour’s Edgekids will scarf down conch fritters before scampering off to raid the board game collection, leaving adults to watch the sunset (242-366-0087; entrées, $20-$32).
FOR THE MULTI-GENERATIONAL FAMILY
There’s Grandma. And the teenagers. And your sister and her toddler. Luckily, Grand Bahama has something to satisfy every constituency. There’s no need to rent a car; simply base the crew in Lucaya, a self-contained resort area just beyond Freeport with both ocean and intracoastal marina access. The beach side is dominated by the sprawling Our Lucaya complex, which has two resorts, four pools, and 13 restaurants linked by paths. Book the older generations at Reef Village, where the tranquil lanai suites have their own private beach (242-373-1333; lanai suites from $700). Closer to the action (and the water slides), the ten-story Radisson has two-bedroom suites with kitchens (242-373-1333; ourlucaya.com; suites, $589). If Our Lucaya is a bit too Disney, try the marinaside Pelican Bay Hotel, where the friendly staff will track down beach reads and DVDs for movie night (242-373-9550;pelicanbayhotel.com; suites, $189-$209). By day, the more active family members can trot over to UNEXSO, a spit-and-polish dive operation with its own pool for beginning scuba lessons (242-373-1244; intro lessons, $109), or explore the rest of the island on a day-trip with Grand Bahama Nature Tours (242-373-2485;grandbahamanaturetours.com; day tours, $79). For something less rigorous, sign up with Paradise Cove, a modest family-owned beach club on the island’s western end. They’ll transport you to their sandy stretch, where you can snorkel out to Deadman’s Reef or lounge on the beach (242-349-2677; deadmansreef.com; snorkel day-trip, $35 for adults, $20 for children).
At night, everyone can regroup at Iries, a stylized Caribbean joint inside Our Lucaya; there are dishes like roasted grouper with papaya chutney, as well as a kids’ menu (242-373-1333; entrées, $21-$35). On the marina side, the Port Lucaya Marketplace is kitschy but convenient, with plenty of eating options. Grab a table at Pisces, a quirky Italian spot with delicious conch pizza (242-373-5192; pizzas, $12-$30).