If you’re planning a vacation to the Caribbean to finally take that holiday of a lifetime, which island do you go to? Well, it’s not an easy choice but I bet that both Jamaica and the Bahamas are pretty high up on your list.
The Bahamas is a country made up of over 700 different islands while Jamaica is just one single landmass in the ocean. Now, you’re probably tempted by the lure of island hopping but don’t get too caught up in it as even though there is no island hopping to had in Jamaica, it does have a lot to offer that the Bahamas doesn’t.
While they both offer amazing white sand beaches and a stunning ocean to frolic in, Jamaica and the Bahamas are both very different countries, so how do you pick the right one? That’s what we are here to help with. Join me as we take a look at Jamaica vs the Bahamas so you can choose the right Caribbean spot for your next getaway.
You’re not traveling to an island paradise to avoid the beaches, hanging out on a beautiful beach is probably priority number one. There is nothing better than escaping a cold winter in exchange for white sands and sunshine, so how do the beaches compare between Jamaica vs the Bahamas?
Jamaica’s coastline runs for 1,022 kilometers and the entire thing is dotted with beaches, coves, and cliffs that are all available to be explored during your stay. The beaches in Jamaica are all made up of white sand and lapped with the stunning bright blue waters of the Caribbean, so they are absolutely stunning!
Some of the most famous beaches in Jamaica, and the most beautiful include Doctors Cove, Franchmas Cove the most famous of them all, Seven Mile Beach on the west coast near Negril. If you’re looking for a slice of paradise in Jamaica, these are all incredible spots to head to.
Jamaica doesn’t just have beaches for chilling on, it also has some lively party beaches where you can have a boogie in the sun too, especially at the beaches around Montego Bay.
The Bahamas has more beaches than you could ever imagine. Every one of the 700 islands that make up the Bahamas has luscious white sand beaches that are lapped with one some of the most crystal clear electric blue waters I have ever seen. They are truly spectacular!
With so many islands and so many beaches, the Bahamas is a beach hopper’s dream. The sheer diversity means you’ll struggle to find a beach that is the same as the next, making it quite an amazing destination if you want to spend your days on the sand.
They have famous pink sand beaches such as the ones on Harbor Island that are pink due to the shells that created them over millions of years. You’ll also find white sand beaches, some of the most famous being Lighthouse Beach, Coco Plum Beach, Gold Rock Beach Cable Beach, and Pink Sand Beach.
A word of warning for you beach hoppers. While it is a lot of fun to explore the hidden beaches on the outer islands, some of them do come with some biting critters, doctor flies, and no-see-ums. I have spent time on beaches being bitten and have had to sit in the water to escape the bites.
While traveling around a Caribbean island, it would be a little criminal not to engage in some ocean activities and when it comes to Jamaica vs the Bahamas, you can do everything from snorkeling and diving to fishing and even swimming with pigs.
The snorkeling and diving in Jamaica are pretty good, it’s not world-class like Seychelles or anything, but the ocean is still full of life.
The great thing about snorkeling in Jamaica is that you can do it right off the beach so you don’t need to book a tour, just pack your fins and mask, and head to either Booby Cay, Doctors Cave Beach, Seven Mile Beach, or Treasure Beach and swim out to see the awesome underwater world.
You’re likely to stumble up some rays, turtles, sharks, corals, and loads of reef fish such as snappers, barracuda, butterflyfish, groupers, lionfish, and more. The water is clear and the visibility is good most of the time as long as it hasn’t rained much.
When it comes to diving in Jamaica, you’re likely to encounter similar species as when you’re snorkeling but more of them with larger specimens, and you can throw in diving with dolphins, sea horses, and more too. There are some cool dive sites too including a lot of reefs, caves, and even an old plane wreck.
Jamaica is also great for offshore fishing and a trip into the deep blue could have you in a fight with a blue marlin, white marlin, sailfish, tuna, dorado, wahoo, and more.
The Bahamas is a little more famous for its snorkeling and diving than Jamaica comply because the water is almost always crystal clear and with 700 different islands, there is a little bit more to see and the sites are very diverse.
Just like in Jamaica, you can also snorkel right off the beach in the Bahamas, so be sure to bring your fins and mask. Depending on which island you’re on, knowing which beach might be best for you to snorkel from comes down to asking a local, but no matter which one you want to choose, you’ll be in for a pleasant experience.
In the Bahamas, you’re likely to snorkel with some bonefish, rays, lobsters, snappers, barracudas, turtles, sharks, jacks, and loads more depending on if you’re on a reef or just off the beach.
There are loads of different dive sites in the Bahamas too and it’s world-famous for its shark diving. You’ll find good diving operations on almost every island and they range from huge drop-offs to stunning caves, wrecks, and amazing reefs full of life.
The fishing in the Bahamas is pretty amazing, both offshore and fly fishing on the flats. The offshore fishing will have you searching for similar species as in Jamaica (blue marlin, white marlin, sailfish, tuna, dorado, wahoo) but something you have to do in the Bahamas if you like fly fishing, is to go flats fishing.
Pretty much all the major islands like Andros, Abaco, Grand Bahama, and more are covered with flats that are teeming with bonefish plus the occasional tarpon and permit. There are guides and fly rods available on request and there is nothing more exciting and fun than spending a day among the mangroves with a Bahamian guide teaching you how to fly fish.
While the main lure of any Caribbean holiday is to spend some time on the beach and in the ocean, there can be some amazing things to see inland too. When it comes to Jamaica vs the Bahamas, the inland options are vastly different and this is all due to their different landscapes. I think you’ll find that Jamaica has the Bahamas beaten when considering things that don’t involve the sea.
Jamaica is home to a lot more than amazing beaches and ocean, it’s also home to the Blue Mountains. The interior region of the island is covered in lush jungles, waterfalls, rivers, and lots of fruit and coffee plantations too.
The highest peak is Blue Moutain which sits at 2,256 meters above sea level and the Blue Mountain Peak Trail is a 14-mile hike that takes you all the way up to the top via jungles and waterfalls, to give you an incredible view of the island and way into the ocean.
You can also visit another part of the Blue Mountains called Holywell National Park which is also loaded with jungle-covered hiking trails. You can camp out in the national park and enjoy the amazing views of the sunrise, sunset, and incredible stars on a clear night.
Some other fun activities to do around the Blue Mountains are to hop on a bamboo river raft tour and enjoy being poled down one of the many beautiful rivers. You should also visit some of their amazing waterfalls such as the Dunn River’s Falls, Secret Falls, and Reach Falls in St Thomas. You can swim in the pools beneath falls, have a shower under the waterfall, and even climb up them and jump off.
The Bahamas has little to offer when it comes to inland activities as most of the interior of the islands is simply mangroves. There are no mountains to be seen and no rivers.
The closest to inland activities you can find are hiking through the forest on Andros to one of the many inland blue holes or heading over to Pig beach to swim with pigs, which is truly a wonderful and once-in-a-lifetime experience. The pigs actually swim out to say hello to you.
You also have the option of going to places like the Exumas Cays Land and Sea Park, which is more of a sea park and has some of the best snorkeling in the country.
Both Jamaica and the Bahamas sure know how to party and there are some awesome festivals and nights out which are worth checking out while you’re there. I always find that a night out is one of the best ways to meet some locals and catch a vibe for wherever you’re visiting, so don’t hesitate, especially if you’re a fan of Caribbean music.
We have all heard of Bob Marley and we all know he is from Jamaica, and his reggae and Rastafarian legacy live on strongly on the island. If you’re looking for a party in Jamaica, your best bet is to head to Montego Bay where you’ll find loads of clubs and live venues busting out anything from dub to reggae, dancehall, and more.
There are also some fun places to have a night out in Negril if you’re staying on that side of the island, and of course in the capital of Kingston too. Nights out in Jamaica are a load of fun but make sure to be sensible and do it safely as there is a bit of crime on the island.
Where you have reggae in Jamaica, you have Goombay in the Bahamas, and a lot of reggae too. The annual carnivals are awash with color and the parades and parties afterward are a ton of fun.
If you’re looking for a fun night out on Nassau, head down to Tiki Bikini Hut, Daiquiri Shack, Senor Frog’s, and the club at Atlantis is pretty cool too.
Nassau can also be a little dangerous, just like Jamaica can be, so be sure to act sensibly and organize your taxis, and you should be fine.
One of the most exciting parts of visiting a new place for me is getting to try the local cuisine and in both Jamaica and the Bahamas, you’re in for a treat, especially if you love good seafood.
The national dish of Jamaica and something that Usain Bolt eats often for breakfast is saltfish and ackee. Ackee is a fruit that is part of the same family as lychee and is native to West Africa but was brought to Jamaica a long time ago.
The ackee is usually fried or stewed and served with slated rock cod that is caught off the shores of Jamaica. Salted fish has quite an intense flavor, be warned it might be a bit much for breakfast, but it is delicious, especially for lunch or dinner.
Jamaica is also famous for its jerk seasoning, a hot blend of a range of spices which can include allspice, scotch bonnet peppers, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, scallions, thyme, garlic, ginger, and more. The jerk spice is made differently by every chef who prepares it and is then rubbed over chicken, pork, or fish and thrown onto the BBQ. It is so delicious when cooked right, which is always is in Jamaica.
It’s said the jerk was invented by slaves that ran away into the Blue Mountains and created jerk cooking to add flavor to their dishes as they always had to cook over open fires.
As well as the national dishes of Jamaica mentioned above, you will also be able to find fresh seafood everywhere on the island from snapper cooked to perfection to tuna steaks, and more. And don’t forget to try the unforgettable Jamaican drinks too!
The traditional food of the Bahamas is made up of anything that can be found in the sea, so if you’re a true seafood lover, you should be very excited to go to the Bahamas.
One of the most popular dishes in the Bahamas is conch. When I say conch, I don’t mean the beautiful shell you can blow like a horn, I’m talking about the animal the lives inside it.
There are so many conches in the Bahamas that it’s hard to get your head around. They are collected and strung together in batches of 10 and left just off the beach so you can grab a fresh one whenever needed.
Conch can be made into hundreds of different things including conch ceviche, conch salad, conch fritters, fried conch, and more. It has a similar texture to squid and the Bahamians swear by it as a natural aphrodisiac for men.
Another seafood that is abundant in the Bahamas is lobster, also known as crawfish. During lobster season, fishermen can spear up to twenty or more crawfish in a day and it is amazingly delicious. Think of dishes like baked lobster and lobster penne alfredo and you’ll get the idea.
Crab is also a delicacy in the Bahamas as they have a huge population of land crabs that migrate to the sea every year to lay their eggs, which is when they are harvested. The crabs are first kept in a pen and fed fresh vegetables to cleanse their meat and then served up baked in bread crumbs.
The most common fish you’ll find on the menu in the Bahamas is grouper and snapper but you’ll also stumble upon tuna, wahoo, dorado, and swordfish too. They can all be cooked in many different ways and they are always fresh and delicious.
Choosing between Jamaica and the Bahamas is a tough call, isn’t it? Well, maybe not for some of you. When it comes to food and nightlife, both the Bahamas and Jamaica are pretty evenly matched with what’s on offer.
The Bahamas certainly takes the cake when it comes to beaches, snorkeling, diving, fishing, and island hopping. The single island of Jamaica didn’t really have a chance when it comes to ocean-based activities when competing with the 700 plus island of the Bahamas.
Something Jamaica does have that the Bahamas does not is a beautiful mountain range with stunning jungles, waterfalls, rivers, and hiking trails to be explored. If you prefer a little bit of diversity on your vacation and don’t want to have sandy toes and salty lips every day, then Jamaica might be more up your street.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!