There’s a reason early explorers found the Bahamas nearly as precious as the jewels they were after; the islands are exquisite. Scattered throughout the crystal turquoise sea, each island is a paradise unique in character yet equal in sublime beauty. For centuries, those seeking the good life converged on this island nation, and now you can too. Take your gap year in the Bahamas and prepare for a year filled with adventure, volunteering, and gorgeous dives beneath the sea!
The Bahamas is a group of islands and cays in the Caribbean Sea. Many are too small for inhabitation, but others teem with life in the pulsating city centres and colorful coral reefs decorating the bays. Activities abound on land and in sea (in any destination you choose), will be unforgettable. Here are some of the favorites:
Andros. Politically considered one single island, Andros is actually an archipelago that is larger than all the others combined. It’s also one of the least-developed (of the inhabited ones), so nature takes a front seat. Eco-travelers, kayakers, hikers, and divers will want for nothing on this gorgeous piece of earth— just be careful— the mythical sea monster Lusca lurks in these holes waiting for an unsuspecting moment to pull you into its lair!
Nassau. Nassau is the capital city of the Bahamas, and holds together a 21-mile stretch of land on New Providence Island. The influences from West Africa, Great Britain, and Haiti can be seen in the country’s many flavorful dishes and lively music. However, it’s somewhat more expensive than the other islands, as most of the luxury resorts were built on Nassau’s soft white-sand beaches. Even if you want to get off the beaten path, it’s worth a visit for the horse-drawn surreys and quaint architecture that bring glimpses from the past and into the present. There’s also a fun Pirates of Nassau Museum where you can get your marauder on and learn the thrilling tales of life at sea.
Freeport. Grand Bahama Island is probably the second most popular port of call, dominated by the city of Freeport. Freeport is known to be modern and has many of the resort properties you may be working or volunteering for. It’s known to have longer stretches of clean white sand than Nassau.
There is no shortage of unique and exciting ways to fill your gap year abroad in the Bahamas. Whether you want to work, volunteer, learn a new skill or hone an existing one, these islands bring the heat.
Adventure travel. Adrenaline junkies of the world unite; the Bahamas was made for adventure! Your adrenaline will start pumping the second you land, knowing that bungee jumps, wreck-diving, horseback riding, and even plane-flying are just moments away.
Volunteering. There are countless ways to volunteer your time in the Bahamas. Park conservation programs and animal shelters recruit selfless travelers year-round for an extra hand. These are great ways to get involved with a project and actually feel like you made a difference when you go. Considering you’ll be taking a lot with you from this experience, it’s more than a fair exchange! Similarly, you can take to the sea and help monitor underwater environments or preserve species in desperate need of conservation. Whatever your taste, volunteering in the Bahamas will help build the best version of yourself!
Scuba diving. A mix of adventure and volunteering can be found in any of the hundreds of dive sites in the Bahamas. Marine research stations take on international volunteers to help build the new marine park and learn marine conservation techniques that are recognized globally—so you can definitely take these skills on the road. There are also courses in boat handling, biodiversity planning and application, and community outreach. Free time is spent exploring the beautiful cays and getting friendly with local sea life.
Everything else you need to know gap years in the Bahamas
Costs. Program costs vary greatly due to the diverse nature of said programs. Most are all-inclusive, however whatever you spend outside of them is largely up to you. Transport is under $2 per ride, and water taxis average around $6 if you want to hop between islands. Make sure you thoroughly look into each program and see what’s included. Not enough in your piggy bank? Set up an account on FundMyTravel and get your friends and family on board!
Accommodations. Programs will usually provide accomodation for you, either in dorms or with host families. If you’re making the trip on your own, or taking an independent excursion during your stay, try to find a hostel. There may be few in what is typically a resort country, but they are out there and significantly cheaper than a hotel! Airbnb and couchsurfing are both growing as well.
Visas. Entry requirements depend on country of origin, but most stays under three months do not require a visa. The paperwork for longer stays can be arranged through your program, as they can differ between student, work, and in some cases, residency. Check the for your nearest Bahamian embassy and updated, country-specific information.
Safety. As with anywhere, the areas just outside resorts often attract pickpockets hoping to profiteer off of unsuspecting tourists. Don’t keep valuables in sight and try to only carry the money you need with you. Use general street smarts and your intuition, and the fun will far outweigh the risks!
GoAbroad’s Inside Scoop on gap years in the Bahamas
Gap years rock! The gap year really got its start in the 17th century, with sons of rich aristocrats taking 1-3 years to visit important European cities to experience “culture” firsthand. They hoped to become enlightened in the arts and literature of the world by experiencing it themselves. The concept has been modernized to be more efficient, cheaper, and include female travelers (#GirlPower).
Traveling is a rite of passage: an initiation, a transition, an opportunity for soul-searching. Getting a handle on who you are and how you work while you’re young sets you up for a life suited to the best qualities you have to offer. Gap years help define career options, and preemptively work to combat career fatigue. Take a gap year in the Bahamas and make sure the only burning out you do is in the sun!
Apart from making sure to drive on the left, life in the Bahamas is pretty similar to Westernized countries. The exchange on the Bahamian dollar is even at the same rate as the US dollar, and they are accepted interchangeably. Though it’ll be tempting to feel like you’re on a constant vacation (blame the sun), you will have to be conscious of your dress in the streets, restaurants, and churches. Cover up your bathing suit when you leave the beach.
More young people than ever are heading out to explore the world before locking into a career. Join in and let this important time in your life define who you are and who you want to be. Meet people from around the globe, dive (in this case, literally) into experiences that scare you, and find the strength in you that can conquer anything! The Bahamas is an idyllic place to play, explore, and connect with people who will shape your world.
Bermuda, Bahama, come on pretty mama🎶—and check out even more awesome gap year articles for inspiration and advice.