The Bahamas is not just a few islands scattered in the Caribbean. It is actually made up of over 700 islands, most of which are so small they aren’t noted on the map.
How Many Islands Are in the Bahamas?
Most travelers only make it to the most populated islands. A few islands are only accessible by private charter or mail boat. And, there are some that are private and not open to the public at all. Of the islands that make up the country, around 30 are populated. Nearly half of those are privately owned.
The remaining 17 populated islands include:
- Berry Islands
- Cat Island
- Crooked Island
- Grand Bahama
- Harbour Island
- Long Island
- New Providence (where the capital, Nassau, is located)
- Ragged Island
- Rum Cay
- San Salvador
- Spanish Wells
The Most Popular Islands in the Bahamas
New Providence and Grand Bahama are the most populous islands in the Bahamas, and the two you are likely to arrive in if you come to the country by cruise ship or plane. Nassau is the capital city and the place where the majority of the population lives.
If you are flying into the Bahamas, it is most likely the place where you will land. This is easily the most touristy of the places you can visit in the Bahamas. The majority of the island is occupied by resorts.
There, you’ll find the usual beaches, pools, restaurants, and nightclubs. If you are staying in Nassau, it’s worth seeking out the local nightclubs.
Locals say the areas around West Bay Street and Gladstone allow you to get away from the touristy vibe. Grand Bahama is where you’ll find Freeport, the second-largest city in the Bahamas.
Despite being relatively populous by Bahamas terms, there’s still a lot of pretty stuff to see. Gold Rock Beach is about 30 minutes from Port Lucaya and can be accessed by crossing the national park.
The best way to go is on foot, where you’ll move through mangroves on a raised wooden boardwalk. Barbary Beach is quiet and secluded. But, be careful when swimming, as the water there can be choppy.
If you are looking for local eats in Grand Bahama, check out Pelican by the Sea. The restaurant, run by a woman named Paulette, offers a range of local Bahamian specialties.
Escaping to the Family/Out Islands
As one redditor put it, “The real beauty of the Bahamas is in the less populated islands.” These are the islands that are not Nassau or Grand Bahama, where the majority of the population live.
Instead, they are quieter, more remote, and, in the opinion of many locals and visitors, the place you’ll find the true charm of the country. The Out Islands start just east of Florida and extend all the way to the area just north of Hispaniola.
These islands are quiet and relaxed. Most have populations no bigger than a thousand or so full-time residents. The largest are served by international airports and fast-moving ferries.
The more remote ones can only be accessed by private charter or a slow trip on the mail boat. Which islands to see all depends on what you want out of your tropical vacation. Eleuthera has multiple boutique hotels and rental condos and townhouses.
You can easily get around with a rented car or bike. An island like Cat Island, though, will take a bit more effort. This tiny island is only accessible by boat. It has no hotels, but many small beach rentals.
The Abacos are popular because they allow you to feel like you have the place to yourself. There are dozens of tiny islands, many of which offer calm and quiet anchorages to spend a day. It’s worth sailing for a visit or renting a boat to visit for a day.
Exuma is known for its pristine beaches and opportunities to meet with the wildlife. Most people who head that way reserve some time to get out to Pig Beach to swim with the friendly feral pigs who make that area home.
Private Islands in the Bahamas
Fancy the idea of owning your own private island? Cruise lines are the owners of several of those that are privately owned. For instance, Half Moon Cay is owned by Holland American Line, who bought it from Norwegian Cruise Line.
When Holland America was purchased by Carnival, the island was part of the deal. About fifty acres have been developed into a resort.
The remaining area of the 2,400 acre island is preserved as a habitat for wildlife. Castaway Cay is another island owned by a cruise line. Once known as Gorda Cay, this island was a popular stop for bootleggers.
In later years, it was used as a filming location in movies that include Splash and Pirates of the Caribbean. The island has 60 permanent residents, all of whom work for Disney.
With over 700 islands in the chain, many are surprised to learn how many are uninhabited. The reason in most cases is the size. These are islands that are not much more than sandbars.
With some of the larger ones, it comes down to a lack of resources. There’s no way to add running water, electricity, or other necessities that would allow for occupation. A few notable islands are designated natural preserves.
Conception Island and Samana Cay, for instance, are both national parks. Conception Island is accessible by charter; you can also access it by sailing there yourself. But, be sure to bring everything you need, as there are no resources there on the island.
Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s get right to the most common questions. We have answers to what people ask most:
What is the main island in the Bahamas?
By area, Andros is by far the largest of the 700 islands in the Bahamas. Its area, in fact, is equal to the rest of the cays combined.
Do people live on all the islands in the Bahamas?
No. Some of the islands of the Bahamas are very small with no infrastructure whatsoever.
What is the most inhabited island in the Bahamas?
New Providence is the most populous island in the Bahamas. About 70% of the country’s total population lives there. It’s also the location Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas. You’ll often hear the island as a whole referred to as Nassau, because the city’s boundaries are the same as the island’s.
What is the safest island in the Bahamas?
All of the Bahamas out islands are considered very safe. Among the safest is the Abacos, which includes Big and Little Abaco. These islands, combined, have a permanent population of around 17,000, which lends an intimate, small town island feel.
What is the least touristy island in the Bahamas?
The further you get from the big, populous islands, the less touristy the Bahamas becomes. However, it’s worth noting that some of these least touristy islands are hard to get to. Islands like Cat Island, for instance, are beautiful and quiet.
Summing Up: How Many Islands Are There in the Bahamas?
There are over 700. Seventeen of these are populated and accessible. It can take some effort to get to the Out Islands, but these more remote places are well worth a visit. Happy travels!