Congratulations if you are forced to choose between the Bahamas and Jamaica as your vacation destination. Both are popular islands with lots to offer. They are both fantastic and popular choices for a Caribbean getaway. To make the best choice, you should consider your expectations. What are you looking for in your dream vacation? What kinds of activities are you expecting?
While both islands are fabulous, there are some basic differences. Couples in search of a lively nightlife will find more of that in Jamaica than in the laidback Bahamas. On the other hand, Jamaica does not have casinos, and the Bahamas has plenty, as well as more luxury and kid-friendly resorts. It also has more beaches surrounding its 700 individual tropical islands.
Jamaica is the place to explore the rainforest and mountainous landscape with waterfalls, river rafting, and exciting ziplining. Definitely not as laid back as the Bahamas.
The Best Time to Visit
The weather in Jamaica is in the comfortable 70s to 80s between December and April. That is a popular time for tourists, and it can get a bit crowded. The island has two rainy seasons, one in the spring and the other in the fall. But the rain is no deterrent to visiting Jamaica’s lovely museums and cultural buildings such as Rose Hall Great House (a place for children to learn the history of slavery) and the Bob Marley Museum.
The main season for the Bahamas is also between December and April, the same as in Jamaica. There are festivals and regattas to enjoy, and there is an abundance of activities for children. The weather is nice and free of humidity between January and February. This is also the most expensive time to visit the Bahamas. The crowds thin a bit between April and June, and the Bahamas becomes more relaxed, and flights can be cheaper. It is the best time for diving and snorkeling.
Visitors can’t lose in either Jamaica or the Bahamas. They are both incredible island getaways, but when it comes to ambiance, Jamaica may cross the finish line first by just a nose. Columbus referred to it as “the fairest isles the eyes have beheld.” Not much has changed since those days. The beaches are incredible, and Jamaica has more visitors than any of the Caribbean islands who are drawn to its high energy, and Bob Marley rhythm. Reggae is the heart and essence of Jamaica.
The home of the world-famous Seven Miles Beach, Jamaica may also be the choice of beach bums everywhere.
The Bahamas is custom-made for island-hopping, and there are plenty of smaller, beautiful beaches. To most visitors’ delight, some of the beaches here are pink sand beaches. The same visitors are also likely to be riveted by the Bahama’s spectacular cave diving.
There may not even be a contest here. All of Jamaica sways to the rhythm of reggae music. Dance until the morning and rejuvenate with a cup of famous Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee. Bars are filled with music and dancing, especially in Montego Bay or Kingston. Rick’s Cafe on top of a cliff becomes a party when the sun sets. With enough drinks in them, visitors are known to jump off the cliff into the water.
Immortalized in Jimmy Buffet’s song, Margaritaville, the actual Margaritaville Sports Bar & Grill is the hottest spot in Jamaica, with dancing on the beach, bikini contests, live music, 15 televisions for sports fans, and four open-air bars. Evenings include “bare as you dare” clothing optional nights.
The Bahamas is a bit quieter, but Atlantis Paradise Island has some flashy nightclubs and a casino with 85 tables and 700 slot machines. The island has a Las Vegas-style gloss.
The beaches in Jamaica are fabulous, with Seven Mile Beach and the beaches at Ocho Rios, including the delightful James Bond Beach, where many of the James Bond books were written and which is the filming site of the Bond movie, Dr. No. The beauty and serenity alone are worth a visit.
Despite Jamaica having some of the most beautiful tropical beaches in the world, the Bahamas wins the beach lottery due to the sheer number of them. The beaches in the Bahamas are so plentiful and diverse, there is a beach here for everyone.
Pink Sands Beach
This Bahamian beach has genuine pink sand which stretches out for three miles. It is a magical sight and popular for strolling.
Junkanoo Beach in Nassau is one of the Bahamas’ liveliest beaches suitable for families. The Crystal Palace Casino is nearby, as are shops, bars, and restaurants. The Love Shack is said to have the cheapest drinks on the beach.
Few Bahamian visitors can resist Pig Beach. No one knows how the pigs came to Big Major Cay Island, but they are quite at home there now and are excited to see visitors. The best way to see them is by taking a tour out of Nassau and learning how to feed them and swim with them.
Flight Information – Getting There
Lynden Pindling International Airport in Nassau is the largest Bahamian airport and the main connection to Bahama’s other airports.
There are flights to Jamaica landing in Montego Bay, Ocho Rios, and Kingston. Montego Bay and Ocho Rios are also major cruise ports.
Jamaica tends to be more affordable than the Bahamas, with more budget accommodations. The many all-inclusive luxury resorts in Jamaica allow guests to stretch the dollar, with the least expensive yet still fabulous being the all-inclusive Ochi Rio’s Sandals, with its great beach club. Butler service is available for top-end rooms. The all-inclusive Beaches Resorts in Ochi Rios and Negril’s Seven Mile Beach also offer a wonderful stay. The Westender Inn in Negril has a pool and great service at a reasonable price.
The Bahamas tends to be more expensive in general, and the US dollar doesn’t stretch quite as much here. The accommodations are a bit more luxurious and upmarket, such as the all-inclusive Sandals Emerald Bay in the Exuma district in the Out Islands with its pampering Butler Elite services.
For a true joie de vivre Bahamian experience, the guests should visit the Saint Gilles Croix de Vie Camp Site. Campers can enjoy the camp’s beach access, indoor swimming pool, sports activities, grocery store, and bar and restaurant. TV and Wi-Fi connections are also available.
Cuisine in The Bahamas and Jamaica
Cooking in the Bahamas involves an abundance of fresh seafood such as conch that is prepared in many different ways. Lobster and crab are also very popular. Drinks are mostly rum-based mixtures.
Jamaica’s cuisine is based on seafood and locally grown fruits and vegetables. It is especially known for its jerk cooking, which involves rubbing meats with a lot of spices, especially jerk chicken. Spices are a large part of Jamaican cooking. The Cambridge World Atlas of Food has placed Jamaica as number 11 for its food. That is higher than Italy’s number 13 and just below France’s number 9. Not a bad place for foodies, and it puts Jamaica ahead of the dining experience.
Things to Do
When visiting the Bahamas, the capital city of Nassau, its colonial buildings, forts, and Christ Church Cathedral are a must-see, as is Lucayan National Park, which has one of the most expansive cave systems in the world. The best way to see the Bahamas is on a half-day or full-day boat tour that includes diving, snorkeling, swimming with the pigs, and visiting different islands with a beach lunch.
Jamaica has an extensive history to explore, such as the 18th century Rose Hall Great House or the Devon House Mansion, as well as exotic jungles and mountains for hiking and rafting. Visitors shouldn’t miss Jamaica’s spectacular waterfalls, such as the famed Dunn’s River Falls
Which Destination is More Expensive?
Both destinations have their high-end and budget experiences, but the Bahamas is generally more expensive.
On average, a single traveler to Jamaica will spend a little over $900 for a week’s stay, while a couple can spend an average week in Jamaica for just under $2,000.
A solo traveler can find accommodations between $70 to $140 a night and food and sightseeing for around $60 per day.
Visiting the Bahamas will cost a single traveler $1,200 per week, while a couple will likely pay around $2,300 for an average week’s stay. The cost of food can range between $22 and $44, and sightseeing can cost up to $100 per day.
Jamaica has 450 square miles of amazing snorkeling, especially in Negril and its amazing beaches. One of the best resorts is Negril’s The Cave Hotel with its snorkeling and caving expeditions. The best time for snorkeling in Jamaica is between December and June.
Despite the great snorkeling in Jamaica, the Bahamas win again by sheer force of numbers. The 700-island archipelago is a natural snorkeling paradise. There is so much from which to choose. Perhaps one of the best choices is Exumas Cays within Exumas Cays Land and Sea Park. Here, visitors will find rare corals, reefs, and beautiful tropical fish. Exumas also has friendly swimming pigs looking for company.
When it comes to Caribbean shopping, it isn’t even a contest. Nassau in the Bahamas is the clear winner. This is where to shop duty-free for name-brand electronics, jewelry, perfumes, alcohol, and cigars. (Careful about the cigars; they are contraband in the US.) There is also an abundance of galleries and craft markets for genuine Bahamian souvenirs. Note the that airport has duty-free shopping as well, but the prices are higher.
Jamaica has plenty of goods for sale, especially rum, the famed Jamaican coffee, crafts, cameras,
A vacation in the Bahamas or Jamaica promises a lifetime of memories. For visitors looking for the ideal beaches and snorkeling, the Bahamas, with its plethora of islands, may have the edge. For a vibrant nightlife and some adventuresome explorations, Jamaica could be the better option.