The Best Time to Visit the Bahamas

Schedule your trip to avoid tourists, overpriced hotels, and hurricanes.

Exuma, Bahamas

 

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The best time to visit the Bahamas is from mid-April to early July, after the Spring Breakers have flown north and before hurricane season arrives in early August. Though the Bahamas are a reliably popular winter destination, its offseason charms have been largely overlooked: bookings are less expensive, beaches are less crowded, and there’s more of an opportunity to engage with the local culture via monthly festivals and weekly regattas.

Weather in the Bahamas

The Bahamas is known for having sunshine most days of the year, though that doesn’t mean the summer months become unbearably sweltering. Thanks to the trade winds that sweep through the island chain, you’d be surprised to discover it’s breezier on a July afternoon in the Bahamas than an early June morning in New York City. It rains more regularly in May and June, though the rainfall is relatively mild (and usually welcome: known in the Caribbean as “liquid sunshine.”) Hurricane season is at its peak in August and September, though they’re less of a threat in the Bahamas than they are on the East Coast of the U.S. If you’re a worrier, remember to purchase your travel insurance beforehand, as you can’t claim retroactively.

Peak Tourist Season in the Bahamas

Unlike the tropical climate, which remains relatively temperate year-round, the cost of travel in the Bahamas spikes during the wintertime, with hotels charging rates up to 50 percent higher than in the summer months. The season begins in mid-December and continues until mid-April, ending just after Spring Break. Late spring and early summer are more economical for travelers, as the cost of travel drops in the off-season — for outer islands, in particular.

Key Holidays & Festivals in the Bahamas

Of all the parades and festivals that occur on a near-weekly basis throughout the Bahamas, the Junkanoo is the undisputed favorite. The energy and joy of the vibrant street parade, with its intricate masks and creative costumes, is reminiscent of Mardi Gras or Carnival, though its heritage is distinctly Bahamian. The festival’s name derives from the name "John Canoe," an African chief who, even after being forced into slavery in the West Indies, never stopped fighting for his right, and the right of his people, to dance, sing, and have a good time.

The celebration continues today, as the Junkanoo is now the National Festival of the Bahamas.

Other key holidays, such as Emancipation Day and Independence Week, occur in the summertime, so there’s never an off-season for celebrating Bahamian culture. But even if you can’t attend any of these holidays, there are other cultural activities you can partake in year-round, particularly in the capital of Nassau. Weekend cricket matches (the national sport) take place from March to November, while bird walks are held on the first Saturday of each month from September to May. Additionally, a Tea Party is thrown by the Ministry of Tourism at the Governor’s House on the last Sunday of every month.

The Tea Party is not to be missed, offering a unique chance to experience Bahamian culture and cuisine.

January

The New Year’s Day Junkanoo Parade is the most highly-anticipated event of the year, kicking off at 2 a.m. on the first day of the year. Since the winter holidays aren’t just peak season for Junkanoos, but for tourists as well, visitors should book accommodations, and look into flight deals, well in advance of their arrival. January is peak season, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a hotel room available on January 1 without having booked several months in advance.

Events to check out:

  • The New Year’s Day Junkanoo Parade takes place on many of the Bahamian islands (including Abaco and Grand Bahama), though the largest celebration occurs in Nassau.
  • For those still looking for extra cardio after all that dancing, there’s also the Bahamas Marathon, one of the world’s most beautiful races.

February

The weather in the first two months of the year is very dry, with temperatures staying in the mid-60s to high 70s Fahrenheit. This month is in the heart of peak season, and Valentine’s Day is also especially popular for weekend travelers to the islands.

Events to check out:

  • The Mid-Winter Wahoo fishing competition will take place on Bimini (the old stomping grounds of Hemingway).
  • The Farmer’s Cay Festival is a boat festival that will take place on the Exuma Islands.

March

The temperature starts rising in March, reaching the high 80s, and the rain starts pouring a little more regularly, marking the end of the dry season. This is still peak season for travel, as many hotels will be fully booked through the month, and airfare will potentially double in price.

Events to check out:

  • Check out the Bacardi Billfish Tournament, for fishing, drinking, and boating in Freeport.
  • The Bahamian Music & Heritage festival is both informative and family-friendly.

April

Crowds will begin to thin out by mid-April, just when the average temperature creeps up to the low 80s. It’s the perfect time of year to sit by the water and watch the boats race by upon those iconic crystal waters, for which the nation is named. “Bahamas” is derived from the Spanish, who called the area ‘baja mar’, which means low sea, or clear waters.

Events to check out:

  • Bahamas Family Island Regatta is a popular sailing race with competitors from the Outer Islands, also called the “family islands” by locals.

May

Crowds will thin out in mid-April, so by May you will get to fully enjoy the tranquility of the islands (and the warmer weather). The peak season of December to March can be occasionally brisk, in the 60s F, while the temperature loiters in the low 80s F in April and May.

Events to check out:

  • The annual Carnivale celebration in Nassau, though not quite as popular as Junkanoo, it shares that sense of revelry and freedom.

June

George Washington referred to the Bahamas as the ‘Isles of Perpetual June’, and there’s something to be said for being in the most blissful destination in the world during the most blissful time of year. The tradewinds, such a blessing in the summer months, are what made this tropical archipelago such a favored destination for sailors and pirates.

Events to check out:

  • The Cat Island Rake and Scrape Festival which celebrates local Bahamian music and culture, and is the most happening event to happen on Cat Island for the entire year.
  • The Eleuthera Pineapple festival features any pineapple-eating activity you can imagine, plus a Junkanoo Rush-Out.

July

July is a great time to visit, not only for the warm weather and the slashed prices, but for two key events: the Junkanoo Summer Festival, and Independence Week.

Events to check out:

  • Independence Week, which begins every summer on July 10, the date in 1973 when the Bahamas became an independent nation after 325 years of British rule.
  • Reach out to the tourism bureau if you’re interested in participating in the Junkanoo Summer Festival, as there are smaller Junkanoos where visitors can dress up as well.

August

August is the start of hurricane season, and though it’s slightly warmer and rainier, the temperature is usually hovering around the low 80s F—a benefit of the country’s northwest Caribbean location. The pace is slower, the tourists have left, and there’s a more laid back, island-style vibe to the Bahamas.

Events to check out:

  • Emancipation Day celebrates the 1834 emancipation of all the slaves in British colonies. There’s a Junkanoo Rush-out (dance troupes), beach parties and regattas. Historic slave villages in New Providence have their own distinct festivities. 

September

The rainy season continues, though an afternoon rain-shower or thunderstorm passes by quickly, potentially followed by a rainbow. The prices are lower in September as well, so it’s a good time to book a villa, or treat yourself to an extravagance you’d normally skip.

Events to check out:

October

After late spring/early summer, the months of October and November are also ideal travel times. Though October is technically considered part of hurricane season, the threat is far lessened — and prices won’t rise until the high season starts up in mid-December.

Events to check out:

November

November is the last calm before the storm of holiday vacationers, and is also a perfect time of year to claim as your own in the islands. If you’ve wanted to celebrate a holiday in the tropics, but Christmas was always too difficult to coordinate, consider Thanksgiving. Though merely a week away from the peak season, there are still affordable flights to be booked, and rooms to be reserved. Plus, what better way to stave off the oncoming winter by fighting it preemptively?

Events to check out:

December

Although the last month of the year marks the beginning of high tourism (and high costs) in the Bahamas, it’s well worth a visit to witness the Junkanoo parades in all their holiday glory. The day after Christmas was a holiday traditionally given to slaves — alongside leftover boxes from their master’s unwanted presents — which is why it’s called the Boxing Day parade.

Events to check out:

  • The Junior Junkanoo Parade is is held the second Thursday of December.
  • The Boxing Day Junkanoo Parade starts promptly at 2 a.m. the morning after Christmas.
  • The Bahamas International Film Festival takes place in Nassau.
  • The Festival Noel is a Grand Bahama fundraiser for the Bahamas National Trust.
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