The four-and-a-half-star resort: lovely. The turquoise-hued Caribbean Sea: stunning. The free-flowing frozen daiquiris: tempting.
There is every reason to stay on the resort when you’re somewhere like Grand Bahama Island, where the beach is so postcard-perfect it looks like it’s been Photoshopped.
But there’s also every reason to get off the resort. So it was a nice surprise to find that Memories Grand Bahama, where I stayed on a recent press trip, made it so easy to, well, leave.
For one thing, it’s located across the street from Port Lucaya, which is an open-air dining and entertainment complex with several adventure outfitters.
But it’s also incredibly easy to get around the island, and even after a brief moment of panic when I discovered I’d be driving a 4×4 jeep — on the left-hand side of the road! — within about five minutes I had somehow absorbed the vibe of the island and felt completely at ease behind the wheel.
While the Bahamas offer up some of the best water sports around (it is, after all, made up of 700 islands and boasts the third-largest reef in the world), there’s plenty of adventure to be had without ever getting your feet wet.
A 45-minute drive from Freeport will take you to West End, where you can get a taste of Bahamian culture — and I mean literally.
West End is a quaint fishing village, with its roots in rum running to the States during Prohibition (there’s a bar here that Hemingway supposedly frequented, but I’m starting to wonder if there are any bars he didn’t frequent).
Truly experiencing West End involves one of my favourite activities: eating.
Food tells you a lot about a place — especially street food. This is what the locals eat. So there’s no better way to experience a culture than at a street stall, sampling a local specialty.
Whether you’re sweating up a storm over a fiery red curry with pork in the streets of Bangkok, or choosing a freshly caught fish from a fisherman’s bucket that will be cooked with olive oil and garlic on the beach in Malaga, Spain, food is part of the adventure of discovering a new culture.
In West End, it’s all about conch, which is essentially a large sea snail. (“Shellfish” sounds far more appetizing.) It’s not pretty, but it sure is tasty.
When I was there, families were setting up stalls at the local church (and bingo hall) on a Sunday afternoon, selling conch fritters and beer. But on any day you’ll find street stalls lining the main road that runs along the coastline, where you can sample this delicacy in its various forms (many of them deep fried).
Conch fritters, a traditional Bahamian recipe, are essentially small balls of conch meat fried in batter with various seasonings. Cracked conch, on the other hand, is similar to popcorn chicken — without the chicken, of course. And conch salad is raw conch with green pepper, onion, tomato, freshly squeezed lime and some heat. And don’t forget the fruit smoothies with a splash of rum (often a very large splash).
Grand Bahama Island offers some incredible fine dining experiences, like the crispy snapper with orange-scented basmati and hazelnut crumble at Flying Fish, a waterside restaurant in Freeport with a 4-Diamond rating from AAA, that I will not soon forget.
But a trip to West End, chatting with the locals over a Styrofoam dish of conch salad, gets four diamonds in my book.