In 2015, when JB came to Miami (while I was squatting at a colleague’s house in Chicago), he barely had time to recover from jet lag, visiting Everglades & Key West, that he couldn’t set foot in the Bahamas.
This time, we wanted to take revenge by spending 1 or 2 weeks in the Bahamas – before abandoning the idea as soon as we saw the price of the first ahahha hotel.
So we decided to set foot in the Bahamas anyway (just to say we were there), spending one day on Bimini Island, the closest to Miami.
Part 1: Travel Diary
There is only one company that offers a ferry between Miami and Bimini, it is FRS Caribbean. By going directly through them, you pay 3$ more than if you went through an agency (in addition to having to manage to reach the port). As a result, we booked at the agency closest to our hotel(Sobe Miami Tours) – with a very nice Tunisian gentleman polyglote – a day trip at 180$/person. We choose to go there on a Thursday to avoid the crowd.
This rate includes :
- pick up and drop off at our hotel
- round trip ferry to Bimini Island
- access to the Hilton Hotel swimming pools (and shuttle service to Paradise Beach)
Attention, to book the tour and go to the Bahamas, you must come with your passport.
Ferry to Bimini
At 7:10 am, a shuttle comes to pick us up at the hotel and we are dropped off in front of the ferry office around 8 am. There is no immigration strictly speaking but there is a person checking that our papers are in order (the ESTA stamp). The boat is supposed to leave at 9 am, but it finally leaves around 9:30 am to arrive on Bimini Island at 11 am. The luggage is taken care of and put in the hold.
The air conditioning is on full blast, like everywhere else in the USA so take a small jacket. I found that wearing a dress with a little bit of coverage helped more against the air conditioning than coming in a mini-short. The food on the ferry is very accessible (between 7$ and 14$) and pretty good, don’t hesitate to have lunch on the boat.
Note: For those who plan to come with a drone, please note that prior flight authorization to the Bahamas is required. I don’t know if it will pass if you don’t say anything, because there are baggage scans on the US side before boarding – and a scan on the Bahamas side for the return to Miami. In any case, we didn’t take ours for fear of having it confiscated
Note 2: the ferry is wheelchair accessible, as well as the Hilton Hotel on the island.
Arrival in Bimini
Only people spending at least one night on the island are given a document to present to immigration. While day-trip travelers like us quickly pass without control.
The ferry company has signed a partnership with the Hilton Hotel so those arriving on this island are brought to Hilton as soon as they leave immigration. It is super well organized.
Once arrived at the Hilton hotel, we go immediately up to the 5th floor to see one of its swimming pools. The Hilton hotel faces the marina, where the small boats pass by, the view is frankly not great. I would NOT have liked to pay 200$ + taxes + services for a hotel squatted by 400 other travelers every day.
The hotel has another very long infinity pool on the ground floor but we will discover it later. In the meantime, we walk towards the beach “Paradise Beach”. On the way, a shuttle of the Hilton hotel honks its horn and the driver invites us to go up. We thank him warmly, so grateful that we don’t have to walk 10 minutes under the sun (31°C in the shade, 38°C felt).
The car passes in front of other tourists – who refuse to get in because they think it’s paying looool. “No money,” they replied.
The beach bears its name well because it is really a small paradise on earth. The deckchairs are available for free on the beach (they belong to the Hilton complex too I think).
With the sun beating down and this heat, we inquire about umbrella rates. 26$ per day – cash payment only. Luckily we have some, on the advice of the agency. We choose our deckchairs and a gentleman comes with a shovel to plant the parasol for us. He does it with brilliance because the parasol does not move at all, in spite of the wind.
Before the departure, JB and I talked a lot about the risks of theft etc. Do we take waterproof pockets with money and our phones etc.? I’ve seen a few tourists do it, but most of them leave their stuff unattended, in #holiday #relax #quiet mode.
There is a small restaurant on the spot, we have our sandwiches with us, so we only opted for two Virgin Mojito (9$), quiet. It misses just the cigars 😀 (which we could have bought during the ferry trip since they were sold in duty free!).
The water is super hot. Even for a cold person like me, getting into the water is very easy. The color of the water reminds me of Varadero in Cuba (although Varadero is even more beautiful). The sand is white and super super fine. There is NO waste in the water, no algae, not even a leaf… no sand flea… the beach is just perfect!
Today, there is wind and waves, so despite the crystal clear water, we can’t see our feet. JB’s snorkelling attempts are a failure, there is a dark area in the distance, which looks like corals but it’s too far to swim there. On the other hand, we manage very well to see, with the naked eye, a band of very small fish. And a bunch of fish means bigger fish, trying to eat them
So I saw fish in triangular shape (super cute), and transparent, sword-shaped fish. To the naked eye. On the sand, there are lots of small crabs, too cute.
No one swims because there are jet skis that pass very close to us. JB had to stop his snorkelling too for fear of being knocked out by mistake. So we all stay still like that in the water 😀 With or without a hat, depending on his sensitivity to UVB/UVA.
I tried to film underwater with my phone but the visibility isn’t better. If even with a mask & snorkel you can’t see the fish, it’s not with a phone that you can see better. The day before, I went to get a waterproof protection to be able to film underwater (JB having had the good idea to resell our GoPro after the first round-the-world trip), I went into a phone accessory store and asked for a “cheap” waterproof protection, and no Apple brand. And the salesman told me something I didn’t understand, laughing… his sentence ended with “blah blah blah your country”. The worst thing is that he seemed to want to hit on me (his micro-expressions betrayed him), but it manifested itself in a dubious racist insulting joke… I admit I didn’t really understand the beginning of the sentence, I hesitated to make him repeat it because he can’t have a nice/non-racist sentence when it contains “your country” lol. I could have been American, couldn’t I?
Lazing on the beach isn’t our passion at all. So we are happy, finally, to stay in the Bahamas for just one day. Because otherwise, we would have been very tempted to pay for a multitude of expensive activities: snorkelling, swimming with dolphins, with sharks, with pigs (eh yes they brought pigs on the beaches of Freeport and another island (type Pig Beach Bahamas on Google).
Beware, the sun hits very, very hard in the Bahamas. We advise you to spread sunscreen on your skin. I opted for Esthederm’s No Sun and I didn’t tan at all (I was all white, but who cares?). The equivalent, which you can find on site at CVS, is Sun Bum, a mineral sunscreen that contains 19% titanium oxide.
At the beginning, we wanted to leave the beach at 3:30 pm to go to the casino but as I fell asleep, we left only around 4 pm. The shuttle of the Hilton hotel passes exactly at this moment, which saves us 10 minutes of walk/burns under the sun.
The Hilton Hotel
I show you the official photo of the other pool of the hotel, on the ground floor. This pool is super long. In any case, we could take advantage of the showers of the swimming pool to rinse us quickly with fresh water. The swimming pool isn’t very wide, not very deep, but it is in the shade in the afternoon which is SUPER pleasant.
People who stay in this hotel complain about the hidden charges for the slightest service (e.g. the breakfast included is super poor, you have to pay for extra ham or eggs). On the other hand for visitors like us, nobody charged us anything. There is an equivalent of Starbucks near the reception, and at least two restaurants on the ground floor.
One changes quickly in the toilets (not seen of changing rooms) before taking the shuttle around 17h30 for the boat. And we arrive at 20h passed at the port of Miami. In time to see a beautiful sunset.
We quickly pass immigration on the US side. Our shuttle is already waiting for us outside and drops us off at the hotel. End of a magical day.
The island of Bimini is a very good choice for a day trip, if you leave from Miami. If you leave from Fort Lauderdale, the excursion to Freeport Island (Bahamas) would be a better choice. The beaches in Nassau (Bahamas) are less beautiful, according to our agency.
So, from Miami, for a day trip to the Bahamas, we recommend Bimini. The quality/price ratio; time spent on the boat/time spent on site is perfect.
If you plan to go there to do activities (snorkelling, jet skiing, …) you might consider going to Key West instead. It will probably be more profitable because the transportation cost will be reduced.
Don’t expect to discover local Bahamian life with a day tour like this one. Apart from the few local hotel employees we saw, only tourists.
Part 2: Practical Tips
- One day tour: 180$/person (we recommend our agency Sobe Miami Tours)
- Umbrella rental: 26$ per day (enough for 2 deckchairs) – payment in cash only
- Free deckchairs
- Lunch/Dinner on the boat: between 7$ and 14$ per person
- Virgin Mojito on the beach: $9
- You must bring your passports for the tour reservation and to the Bahamas to pass immigration.
Note that all prices were quoted in US dollars although this isn’t the local currency
- You can book excursions directly on the boat if you want (snorkelling, swimming with dolphins…)
- The rental of a golf cart costs 80$/day. We do not recommend you if you only stay for the day because the island is very small and the hotel shuttle (free of charge) serves the beach at regular intervals.
- Come with :
- a towel (but you can also rent one on the spot, 10$/towel)
- a small jacket for the boat
- lots of sunscreen
- lots of water
- lunch, if you don’t want to pay for lunch on the boat or at the hotel
- sunglasses + hat
- your passport
- some change if you want to rent an umbrella (26$)
Have a good trip!