Jamaica or Bahamas: Two Spectacular Tropical Islands You’ll Love

Bus in front of palm trees.
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When it comes to tropical vacations, Jamaica or The Bahamas are usually the first places to come to mind. Each place offers something truly unique for its visitors. From beaches and excursions to accommodation and food. But when choosing between the two it can often be tricky to work out which one you should go for. 

The Bahamas is made up of 700 different islands whereas Jamaica is one huge 4,244 miles squared island. They are both among the largest territories in the Caribbean region and offer a tropical paradise worth exploring. No matter whether you’re searching for sun, sand, and sea both islands can provide this for you. 

However, one island will most certainly come out on top. So if you’re struggling to decide between Jamaica or The Bahamas, look no further than our comprehensive guide. We’ll compare all the essential factors you need to know to make an informed decision. From action-packed excursions, delicious food, and snazzy accommodations to pristine beaches, world-class nightlife, and immersive culture, you’ll find all the answers you need in this article.

Accommodation: Jamaica or Bahamas?

Sea, palm trees, and hotel with swimming pool.
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When it comes to places to stay in Jamaica the most popular areas are Montego Bay, Negril, and Ocho Rios, however, there are some dangerous areas in Jamaica that even the locals avoid so it’s worth looking at these before you book your accommodation. Due to its size, Jamaica offers the widest array of places to stay in the Caribbean. 

Many holidaymakers will often go for all-inclusive resorts as they often work out cheaper when you consider that three meals a day and drinks are included in that price. But there are plenty of other options for those looking to do more exploring outside of the hotel grounds. From self-catering apartments or villas to guesthouses and small hotels, if you shop around enough you’ll find a quaint little place that will have you living like a local rather than a tourist. 

The Bahamas also offers a wide selection of accommodation options which range from small self-catering villas to large luxury hotels. You’ll often find that hotels offer package deals which could include some meals like breakfast or dinner and some could simply include only the room. Just like Jamaica, some resorts will also offer the all-inclusive package option. 

When considering your accommodation in either Jamaica or The Bahamas, be aware that if you opt for a villa or apartment, you may not be as close to the beach as you would in a hotel or resort. Most villas also don’t have communal or even private swimming pools, so depending on how you like spending your days you’ll want to bear this in mind when choosing where to stay. 

Winner: Jamaica. There are so many options to choose from in Jamaica, however, it doesn’t mean The Bahamas doesn’t have something equally as good.

Budget

Cruise ships in the harbor.
Photo by Fernando Jorge via Unsplash

For many, their budget will dictate where they should go. Whether you’re looking for a budget option or you’ve got a lot more cash to splash, both Jamaica and The Bahamas have plenty to offer. We’ve compiled the average costs for accommodation, food, and sightseeing for each destination. Bear in mind that these prices can you up or down depending on what you do, where you eat, and what accommodation you choose. 

A seven-day vacation to Jamaica will cost a solo traveler on average around $903 depending on the cost of flights, which we haven’t included. These average daily costs are likely to change depending on many factors such as the type of accommodation you choose, whether you dine out for every meal or whether you cook for yourself, and what type of sightseeing activities you participate in. 

If you’re after a couple’s vacation, you’re looking to need to budget around $258 per day, which means the average cost of a seven-day vacation for two of you will cost on average $1,806. This price will also increase if you’re looking for a family vacation. The average price for a family vacation for four people will be around $3,332. But this is likely to increase when you consider the price of transport when you’re in Jamaica as well as flight costs which we haven’t included. 

Solo TravelerCouples VacationFamily Vacation
Accommodation$70.00$140.00$240.00
Food$20.00$40.00$80.00
Sightseeing$39.00$78.00$156.00

When it comes to visiting The Bahamas for your next vacation you’ll want to bear in mind that everything is just that little bit more expensive. From the cost of a hotel room to the price of food and tourist attractions. The average cost of a seven-day trip to the Bahamas would cost a solo traveler around $1,197. For a couple, the average cost is likely to be around $2,387 and for a family of four, it’s likely to be around $4,060. 

Bear in mind these costs do not include extra fees for local transport and flights. You can also save some money by looking for free excursions, cooking meals for yourself instead of dining out, and potentially renting a car instead of taking local transport, but there again you’ll still need to factor this in when budgeting.

Solo TravelerCouples VacationFamily Vacation
Accommodation$99.00$197.00$292.00
Food$22.00$44.00$88.00
Sightseeing$50.00$100.00$200.00

Winner: Jamaica. Everything is cheaper in Jamacia from accommodation to food and sightseeing activities.

Beaches: Jamaica or Bahamas?

man in silouhette on the beach holding a guitar at sunset.
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When it comes to vacations, most of us want to relax under the sun, get our tan on, and maybe even dip our toes in the cool sea waters. So it’s no surprise that Caribbean beaches offer some truly unique and spectacular gems. From hidden coves and secluded bays to pink sands and turquoise waters, no matter whether you go to Jamaica or The Bahamas, you’ll find the perfect spot for a bit of relaxation. 

With more than 900 miles of coastline, Jamaica has plenty of beaches to choose from including the world-famous Seven Mile Beach, Frenchman’s Cove, and Negril Beach. Many of its beaches have been featured in movies and TV shows such as Club Paradise, No Time To Die, and Marvel’s Luke Cage. But not all of Jamaica’s beaches are for relaxing, you’ll find some are great spots to watch the sunset while others are party hubs for a good dose of reggae. Many of the top-rated beaches in Jamaica are family-friendly and will leave a lasting impression on you. 

The Bahamas, however, have over 700 islands to choose from, so finding the best beaches is no easy task. There are plenty of never-ending vibrant blue waters dotted with spectacular coral, calm surf, and glorious white sand. Everyone has their favorite and they’re never the same as anyone else. From the epic Pink Sands Beach to the secluded cove of Ten Bay Beach, you’ll find something quiet enough to relax without being disturbed. Beaches in The Bahamas also offer some of the best snorkeling spots around, so if you are more of a water sports lover then The Bahamas is the place for you. 

Winner: The Bahamas. With over 700 islands, you’ll find a diverse range of beaches. Some of which are secluded and unspoiled while others are popular tourist hotspots.

Excursions

A pig swimming in the sea around Big Major Cay, Bahamas
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Wherever you go on holiday, whether that’s Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Barbados, or The Bahamas, you’ll want to explore the area and participate in as many excursions as possible. So you’ll be happy to know that both offer a lot in the way of things to do. From free activities like snorkeling and swimming to paid excursions like horseback rides, boat trips, and water parks. 

Jamaica offers its visitors a treasure trove of jewels and colorful vibes. From exploring its many lush, green mountains to swimming with dolphins in its turquoise seas, you’ll be able to fill your days with adventure. It’s the perfect place for nature lovers as you can hike and bird watch in the jungle, dive and snorkel its coral reefs, and take a trip on bamboo rafts with local guides. 

While The Bahamas offers some of the same activities such as snorkeling, diving, and swimming with dolphins, it also has a lot of other unique past time to sink your teeth into. From Paradise Island Water Park to beachcombing and caving in the Lucayan National Park. But that’s not all that’s on offer, if you’re looking for something truly unique then take a tour to Big Major Cay and take a dip with the local residents; The Pigs. This is often the highlight of anyone’s trip to the Bahamas and is a bucket list item for many. So be sure to check them out. Other top activities include exploring historical monuments and ruins, taking a walk around the Junkanoo World Museum, and climbing the Queen’s Staircase in Nassau. 

Winner: Both. This one is too close to call. While Jamaica has a lot to offer nature lovers, families, and pretty much anyone, The Bahamas also has lots of other quirky and fun favorites to make your vacation one to remember.

Nightlife

Friends dancing with raised hands in club
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Although many people prefer chilled-out vacations there are still some that want to experience everything an island has to offer including it party and nightlife scene. Jamaica’s Montego Bay, or MoBay as lovingly referred to by the locals, is the best place to experience Jamaican Nightlife. MoBay is all about expressing yourself, having a good time, sipping cocktails till the sun goes down, and then dancing the night away. 

From the aptly named Margaritaville to the Coral Cliff Casino, you’ll find a vibe and place to meet your kind or night out. The Bahamas are pretty similar to Jamaica in that there is a fair amount on offer. From rustic beach huts playing local beats to cities with non-stop activity late into the night. Bahamas nightlife brings you a world of contrast. For the best night out head to the capital of Nassau and enjoy non-stop music, dancing, live music, and renowned DJs until the sun comes up.

Winner: Both. With so much to offer in Jamaica and The Bahamas, it really does depend on the vibe and type of night you’re looking for.

Food & Drink

Traditional Jamaican curried goat, jerk chicken and fried dumpling with rice and peas
Photo by twenty20photos via Envato Elements

An important part of any vacation is sampling food from the country you’re visiting. So when most people think of Jamaica the first food that comes to mind is Jerk Chicken. This flavorful dish is all out the mix of spices rubbed onto the chicken skin and the succulent juicy chicken. The most traditional way to cook Jerk Chicken is on an oil barrel BBQ. Other popular Jamaican dishes include Goat Curry, Ackee and Saltfish, Callaloo, and Jamaican Bammy. 

Bahamian food brings together influences from Southern America and the Caribbean, however, what sets them apart is the range of spices they use in their dishes. Properly spicing a dish is a critical part of any Bahamian dish. What you’ll find is that Bahamian food is often very simplistic in nature but will take your tastebuds on an adventure with its flavor. Almost anywhere you go in The Bahamas you’ll find traditional classics like Conch Salad, Bahamian Crawfish, and Fried Plantain. 

You’ll also notice that some dishes found in Jamaica can also be found in The Bahamas but with a slightly different name. One such dish is the Jamaican or Bahamian Pattie. Another is Rice ‘n Peas. Each dish will use slightly different ingredients but is in essence the same type of dish. 

Winner: Again, both are winners here. You can’t visit a country without sampling some of its traditional dishes.

Landscape & Climate: Jamaica or Bahamas?

Jamaica costline with lush green trees in the foreground and houses and hotels in the background along with the sea.
Photo by Kenrick Baksh via Unsplash

Depending on what you are looking for on your vacation, Jamaica or the Bahamas will cater to and suit your needs. While Jamaica has some beautiful white sand beaches, The Bahamas has so many more in contrast. Jamaica is a lush mountainous island that would suit travelers who love the outdoors and are looking to do more than just sunbathe. There are plenty of mountains to hike, waterfalls to discover, and wild swimming to be had. 

The Bahamas on the other hand, offer the perfect respite for those looking for a sunbathing and swimming holiday. With so many islands making up the Bahamas there are a wealth of beaches to explore. The arid climate in the Bahamas and the promise of around 340 days a year of sun make it great as a beach destination year-round. However, away from the coastline, there’s not a lot to do in comparison to Jamaica. 

Jamaica’s climate can change depending on where you are. While it might be 80 degrees and sunny on the beach, inland it might be cooler and windier. You’ll also see more rainfall at the tail end of summer with the heaviest rains being in early autumn and ending by December, whereas The Bahama’s wettest month is August. 

Winner: There’s no clear-cut winner here. If you’re looking for beach holidays then go for the Bahamas, but if you’re looking to do more than just sunbathe all day, then opt for Jamaica.

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Justine King is from the UK and has been a full-time traveller and freelance writer since 2020 after a 6-year career in Hospitality. Clients benefit from her love and knowledge of the sector as she creates informative and inspiring articles to help guide readers totheir next travel destination.