Just a short drive from Nassau cruise port sits a crescent-shaped slice of sand that doesn’t get much tourist traffic. Visiting Caves Beach is a far different experience than spending the day at one of Nassau’s more famous beaches—and not only because there are ancient caves across the street that may have once held pirate treasure!
I recently spent the day exploring Caves Beach and The Caves of New Providence with my family, and we enjoyed our time there. However, like many destinations, the beach and the caves have their pros and cons. Here’s everything you’ll need to know before planning a visit to Caves Beach and The Caves.
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Visiting The Caves of New Providence
We decided to check out the caves before heading over to the beach. I had read up a little on the fascinating history of New Providence Island’s oldest attraction, so I was super-excited to see The Caves for myself.
A quick history of The Caves of New Providence
Nassau’s caves were created by the sea, millions of years ago. The area that is now the caves was originally at sea level, and ocean waves gradually wore away the softer parts of the sedimentary rock, leaving what are now large hollows.
The Lucayans, the original inhabitants of The Bahamas, used the caves for various purposes, including food storage and to protect themselves during hurricanes.
It’s also believed that The Caves were used by pirates in the 16th and 17th centuries. The passages would have been used to hide weaponry or treasure, as well as a hiding spot for the pirates themselves to prevent attacks from rival pirates or various European navies.
On December 5th, 1861, His Royal Highness Prince Alfred the Duke of Edinburgh (Queen Victoria’s fourth child and second son) visited The Caves. Seventeen-year-old Alfred, a midshipman in the royal navy, was the first royal to ever visit the Bahamas. The Bahamian people were so proud of the visit that they helped him carve his name and the date into the stone.
Currently, The Caves are under private ownership but are open to the public.
You may also like: Climbing The Queen’s Staircase in Nassau Bahamas
Entering The Caves of New Providence
You can only access the central cavern at The Caves via a few steps carved into the stone floor. You’ll enter through a narrow hole that leads into the cave. I chose to crouch down and sit on the steps for a moment before entering the cave completely, so my eyes could adjust to the darkness from the bright sunshine outside.
Once inside, dozens of tiny fruit bats came into view (their bodies are about the size of mice), dotting the curved ceiling of the cave.
The bats didn’t move much while I was in there, except for a few who flew in or out of the holes that connected this central spot to other parts of the cave. Bats are nocturnal and generally rest during the day, and these particular bats are definitely used to human visitors to their home.
Regardless of the bats’ nonchalant attitude toward me, I decided not to go any further to explore this cave. Do you remember that scene in The Goonies where the kids are swarmed by bats? Yeah, that’s all I could think of, so I made my visit short but sweet.
Is it safe to visit The Caves in Nassau?
The New Providence Caves don’t have any guards, employees, or official tour guides that can assist you or give recommendations about how to safely explore the caves.
The central entrance to the cave is dark, doesn’t have handrails, and can be slippery, especially after a rain. But if you’re the adventurous type, you’ll probably be fine with this.
I was more concerned with disturbing the bats that live in the caves. Although I love bats (mainly because I hate bugs, and many bats eat them), I really didn’t want to get bitten by one!
Although the most common source of human rabies in the United States is from bats, according to a 2015 Florida Museum of Natural History bulletin, there have been no reported cases of rabies transmitted from bats (or any other wildlife) to humans in the Bahamas.
But I wasn’t taking any chances—peering at the bats from across the cave was close enough for me.
Tips for visiting The Caves safely
- Only visit The Caves during daylight hours
- Use the buddy system
- Wear non-slip, closed-toe shoes when entering the caves
- Bring a flashlight (your cell phone flashlight might not be bright enough)
- Don’t touch or disturb the bats or other wildlife you may encounter
Be sure to check out the other cave
You might miss it if you don’t know it’s there, but to the left of the central cave is another cave with a much larger opening. I didn’t see any bats in there (just a lot of beer bottles), but it’s much easier to peek into for anyone who doesn’t want to (or can’t) go into the central cave.
How much does it cost to visit The Caves of New Providence?
Visiting The Caves in Nassau is free. However, unless you visit with a tour guide, you’re on your own during your time here.
Although he wasn’t there when we explored The Caves, many visitors have mentioned that a local man named Shawn often hangs around the cave entrance. A self-proclaimed Caves historian, Shawn is said to give impromptu tours of The Caves in exchange for tips.
I usually can’t stand when people waste my time with an unsolicited “tour” and then demand a tip, but I was actually looking forward to meeting Shawn and finding out what he knows about the caves. Lots of visitors over the years have mentioned that he was visibly drunk—and some say he’s creepy—but he probably knows more about The Caves than anyone, so I was disappointed that I didn’t get to talk to him.
So fair warning—like at several other tourist attractions around Nassau, you may encounter people who are determined to shake you down for a tip. If you’d rather keep your visit to The Caves free of charge, politely (but firmly) tell them you’re not interested.
How to get to The Caves and Caves Beach from downtown Nassau
If you’re coming from the cruise port or another location in downtown Nassau, you can get to Caves Beach by taxi in about 25 minutes, depending on traffic.
Or, to save quite a bit of money, you can take a #10 jitney from downtown right to the beach. You’ll see the jitneys, independent buses, parked near the cruise port on Frederick Street by the Burger King. Just ask the driver if they’re going by Caves Beach, and hop on. The fare is $1.50 each way, payable in US or Bahamian dollars. Drivers don’t give change back, so make sure you have some small bills.
You’ll drive west on West Bay Street, which is a gorgeous scenic route along the northern coast of New Providence Island. If you take a jitney, expect the drive to take about 15 minutes longer than in a taxi because the bus makes many stops along the way.
It’s a good idea to pre-arrange your return trip with your taxi driver, because flagging down a taxi this far west on the island won’t be an easy feat. If you’re planning to return via jitney, give yourself plenty of time to get back (especially if you’re re-boarding your cruise ship). Jitneys don’t pass by this location as often as in the more touristy areas of Nassau.
Just wait for an eastbound jitney to come along, and give a big wave for the driver to stop. Jitneys are often purple, so they’re easy to spot.
If you’re staying in the Nassau area and have a rental car, there’s lots of free parking both in the lot in front of the caves, as well as on the street in front of the beach.
Nassau guided tours that visit The Caves of New Providence
If you’re more interested in seeing the caves than visiting the beach, there are several shore excursions you can book that include a short stop (usually about 15 minutes) to visit the caves and take photos, along with other stops at points of interest around the island.
All of these day tours make a stop at The Caves of New Providence—just click on the links for details and current prices.
Exploring Caves Beach
After our cave adventure, it was time to head over to beautiful Caves Beach. Although it was a perfect beach day, the beach was almost deserted. We only encountered a handful of other beachgoers during our entire time there!
Getting to Caves Beach from The Caves
Caves Beach is super-easy to get to from The Caves—it’s directly across the street! You can get right onto the beach via a short flight of steps down from the sidewalk. (There’s no ramp, so access to Caves Beach is not accessible for mobility devices.)
If you’re not too steady on your feet, I’d recommend using the stairs to the right side of the beachfront parking (as you face the water). When we visited, the stairs on the left side were damaged, with the bottom step missing and some rough ground below. The right-side stairs, although not as close to The Caves, are in much better condition.
Another cave on Caves Beach
At the west end of the beach you’ll see a very old-looking retaining wall constructed around some craggy rocks.
At the far end of the retaining wall, there’s a rock cave with a small circular opening. I grabbed my water shoes to cross the sharp rocks in front, flashlight in hand to see what was in this cave.
Expecting to maybe see some more fruit bats, I ventured closer to the opening, only to hear a very loud and very angry chittering noise coming from the cave as I approached.
I have no idea what kind of creature was living in this cave, but it didn’t want me coming near it. I booked it back across the rocks to give this very upset animal its space!
As long as you don’t get too close to the cave entrance, this end of the beach is very pretty, with its rugged-looking rock formations carved by the sea. This little corner of Caves Beach actually reminded me of one of my favorite beaches in the world, Horseshoe Bay Beach in Bermuda, which features similar rocks at its far end.
In addition to providing great photo ops, the western end of Caves Beach is a great place to swim or enter the water for snorkeling. As you venture east along the beach, there are more sharp rocks just past the water line that you’ll have to contend with.
But this part of the beach has smooth sand as you enter the water, and also has a roped-off area for swimming, (perfect to give kids a limit on how far they can venture out) as well as to provide a safety zone for snorkelers (like me) who worry about reckless boaters and jet-skiiers.
As always, we brought along our full-face snorkel masks and fins for our visit to Caves Beach, and found that this was the perfect spot to get in the water.
Is Caves Beach clean?
As public beaches go, Caves Beach was fairly clean. I didn’t notice much trash left behind from litterbugs, but there were tons of small shells along with a surprising amount of beautiful sea glass.
However, along with the smooth sea glass, there were also some jagged bits of newly-broken glass littering the sand.
Because of this, I’d recommend wearing water shoes or active rubber-soled sandals as you walk along the beach and wade in the water. This probably isn’t the best beach for very young children to play on—if you have little ones I’d recommend Goodman’s Bay at the east end of Cable Beach, or Saunders Beach closer to downtown Nassau. Both feature playgrounds, restroom facilities (bring some toilet paper because they’re not always restocked), and cleaner sand.
Or visit the world-famous Cabbage Beach on Paradise Island—yes, there’s public access!—for pristine, powder-soft sand.
Exploring the tidepools on Caves Beach
Growing up on the South Shore of Massachusetts, I spent a lot of time on the beach and out on the water with my family. As a kid, one of my favorite pastimes was exploring tidepools—pockets of seawater close to the shore that are formed and reformed each day as the tides ebb and flow.
As the ocean works to form and reform the shoreline, you’ll sometimes see shallow pools bounded by rocks or mounds of sand. These tidepools often temporarily trap small fish, tiny sea stars, urchins, crabs, and other marine creatures.
Walking eastbound on Caves Beach as the tide was coming in, I felt that little pang of happy anticipation in my heart—would we find tidepools?
Oh yes we did, and I was so glad that I’d packed the right footwear to go exploring. This isn’t the place for tender bare feet!
Tucked amidst the limestone crags were lots of tiny pools. Many were empty, with just a bed of soft sand at the bottom. But others held treasure—small colorful fish waiting for the tide to sweep them back out to sea.
And the sea did its job—as the waves continued in their steady pace, I witnessed tiny fish (no doubt flummoxed by their temporary prisons) be washed back into the Caribbean.
If you have kids who love marine life (or maybe you’re an adult like me who’s always fascinated by tiny sea creatures), Caves Beach is the place to go on New Providence Island.
Are there any amenities or facilities at Caves Beach?
Unlike many of the beaches closer to downtown, Caves Beach is pretty no-frills. There are no restrooms, showers, or changing facilities. You also won’t find lifeguards—and though most public Nassau beaches don’t have them, it can be more of a concern at a beach like this that’s usually not very crowded.
Also unlike the area beaches that are more popular with tourists, you won’t find vendors selling food, drinks, and souvenirs, or renting beach umbrellas and loungers. There are no watersport rentals available here either.
So if you’re planning to spend a few hours or the day at Caves Beach, plan to bring everything that you need. There’s no shade on the beach at all, so packing a collapsible sun shelter tent is a great idea to give you some respite from the bright Bahamian sun.
Tip: If you want to see The Caves but would really prefer a beach with more amenities available, Love Beach is just a five-minute drive west on West Bay Street. Read my full writeup of how to spend a day at Love Beach for more info.
You may also want to grab a lunch downtown to enjoy later on at the beach. Many takeout restaurants in the Bahamas will take what feels like forever to make your food (if you haven’t yet experienced “island time”, it’s a real thing!). However, I’ve found that Subway sandwich shops in Nassau are super-quick. There’s one downtown on Charlotte Street, just by the cruise port.
Or, you could eat at one of the restaurants near Caves Beach. Caves Village Shopping Centre is a quick walk west of the beach, and offers La Caverna for Italian specialties. Or walk in the other direction and take your first right to find Plantation Bar and Grill.
Have you visited Caves Beach and The Caves in Nassau? Or are you planning a trip soon? Let me know in the comments below!
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