Andros, The Bahamas
Bahamians call Andros Island "the Big Yard," because, with 8,000 residents inhabiting an area the size of Delaware, it's one of the least densely populated regions in the Western Hemisphere. Conservation laws keep Andros development-free and a bastion of the real Bahamas: Sunday-church fish fries, open-air bars with live native acoustic "rake 'n' scrape" music, fishermen selling their catch right off the dock.
Ten minutes from the airport by taxi is Congo Town, which sustains itself on daily catches and locally grown vegetables instead of imports and exports. Stroll into the Coral Beach Inn for a fresh conch salad and the lowdown: "You fish in the west and dive in the east," explains the owner's son. "At night we drive the Queen's Highway and look for Christmas lights. Those are bars."
Great beaches are a given here (Love Hill and Kemp's Bay tick all the boxes with their superfine white sand and translucent warm water), but Andros is also surrounded by the third-largest barrier reef in the world and a thousand square miles of arguably the best bonefishing anywhere. VIP anglers pay $700 a day for plush package deals to hook the notoriously wily game fish, but those without hedge-funder salaries can hire a local guide for day trips. The Andros Island Bonefishing Club originated as a guesthouse for anglers in the early Eighties, and is practically legendary among fisherman due to the ridiculous amount of bonefish in its surrounding waters. Rates range from $1,083 for a three-night excursion in the off-season to $5,605 for seven nights and six days of fishing during peak season.
Dive pioneer Dick Birch's Small Hope Bay Lodge in north Andros (accessed by Andros Town airport) caters to the second-most-popular pastime. Dives like "Over the Wall" drop 185 feet into an abyss. "Every other island has its own unique attraction," says Small Hope Bay Lodge's Nicky Hinsey. "Andros is like all of those squashed into one – we have a little of everything."
More information: To get here, fly to Nassau and then Congo Town or Andros Town. Tiamo resort doesn't come cheap, but is one of the few luxury hideaways available in such a sparsely populated area – and with no connected roads it's only accessible by boat or seaplane (about a 15-minute boat ride from Nassau). The resort is closed in September and October, with all-inclusive prices that start at $795 for a small cottage in the off-season to $1,200 for a peak-season villa (rates are based on 2 people, per night). Small Hope Bay Lodge is a full service resort, but is better known as one of the best dining experiences in all of the Bahamas. Irene has been running the kitchen there for more than 37 years and offers a wide variety of international dishes in addition to plenty of local fresh catch. Complimentary babysitting in the game room is available for children during dining hours.