Nassau, Bahamas is one of the most common port calls on a Royal Caribbean cruise and offers a variety of activities to suit all tastes and budgets. Whether it’s relaxing on the beach, strolling downtown, or trying out a day pass at a local resort, I try to find a new activity to do every time I visit Nassau.
On my recent weekend cruise on Freedom of the Seas, I booked an excursion to Pearl Island during our stopover in Nassau. Although I didn’t know much about Pearl Island before booking the tour, I was excited to see what the island had to offer.
There are three types of tours to book at Pearl Island: Pearl Island Beach Escape, Pearl Island Beach Escape & Snorkel, and Pearl Island VIP Cabana for 2. Each tour lasts five hours, including transportation.
I decided to book the Pearl Island Beach Escape excursion. I booked the tour directly through Royal Caribbean for $92.99, although the price briefly dropped to $83.99 a few weeks before the cruise.
The Pearl Island Beach Escape tour includes transportation, water sports equipment, lounge chairs and umbrellas, lunch, and access to climb the island’s lighthouse. The snorkeling tour, which costs about $20 more than the Beach Escape, includes a 30-minute guided underwater tour of a protected reef on one side of the island.
VIP cabanas are also available to book through the “Pearl Island VIP Cabana for 2” shore excursion. Each private waterfront cabana includes butler service, complimentary towels, power outlet, ceiling fan, 30-minute guided snorkeling excursion, and fully stocked cooler.
The cabanas also come with an all-inclusive beverage package, which includes sodas, beer, wine, and cocktails. While hut guests indulge in the same lunch as other Pearl Island guests, they are served right in the hut.
The cost of a VIP cabana at Pearl Island is $480 in total for two people.
It looks like you can book a Pearl Island tour directly on the island’s website, although booking through the cruise line seems like a much better option. The price is comparable to what Royal Caribbean offers, but when booking independently, the website states that the boat will depart from the Paradise Island ferry terminal rather than near the cruise ships. Taking into account the cost of a taxi to and from Paradise Island, it will likely be more expensive to book directly through Pearl Island.
How to get to Pearl Island
Booking a Pearl Island excursion through Royal Caribbean includes round-trip transportation from the cruise port to the island. Luckily our tour boarded the boat that would take us to Pearl Island very close to where we disembarked from the ship so there was no need to walk very far.
Pearl Island is located just a 30 minute boat ride from the cruise terminal, passing the Port of Nassau and luxury homes, resorts and golf courses along the way. As most of the trip is in the harbor itself, the water should be quite gentle.
The tour description states that the trip to Pearl Island will include a half-hour “narrated harbor cruise” where guests can learn about the island and its history, but this did not happen. produced during my excursion. It didn’t matter to me, but it should be noted that Royal Caribbean’s description didn’t entirely match what we experienced on the tour.
Development of the island
Photo credit: Pearl Island
Pearl Island is small and narrow and the majority of the island has a rocky coastline. Crystal clear water surrounds the island in different shades of turquoise.
Technically, there is only one beach on the island, but bushes and plants somewhat separate the beach into two areas: a main beach and a smaller beach near the VIP cabanas. The beaches mostly have calm seas, making them great swimming for visitors of all ages.
On the west side of the island is the iconic Pearl Island Lighthouse, which is open to visitors and offers panoramic views of the ocean and surrounding islands. This is also where lunch takes place and the snorkeling tour begins.
The eastern part of Pearl Island is where you will find the beaches and cabanas as well as the island bar.
Throughout the island, there are a ton of beach chairs, many of which have umbrellas or shade structures. Chairs are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis, so if you want to be in a specific spot or have as much shade as possible, be sure to reserve a spot on the island right away.
Luckily, there shouldn’t be a shortage of chairs to find as the island limits capacity. In fact, the island seemed quite empty when I was there, even after a group from another cruise ship arrived in the middle of the day.
A Bahamian-style lunch is included in the cost of the tour, which was available from 11am. Lunch included coleslaw, beans and rice, BBQ chicken and fish sticks. Iced tea and water were also available. The food was served as a full service buffet, where the member of staff placed the dish on your plate.
Wasn’t sure what to expect with lunch at Pearl Island, but found it quite tasty. The fish sticks were exceptionally crispy and flavorful and the rice, although a bit dry, had a good amount of spices and mixed beans.
Apart from the free lunch, there were snacks for sale at the bar including chips and cookies.
When researching details about Pearl Island before booking the excursion, I had read a few reviews that the drinks were expensive. Although I wasn’t planning on drinking much on the island anyway, I was a bit disappointed to hear that. After reading the reviews, I expected the drinks to be around $15+.
However, I really should have done more research as this was not the case at all once it arrived! I was pleasantly surprised to see a reasonably priced drinks menu, with beers around $6, mocktails $8, and cocktails between $9-12. Sodas, water, and juices are also available.
I ordered a Miami Vice (half piña colada and half strawberry daiquiri) and it really hit the mark on a hot sunny day in the Bahamas!
Highlights and comments
A great highlight of my day on Pearl Island was taking advantage of the water sports activities available. Apart from the snorkeling tour, all water activities are available for free.
I had originally planned to use a stand-up paddle, but due to the winds making the beach a little rougher than usual, only kayaks were available. Kayaking was great fun. Even though I could only get out so far due to ropes blocking the beach, this was definitely a highlight of my time on the island.
Apart from kayaking and stand-up paddling, there were floating beach mats available in the water and a few games to play on the beach.
My only complaint is that my time on the island seemed to pass too quickly! Factoring in a slightly delayed departure from the pier and travel time to the island, we were only there for about 3.5 hours. An extra hour or two would have been nice, and if I had more time I would have explored the lighthouse.
Also, due to the short time on the island, I was glad I didn’t book the snorkeling excursion. Those who did the snorkeling didn’t have as much time to relax and enjoy the beauty of the island.
Overall, Pearl Island exceeded my expectations and I had a wonderful, beautiful day relaxing among the island’s crystal clear beaches, kayaking, and enjoying food and drink. I always love discovering new things to see, do, eat, and experience during my day in Nassau, and my time at Pearl Island was the best day I’ve ever had in Nassau.