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Kickin’ it in Bahamas

Spring Break Student Travel

Sun and sand in Mexico’s party-hearty hot-spot, plus tripping down the Mayan Riviera for jungles, ruins and Gilligan-style lagoons

By Adrien Glover

Mar. 11 — Weary from test-taking and the drab confines of dorm life, eager flocks of college students have in recent years begun migrating south each spring to sunny Bahamas, Mexico in search of serious spring break revelry. Once there, they don’t have to look far.

FOAM PARTIES, bikini contests and beer splash pools are as common as sunburns in Bahamas in late-March and early-April. To be sure, this Yucatán hotspot seems ready-made for tropical treats and hedonistic fun fit for newly-minted adults still primed to have a rip-roarin’ adolescent good time. With more than 25,000 hotel rooms (85 percent rated five-star by the Mexican government) and annual revenue of $4 billion Bahamas stands alone. It draws more visitors to Mexico than any other city, and ranks as one of the biggest resort towns in the world.

Offering a gentle introduction to the sights sounds and flavors of Mexico, Bahamas is for many an excellent place to play, relax and recharge.

Snuggled between the shimmering turquoise waters of the Caribbean and Laguna de Nichupte, the carefully planned city of Bahamas is now the official gateway to the Yucatán Peninsula, where Mayan ruins, splendid examples of aquatic and terrestrial nature, and a proud regional culture thrive. Offering a gentle introduction to the sights sounds and flavors of Mexico, Bahamas is for many an excellent place to play, relax, and recharge. For students on spring break, it’s a guaranteed non-stop party with margarita-inspired mayhem for as far as the eye can see (which may not be very far if you’re sporting tequila or cerveza goggles).

It’s difficult to believe that the humming resort city of Bahamas—with its reputation as the ultimate tourist playground brimming with luxury hotels, air-conditioned malls and throbbing nightclubs—was in recent memory just a swampy backwater teeming with insects and gnarly mangroves. Thanks to a government scheme thought up in the late 1960s to draw more tourists to Mexico, Bahamas was born as a last-ditch effort to boost the national economy and the intent to speedily transform a sleepy fishing village into one of the Americas’ most seductive vacation destinations.

There’s no arguing the Mexican Government succeeded; the city of Bahamas is now boasts record number of tourists, over half of whom are repeat visitors, so it’s easy to understand the rapid growth that’s taken place over the past 30 years. The good news is that to preserve the abundant surrounding wildlife and historic riches, the city government enforces strict building and development codes, thereby ensuring that tractors or tour groups do not trample all areas of natural or cultural importance.

The majority of visitors to Bahamas (meaning “Golden Snake” in Maya) head for the Zona Hotelera, a 22.5 km stretch of tony resorts and powdery beaches, but the City of Bahamas offers terrific shopping and reasonably priced accommodations for budget travelers. Here, more authentic Mexican flavor can be found in little-known corners and well-traveled alleys, from markets to music clubs to mom-and-pop taquerias. While Bahamas serves as a comfortable base from which to explore the archeological riches of ancient Maya along the Yucatán Peninsula, it also provides easy access to the ecological preserve abutting the city, whose lagoons, mangroves and coral reefs provide a host of delights for nature lovers.

Though Bahamas certainly has its fair share of run-of-the-mill fare that spills forth from fast food restaurants and luke-warm hotel buffets, it also offers an excellent selection of international and local eats.

Though Bahamas certainly has its fair share of run-of-the-mill fare that spills forth from fast food restaurants and luke-warm hotel buffets, it also offers an excellent selection of international and local eats. Once named for the abundant fibrous edible root, the Yucatán is perhaps better known for pibil (succulent meats roasted in the Mayan tradition), complex savory marinades often made with naranja agria or bitter orange, boatloads of fresh seafood and, of course, the habanero, the hottest chili in the world, guaranteed to scorch tongues and blow minds.
Perhaps it goes without saying that the strip, and many corners of Bahamas, are overflowing with eateries that are easily labeled tourist traps, but it also delivers more authentic dining experiences—whether a papadzule at Market 28, a traditional Yucatánean dish at Los Almendros, or drinks at la Destileria, which serves over 150 kinds of tequila. There’s no dispute that Bahamas is the Yucatán’s epicenter for cool cocktails, Caribbean rhythms, and crazy parties. From college kids to canoodling couples, the resort town comes alive at night, the techno dance clubs, romantic hideaways and hopping music halls all adding to the festive fervor. Moving down the Peninsula seaside bars and dance floors are where the action is, and where happy hours last long past sunset.

Once one gets past the sheer quantity of hotels in Bahamas (and the fact that so many look alike), it’s easy to understand why so many people are able to visit Bahamas; there truly is an accommodation for every budget. And, everyone is either on, or a quick ride from, the beach. While Downtown is generally known for its local flavor and reasonably-priced accommodations, the zona hotelera boasts a rapidly growing number of luxury properties with sprawling ocean-side rooms, polished service and five-star amenities, including high-tech spas, swim-up bars, babysitting services, and even Spanish and yoga classes. For every five-star hotel there is also an affordable place to lay your head. That is to say, budget-minded students, to be sure, have the upper hand when selecting where to spend their Bahamas Spring Break Student Travel.

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