1. Snorkeling with dolphins off Grand Bahama. 2. Inviting sand awaits on a New Providence Island beach. 3. Caribbean reef shark off New Providence Island. 4. Tube sponges on a Bahamas reef.

On a clear night, you can actually see the lights of Grand Bahama or Bimini from a small plane over West Palm Beach or Miami. That's how near the tropic-straddling Bahama islands are to the East Coast of the United States. Yet, with only about 300,000 people living on some 700 islands, life in this nation is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of urban America.

On Grand Bahama and New Providence Island (where the capital, Nassau, is located), fine dining and shopping abound, along with some of the most modern resorts and casinos in the world. A variety of underwater enticements await, from pulse-pounding encounters with sharks to exploration of feature-film sets, to peaceful sojourns with dolphins.

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