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Playtime In Paradise

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Not almost in paradise, but actually Paradise: Paradise Island in the Bahamas is conveniently off the shores of Nassau so you can catch one of the daily flights into that city's international airport and before you know it be stepping onto the sunshine-drenched sands in Paradise. Formerly known as Hog Island, its current moniker is much more befitting (although you will certainly feel like you're living high off the hog here).

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stay: Budget-minded beach-loving families can score a relatively affordable vacay stay in the Bahamas at the Riu Paradise Island, where there are plenty of loungers on the powdery beach, 24-7 room service and, of course, all-you-can-eat and-drink (the bar in each suite at Riu properties can't help but make us want to party like it's 1999). 6307 Casino Drive, Paradise Island, Bahamas, +1 (242)-363-3500, www.riu.com

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savour: Its name gives us a giggle (the terms originates from the French word for stern of a boat, in case you were wondering), but laughs aside, the longstanding Poop Deck in Nassau is where you can get all delicious manner of conch (salad, cracked and fritters), and the catch of the day prepared as you wish. Visit the location on East Bay for a marina view and beach vibe or the Sandyport one for a more traditional ambiance. As for solid Italian fare, you can't beat Luciano's of Chicago for its decent wine list, grilled calamari, and linguini alla Luciano that is loaded with Bahamian lobster and shrimp. East Bay Street Nassau, Bahamas, +1 (242) 393-8175, www.thepoopdeck.com and East Bay Street, P.O. Box N 4942, Nassau, Bahamas, +1 (242) 323-7770, www.lucianosnassau.com

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shop: The vendors can be aggressive but if you have the will to poke around, weed through the cheap touristy trinkets at the Nassau Straw Market and you can make some good finds of handwoven bags and hats and crafts. Bring your best bargaining game and you'll score some sweet souvenirs for yourself and your loved ones. W Bay St, Nassau, Bahamas, +1 (242)-363-2000, www.nassauparadiseisland.com

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sweat: Scuba-diving sisters, dive deep and check out the beautiful colourful walls of coral and sponges that make up a magical, otherworldly surface, as schools of fish swim by you. Prefer to work out on land? Each January, a couple of dozen countries are repped in the Marathon Bahamas (there's a 5k, half and a relay if you're not up for the 42.2k distance). The race kicks off at 6 a.m. so you can avoid the day's most intense heat, and you'll hear the race's signature marathon-themed reggae song along the route to help motivate you as you pound the pavement. www.bahamas.com and www.marathonbahamas.com

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socialize: Immersing ourselves into the local culture is our preferred M.O. when we travel, and staying at an all-inclusive can make that difficult. But a People-to-People experience here had us dining in the home of one charming couple and a slew of their closest friends, where we got in on all of the gossip, news and chatter as though we were a native Bahamian (not to mention an authentic homemade meal of mac and cheese, roasted chicken, snapper and rice and peas). Prefer to explore the island's history or artistic side? This complimentary program will find the ambassador with the insider 411. www.bahamas.com

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