Highlighting Southwest’s International Destinations, Part 2: The Bahamas & Cuba

Get a $10 welcome gift and major cash back rebates on your purchases at ebates!In Part 1 of this series I shared an overview of Southwest’s international destinations.  Let’s home in on two of the island destinations – the Bahamas and Cuba!

The Bahamas – The Most Beautiful Place from Space

Southwest’s northernmost international destination is the Bahamas.  The airline flies into one airport in the Bahamas – the Lynden Pindling International Airport (NAS) on the island of Nassau.  If you want to get there/back on a nonstop flight, you have only two options: flying to/from Baltimore-Washington International (BWI) or Fort Lauderdale (FLL).  Of course you can reach BWI and FLL from dozens of other airports across the country on Southwest.

Airports serviced by Southwest in country: Lynden Pindling International Airport (NAS) in Nassau

Mainland servicing airport(s): Fort Lauderdale (FLL); Baltimore-Washington International (BWI)

Taxes and fees: $101.59 per person for a FLL-NAS roundtrip award ticket

The Bahamas certainly have some impressive man-made structures but the islands also boast great natural beauty.  Many of the beaches are covered in powdery white sand, and the crystal-clear waters are world-renowned for their turquoise hue.

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The beautiful waters of the Bahamas, pictured here, led US astronaut Scott Kelly to refer to the islands as “the most beautiful place [on earth] from space.”

The Bahamian islands have served as the filming location for major blockbuster films including Pirates of the Caribbean and the James Bond flick Casino Royale.

Using Points to Stay on Nassau and Paradise Island

Once you’ve landed at NAS, a 30-minute drive to the northeast and over a bridge will take you to Atlantis on Paradise Island.  Forewarning: Recent reviews of Atlantis paint it as overpriced and dated.

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Atlantis, pictured here, is an iconic Bahamian resort on Paradise Island, a short drive from the airport on Nassau.

The new show in town is the Baha Mar resort, comprising several hotels and a massive casino.  After many delays, the property is finally opening (in phases).

In addition to Baha Mar’s brand new hotel buildings, the resort has an animal sanctuary with a variety of stunning marine life like the sea turtle and ray pictured here.

Here is a collection of links to some of the major hotels on the island for which you can redeem points for free stays:

Cuba – The Pearl of the Antilles

As the largest island (roughly the size of Pennsylvania) in the Caribbean and exuding the allure of having been off-limits for decades, Cuba has significant draw for some Americans.

The country boasts many beautiful, sugar-white sand beaches as well as acres of tobacco farms which provide the main ingredient in Cuba’s world-renowned cigars.  It is perhaps though the the vestiges of bygone eras – 1950s cars and old, pastel-painted houses – that produce the greatest pull.  These elements are visible throughout the country and particularly in the capital city of Havana, located on the northern coast of the main island.

For years, visiting Cuba was a no-go zone for the average American.  A policy change as 2014 turned to 2015 opened the door a bit, allowing many more Americans to visit the communist nation.  A 2017 policy change is likely to push the pendulum back the other way.

Though there was a spike in excitement about travel to Cuba at the time of the Obama administration’s policy change, that excitement waned even prior to the Trump administration’s partial rollback of Obama’s changes.  US airlines were substantially reducing service to/from Cuba due to lack of demand.

Until September 5th, 2017, Southwest services three airports in Cuba: Havana (HAV), Varadero (VRA) and Santa Clara (SNU).  Flights are available between all three locations and FLL.  Southwest also services HAV to/from Tampa (TPA).

After September 5th, HAV will be the only Cuban airport serviced by Southwest.

Airports serviced by Southwest in country (after 5 September 2017): José Martí International Airport (HAV)

Mainland servicing airport(s): Fort Lauderdale (FLL); Tampa International (TPA)

Taxes and fees: $72.06 per person for a FLL-HAV roundtrip award ticket

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The streets of Old Havana, pictured here, are lined with pastel-colored buildings and 1950s era cars.

Using Points to Stay in Cuba

There is only one major hotel in Havana for which points/free night awards can be redeemed:

AirBnB is very popular in Cuba as well, so give it a look if you don’t have any hotel points and are looking for more of a homey feel on your trip.

Lodging options in Cuba include AirBnB.
AirBnB offers a variety of inexpensive lodging options in Cuba.

Have you flown Southwest to one of its international destinations?  Share a note on your experience in the comments below!

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