This Island Is the Best-kept Secret in the Bahamas — With an Idyllic 40-acre Resort on 2 Beaches

On the lesser-known Bahamian island of Eleuthera, The Cove resort merits a closer look, thanks to a stunning multiyear renovation.

The pool and exterior of The Cove Eleuthera

Courtesy of The Cove Eleuthera

The Cove Eleuthera, a 40-acre boutique hotel that opened in the Bahamas in 2013, has become the go-to for high-profile travelers seeking understated, off-the-beaten-path luxury. On the lesser-known island of Eleuthera, one of nearly 700 in the Bahamian archipelago, the resort began a multi-tiered renovation last August to revamp the property's 29 sumptuous rooms.

In late March, I visited The Cove Eleuthera with my stepmother, taking my first trip back to the island since 1985. Refreshingly, the island is still quiet. You won’t find traffic lights on Eleuthera, or traffic, for that matter. The long, flat island has a population of about 11,000. It’s Freedom Island, people will tell you. Eleuthera, after all, stems from the Greek word eleutheros: free. Maybe you know it for its sweet-as-candy pineapples, or just for its live-and-let-live attitude. People come to Eleuthera to relax. 

And relax we did. Arriving at The Cove on a clear day, we wasted no time settling in on the smaller of the resort’s twin beaches, where I made instant friends with the resident sea life via a quick snorkel. The resort is home to a vibrant reef tucked into picturesque limestone cliffs, and even less experienced snorkelers can swim through the etched crannies, where orange starfish, hulking grouper, and the occasional barracuda live. 

Our 1,100-square-foot two-bedroom ocean-view suite (each room has its own en-suite bath, and the room also comes with a powder room and shared living room) had an unobstructed view of the property, as well as the serenity captured by the nature-minded redesign.

The Cove enjoys two stunning beaches; a spa with individual cottages; bike cruisers for exploring the property; a small gym; a full dock, where guests can charter the property’s boat for day-trips; and a dining venue that morphs from a breakfast spot into a casual poolside lunch hang, and again into a two-pronged dinner restaurant with a full sushi bar, where guests can watch the chef work. 

Tim Hepworth, an associate principal at California-based firm BAR Architects & Interiors, which spearheaded the design refresh, says his goal was to bring the natural surroundings of the island into the interiors. 

The result, at the property’s four villas, 23 cottages, and two suites is a design that ebbs and flows seamlessly into the natural surroundings. Linen-covered headboards, occasional blue accents, and an otherwise soothing palette of neutrals–used throughout the property constantly reinforced the importance of the exterior vista. 

I toured, too, one of the resort’s luxury Caribbean cottages, a spacious, 950-square-foot one-bedroom with a porch facing the ocean. Beds float in the center of the room, with a living area before them. Rooms are earth-driven: linen sconces, pale wood, soft and oversized rugs. In the bathroom, guests can choose between a free-standing tub and a generous outdoor shower, perhaps one of the room’s most luxurious features. 

Continuing renovations, slated for summer and fall 2023, will add four additional Caribbean Cottages and one more two-bedroom suite, bringing the total key count – built over the course of the next few years – up to 34. The project is expected to be completed in November 2024

“The enhancements we have planned will further solidify The Cove Eleuthera as a leading resort destination on the island of Eleuthera and the Bahamas,” says Carlton Russell, managing director, The Cove Eleuthera. Guests, Russell says, have always expected a “serene, isolated location,” which is a true draw for those who prefer a far-flung destination. The ongoing renovation, he says, will herald “elevated dining, accommodations, and immersive island experiences.” 

A hammock on the beach at The Cove Eleuthera

Hannah Selinger

In the waning heat of the afternoon, I took a tour through resident organic gardener Angie Cooper’s plentiful organic garden, home to starfruit and gooseberry trees, asparagus plants, and raised beds overflowing with fresh herbs and greens. Later, we’d be the recipient of Angie’s hard work — and of Eleuthera’s legendary good soil — at the Freedom Restaurant & Sushi Bar, where my local Caribbean scallops came with some of the very greens I’d seen growing just hours earlier. 

The bathroom and outdoor shower in an Oceanfront 3BDR Villa at The Cove Eleuthera

Courtesy of The Cove Eleuthera

Despite the fact that the property was largely occupied during our stay, it never felt crowded. Here is a resort where you will never have to fight for a chair, where you can walk into a restaurant and dine without a reservation, where you can walk freely through the grass and sand without shoes — and without judgment. If it's privacy you crave, you’ll have it at the Cove, where, during our stay, a wedding took place, I later learned, though I had no inkling that it had even happened while I was there. 

It had been a small affair, a reception near the property’s stunning Point Bar, which sits on a bluff between the North and South beaches. Later, the petite party retreated to the property’s three-bedroom luxury cove villa, which boasts a primary bedroom that faces the water, as well as a gleaming kitchen, a long lap pool, an outdoor shower, plenty of room for a makeshift dance floor, butler service, and two back bedrooms for additional wedding guests (it sleeps up to six). Once the wedding had ended, I was able to tour this room, too. 

The courtyard in an Oceanfront 3BDR Villa at The Cove Eleuthera

Courtesy of The Cove Eleuthera

Interior of an Oceanview 2 bedroom suite at The Cove Eleuthera

Courtesy of The Cove Eleuthera

We didn’t encounter many people when we ventured off-property, either. One morning, we headed out to meet with Ethan H. Fried, Ph.D, a botanist with the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve and Bahamas National Trust to check out the native population of Hippocampus erectu, a species of seahorses that live on the island. There, floating face-down in knee-high water, we watched as he picked up a pregnant male seahorse, a floating miracle of science. 

From there, our Cove tour guide, activities coordinator Shenika Darville, drove us to some of the most quietly spectacular natural formations. I jumped from a platform 40 feet in the air into the Sapphire Blue Hole, a cerulean pool with no perceivable bottom. We then drove to the Queen’s Bath, a sun-warmed series of limestone craters where visitors can sit and witness the fierce crashing of the waves. Even in the dizzy, hot center of the day, we were the only people there. 

Fresh sushi made at The Cove Eleuthera

Hannah Selinger

On our last night, we sat down at the sushi bar at the Freedom Restaurant & Sushi Bar, which was also part of last year’s renovation. The bar, a square in the center of the dining room, is the domain of South African chef Aadam Coetzee. Guests can sign up for omakase-style dining, which was what we were able to experience during our multi-course meal at the hands of the chef. First: a shrimp tempura-based roll, followed by thinly sliced yellowtail, topped with jalapeño, shaved truffle, and ponzu. Pieces of jewel-toned nigiri arrived before us. We ate them. Chef Aadam made more. We ate those, too. 

Then, I was invited behind the line to try my hand at a roll, in a bespoke activity that may be a guest offering in the future, too. “Cut it into a julienne, and then a brunoise,” chef Aadam instructed, and so I cut the ahi tuna first into thin wisps and then into tiny squares. He set a sheet of nori in front of me, then planks of cucumber. In a metal mixing bowl, we combined my chopped tuna — that trusty brunoise cut from school — with sesame oil, kimchi, eel sauce, and honey, and then spooned it on to the nori, which I had spread with a thin sheet of rice. Then, I learned to roll. I was a natural, chef said, or maybe he was just making me feel better. He didn’t have to try. Being in Eleuthera, at The Cove, felt just as sweet as the island’s native pineapples.

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