Why This Could Be the Best Time to Visit the Bahamas
With major renovations and resort openings — including the much-anticipated Baha Mar — it's time to give Nassau and Paradise Island a second look.
You probably heard about the opening of Baha Mar a few years ago. And then, you probably didn't. The sprawling resort, a mini city comprising three hotels, pools, and a casino on a prime stretch of Nassau beachfront, was nearing the finish line in the spring of 2015. But then the local developer went bankrupt, leaving many to wonder if Baha Mar would ever open.
Turns out, it wasn't a matter of if, but when. Last spring, under new ownership, the $4.2 billion complex unveiled part one of Baha Mar, the 1,800-room Grand Hyatt Baha Mar (doubles from $250). Phase two, the 299-room SLS Baha Mar (doubles from $308), opened in November. In a year when the Caribbean needed a comeback story, the timing couldn't have been better.
My first impression upon finally seeing Baha Mar: it's a bold development meant to turn heads, yet it will also appeal to a new generation of travelers who appreciate design that nods to the destination. The wow factor begins at the entrance to the complex, with its towering 40-foot water wall and fountains powered by 365 jets. Eleven swimming pools give everyone room to find their own corner. Even more impressive are the 2,500 pieces of Bahamian art curated by native son John Cox. My favorite: Cox's own painting The Fifth Season, a series of colorful circles on a wood background, behind the Grand Hyatt check-in desk. The 1,800 rooms are all spacious; some have a crisp blue-and-white palette that plays off the environment.
The 100,000-square-foot casino (surprisingly easy to navigate, and not overwhelming) serves as a hub, with restaurants and lounges branching off. Thirty restaurants, bars, and lounges in all span the project, and some of the best are the most casual. El Jefe is a seaside food truck — actually a hot-pink Airstream trailer — for tacos, while the Conch Stand delivers a classic Bahamian dish, freshly caught and seasoned to perfection. You could spend a week here and still be discovering new things to do, from the 18-hole golf course to the 24-treatment-room Espa, one of the best destinations for wellness in the Caribbean, in my opinion. While the Grand Hyatt and the Rosewood — the third Baha Mar resort, scheduled to open this spring — cater to families, the SLS is all about couples. With its minimalist lobby and rooftop cocktail lounge, the property has a youthful energy, something Nassau sorely needed.
That energy extends to neighboring Paradise Island, too, where the resorts have renovated to keep up with the times (and Baha Mar). At the Ocean Club, a Four Seasons Resort (doubles from $1,260), I saw locals and guests having family nights and celebrating anniversaries at Jean-Georges' Dune restaurant, now sleek and modern but still serving classics like crispy salmon sushi and black-truffle pizza.
Over at the Cove (doubles from $509), the exclusive wing of Atlantis, Paradise Island, designer Lulu de Kwiatkowski reimagined the adults-centric Cove Pool, decorating the cabanas with original paintings. Sip Sip, Harbour Island's top restaurant, now has a location there, too. But the bigger change is at the Coral (doubles from $289), where you can now make use of a kids' concierge, stay in redesigned rooms, and taste Bahamian-inspired ice cream in the new lobby café, Sun & Ice. There, chef Wayne Moncur serves flavors like "yea bey," a fusion of caramelized sugar banana and soursop. It's a crowd-pleaser with a sense of place — a formula that the destination seems to have finally figured out.
Content in this article was produced with assistance from Atlantis; Baha Mar; The Ocean Club, a Four Seasons Resort; Paradise Island; and Park Hyatt St. Kitts.