Amidst the cold grips of winter, I frequently find myself yearning for an escape to a locale with just two temperatures: hot and hotter. Working full time with limited vacation, which I usually allocate in its entirety to a ‘cross the Atlantic’ trip, I have to be creative in fitting in some time in the sun. For the past few years I’ve done an annual quick-trip to the Bahamas. It has a pleasant tropical climate year round and, just as important, it’s a short and direct flight from Toronto to the Bahamas’ capital Nassau, which is critical when you can only swing a three or four night stay.
With easy flights to Nassau, Atlantis Paradise Island has fast become my go-to resort. Unlike most large Caribbean resorts, Atlantis is not all-inclusive which I enjoy as I find the quality of everything, from the food, to the hotel grounds, to the service, to be better on average. Here are six reasons why I keep coming back to Atlantis:
Atlantis Paradise Island can be a culinary experience
I love to eat almost as much as I love to travel. In fact, I have made travel plans based on food alone, like a recent trip to San Sebastian for traditional pinxtos and avant-garde molecular gastronomy. Underwhelming food experiences, on the other hand, have been known to taint my overall experience and negatively influence, if ever so slightly, my subconscious regard for the offending destination.
Atlantis Paradise Island has some superb restaurants such as high-end sushi chain Nobu, Mesa Grill from culinary A-lister Bobby Flay, and French-Caribbean Fusion at Cafe Martinique. It can be pricey but I prefer splurging on a few dinners than overindulging on mediocre food at an all inclusive. Quality over quantity. And let’s be serious, who wants to engage solely in ‘all-you-can-eat’ when spending the entire vacation in a bikini.
For those not as persuaded by culinary exploits, there are plenty of restaurants offering more standard fare at more reasonable price points such as a New York style deli, a family style Italian trattoria, and a southern BBQ joint.
There are lots of activities to keep you busy
I am not very good at relaxing and I have difficulties ‘shutting off’. The idea of lying on a beach for five days straight sounds very appealing until I remember that I get antsy after 20 minutes of lounging around and I burn even with SPF 60 on. An ideal vacation spot for me provides opportunities for both relaxation and activity, which Atlantis does in abundance.
The grounds of Atlantis Paradise Island are massive. With 11 pools, six distinct resort buildings, a pedestrian marina, and a seven acre white sand beach, it’s a behemoth place with plenty of space to explore. And that’s just the property. There is pretty much every island activity imaginable from scuba-diving to snorkelling to swimming with dolphins.
Atlantis Paradise Island boasts an impressive display of marine life, showcasing more than 250 species in the multiple aquariums that snake throughout the grounds. If you prefer to be the one in the water, there are several water rides and slides covering the gamut from tepid to daring, including two slides that pass through a shark tank, a great river rapids ride, and a lazy river.
Despite a lengthy list of things to do, it is definitely easy to relax at Atlantis as well. Spend the entire day lying in the sun at the beach or at one of the many serene pools. If you’re lucky enough to stay at The Cove you’ll have access to an exclusive pool with daybeds and cabanas to lounge away the day. Or take it to the next level by visiting the ultra calming Mandara Spa, a place where even I can fully unwind.
Nightly entertainment is epic
When the sun goes down the fun moves inside. After a delectable dinner, we typically head to the casino to have a drink and casually play some slots (or roulette if feeling particularly adventurous). As the largest casino in the Caribbean, there are all the standard gambling fixtures and you may feel as though you’ve been transported to Vegas via the Bahamas.
There are several spots within Atlantis Paradise Island to enjoy a drink as well, with the most lively located around the casino. Atlas Bar and Moon Club offer buzzing lounge atmospheres and fantastic opportunities to people watch – particularly those who beat the odds at the casino.
If you’re looking for something more high energy, there’s Dragon’s Ultra Lounge on the casino floor where you can find an eclectic crowd dancing to blaring top 40 hits or Aura, a Vegas-esque club with a youthful and energetic vibe, where high rollers order by the bottle while a DJ gets people on the dance floor.
Nassau has a lot to offer
Nassau appears unassuming, especially as you make your way from the airport to Atlantis on the other side of the island, but downtown Nassau has lots to offer visitors and is well worth a trip. You’ll need to get off the main strip, Bay Street, which is, for the most part, full of overpriced and underwhelming shops, featuring the usual tax-free luxury goods that attract a lot of tourists.
We spent a rainy afternoon on a food tour of Nassau, which brilliantly fused the history of the island with an impressive sample of its best culinary offerings. Over the three+ hours we spent hopping from restaurant to restaurant, we saw a lot more of downtown Nassau than what tourists usually encounter along the main shopping drag, where most of the dining options look mediocre. We visited some outstanding restaurants that would warrant a trip off of the resort including traditional island food at Bahamian Cookin’, Belgian-Thai-Caribbean flavors at Van Breugel’s, and a family owned Greek restaurant Athena Cafe.
Some other worthwhile sites in Nassau include the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas which is housed in a beautiful mid 19th century villa on a hill overlooking the town, Christ Church Cathedral built in the gothic style in 1800′s featuring beautiful stain glass windows and a row reserved exclusively for the Royal Family, and Graycliff Hotel which was originally constructed in the mid-1700′s and has seen an eclectic array of clientele including celebrities, royalty and gangsters, now featuring a five star restaurant, chocolatier, and a cigar company.
Atlantis Paradise Island is a great spot for family trips
As I get older, I find that I enjoy traveling with my family more than when I was younger. This could quite possibly be attributable to the fact that I am no longer an obnoxious teenager who’s too cool to spend time with her family. Now that we all have distinct lives of our own, our yearly vacation is a great way to reconnect and spend some quality time together.
Atlantis Paradise Island is an ideal spot for these family trips and I frequently encounter large, multi-generational families from infants to great grandparents when I visit. And, perhaps surprisingly, they all seem to be thoroughly enjoying their vacations. It just comes back to the fact that there are so many ways to spend your time at Atlantis that you can indulge in whatever you wish, so everybody comes out a winner.
From my personal experience, Atlantis has been very accommodating to our larger party. We’ve always received adjoining rooms when we’ve asked and the restaurants have always appeased our requests for our bigger group, just be sure to make a reservation well in advance. The Cove, while more expensive than the other buildings, has larger and multi-bedroom suites to accommodate bigger groups within one room, which may be more cost effective in the end.
Atlantis Paradise Island can be a bargain
Atlantis Paradise Island really is a high-end travel experience but it doesn’t have to be prohibitively expensive. Sure, you could stay at The Cove for $700+ per night, but there are more reasonable options such as the Beach Tower & Coral Tower for a third of the price. In the off season, the prices can dip even lower to the ~$100 mark and there are usually specials that can save you quite a bit such as resort and airfare credits ($100 to $500 based on the cost of your room), Taste of Atlantis Pass (complimentary appetizers and/or beverages at many of the resort’s top restaurants) and Atlantis Experience Pass (free Dolphin Interaction, a round of golf, etc).
Dining at some of the world-class restaurants at Atlantis can be pricey, but there are many more frugal options to be found such as Johnny Rockets, Marina Pizzeria, and even Starbucks for easy breakfasts & lunches. We’ve even stopped at a grocery store on the way from the airport to the resort to buy food and drinks, which is considerably cheaper than what you’ll find at the shops closer to Atlantis.
Atlantis offers tremendous value as well. You have access to all of the pools and Aquaventure activities which costs visitors from other resorts and cruise passengers $135 for an adult day pass.
I’ll keep coming back to Atlantis because it’s just so easy. Most of my trips involve excessive planning and a high level of coordination and it’s refreshing to have a break from that – and the fantastic weather and beautiful grounds of the resort don’t hurt either! Have you been to Atlantis Paradise Island or are thinking of planning a trip there? Let me know in the comments!