Name a place “Paradise,” and it had better be good. With just a two-and- a-half-hour flight, you can see for yourself how the perfect temperature, flour-soft sand, blue-green waters and ultra-luxe accommodations of this Bahamas isle live up to the hefty title. Once the private estate of a Swedish entrepreneur and later developed by A&P heir Huntington Hartford, Paradise Island has long been the play place of the elite. (With such an elegant history, it’s no wonder it was the perfect backdrop for another jetsetter; several Bond movies, most recently Casino Royale, were filmed here.) These days, Paradise Island is home to a new class of players—including regulars Oprah, Michael Jordan and Martha Stewart—and mega-resort Atlantis. But at the island’s most exclusive property, One&Only Ocean Club, you too can live the glamorous life, with round-the-clock pampering, five-star dining, expansive suites and villas, and one magnificent stretch of beach. And if you get tired of fancy, try authentic—a quick taxi ride over the bridge to downtown Nassau leads to bright Colonial buildings, shopping, off-the-boat seafood, and locals who take pride in making tourists feel welcome.
BY DAY Clear-enough-to-see-your- pedicure waters are standard here, and you can take them in from your chair on the beach or while out on an excursion. One of the best of these, offered by several vendors, is a boat ride and snorkeling trip with a stop at pristine Rose Island, for its gorgeous untouched beaches. For more action, take the Ocean Club’s complimentary car service over to the Atlantis, a sister resort where OC guests are entitled to all the amenities. Scope out the sea life in Atlantis’s many aquariums and tanks (Sting-rays! Sharks!), get up-close-and-personal with dolphin and sea-lion encounters, or test the slides at Aquaventure, a 141-acre water park. Of course, you don’t ever really need to leave the Ocean Club, where tennis (including lessons with a pro who’s been with the resort since Hartford’s days), complimentary bicycles, morning yoga and more await. Golfers will definitely want to play a round at the Ocean Club course, designed by pro Tom Weiskopf. And whatever you do, make sure to be back in your room at 5p.m.so as not to miss the complimentary evening delivery of champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries; it makes for the perfect sunset treat enjoyed on your balcony or patio.
BY NIGHT At the Ocean Club’s Dune restaurant, the glow of a backlit marble bar draws partiers like moths to a flame. Sample the lengthy martini list; Kalik, an easy- drinking Bahamian beer; or the resort’s signature pink lemonade, doctored with vodka. Should the alcohol make you feel like sneaking away for some moonlight smooching, stroll the Versailles gardens, which feature Carrera marble and bronze statues from Europe and a 14th-century Augustinian cloister, purchased from a French monastery and reassembled here. For wilder pursuits, head to Aura at Atlantis—a 9,000-square-foot nightclub—and the Atlantis casino, where a late-night crowd is guaranteed. Check before you book to see who’s playing the Atlantis LIVE concert series (stars like Bruno Mars, Michael Bublé and Katy Perry stopped in this year) or performing at the Jokers Wild comedy club.
WHERE TO STAY The service at the Ocean Club is so five-star, you’ll almost feel guilty: Butlers offer to unpack your suitcase, beach attendants secure your towel to your lounge chair, and servers come quickly if they see you lift the bottle to refill your own water glass. (“Let me—you’re on vacation.”) No wonder the place has been featured in more Top 10 lists than we have room to name.
WHAT TO EAT At the Ocean Club, you have two choices: beachfront Dune—for French-Asian cuisine from celeb chef Jean- Georges Vongerichten—or the Courtyard Terrace, for contemporary Mediterranean in the property’s candlelit original courtyard. (Tip: Book dinner at Dune just before sunset and sit on the patio for the perfect view.) Over at Atlantis, you’ll find celeb-chef spots Mesa Grill (Bobby Flay), Café Martinique (also Jean-Georges Vongerichten), Nobu (Nobu Matsuhisa), and the newest, Olives (Todd English), plus an assortment of lunch and casual options. Locals will tell you the Fish Fry, a lively downtown waterfront area lined with colorful beach-shack restaurants, is the place to go for conch (they pronounce it “conk”) salad, conch fritters, fried grouper, and other authentic Bahamian dishes.
WHAT TO PACK The very basics: sunscreen, passport, camera, a hat, and resort-elegant wear. Men should bring pants for dinner at any upscale restaurants, and ladies will never look out of place glamming it up in their best Bond-girl looks. No need to exchange currency; the dollar is accepted most everywhere and is a one-to-one match with the Bahamian dollar.
BEST TIMES TO GO Weather doesn’t vary too much here; rain is rare and brief, and temps stay in the 70s to 80s. (For deals, though, book during the off-season from May to November, when rain is more common—though still unlikely.) Hurricane season runs from June to November, though many hotels offer no-hassle refunds should one hit. For more excitement, visit around New Year’s to catch Junkanoo, an annual festival and parade.
NEWLYWED NEWS Your butlers at the Ocean Club will go out of their way to rev the romance by setting up private dinners on your terrace, in the gardens or on the beach. They’ll also draw a bath, decorate with rose petals, and accommodate almost any other special touches you might request. Plus, the resort’s spa caters to couples and features eight private “spa villas” where you and your hubby can take in Balinese rituals and holistic therapies with Bahamian ingredients.
GETTING THERE There are a few direct two-and-a-half-hour flights on US Airways from PHL, or you’ll have to do one-stop flying with United, Delta, Airtran or American Airlines. — Jessica Remo
This article originally appeared in the fall/winter 2013 issue of Philadelphia Wedding.