When hoteliers discovered a mostly deserted stretch of the Caribbean a stone’s throw from the Bahamian capital of Nassau, it was known as Hog Island. Step one in its transformation into an enduring wedding and honeymoon destination: renaming this square mile of white sand and turquoise surf Paradise Island.
Step two: inviting James Bond. The 1965 hit Thunderball was filmed on the newly christened island and showed off its spectacular scenery; the storied One&Only Ocean Club was the setting for scenes in 2006’s Casino Royale. (And as Bahamians will tell you with some pride, the James Bond—Sir Sean Connery—has a home on the island.)
Step three: building Atlantis, the island’s iconic pink resort, with five hotels, dozens of restaurants and 12 pools. The ever-expanding resort is celebrating its 20th season.
BY DAY It’s all about the water. Four beaches provide easy access to the warm Caribbean (and cold cocktails), and the dozen pools attract both sunbathers and swimmers. Thrill-seekers race through the 141-acre water park, daring their partners to scale the steps of the resort’s Leap of Faith, a life-size replica of a Mayan temple featuring a 60-foot vertical drop through a shark-filled lagoon. Or grab a double inner tube and ride the current river together. Its waves seem calm—until a conveyor belt carries you to the top of the Power Tower, where various water slides twist and turn downward, some through the darkness. Paradise Lagoon features an array of water sports; at the Water’s Edge Lagoon, guests can snorkel with stingrays. If you’d rather have a hefty sheet of glass between you and the sea life, wander the resort’s extensive aquarium displays. Even in the high season, guests are outnumbered: Atlantis is home to more than 50,000 aquatic creatures.
And be sure to schedule a couple’s massage at the Mandara Spa, which combines Balinese healing therapies with natural elements indigenous to the Bahamas. You can get all that planning stress kneaded out of you side-by-side in the spa’s deluxe villa, in your room, or in one of the massage huts, either on the beach or on the Coral Towers pooldecks.
BY NIGHT The clatter of chips on the blackjack tables of the Atlantis Casino and the thrum of the Aura nightclub tempt, but newlyweds with a western view may not want to venture further than the balcony with a bottle of bubbly to watch the sunset.
WHERE TO STAY Atlantis guests have five hotels to choose from: the more casual Beach Tower and Coral Towers, the postcard-pretty Royal Towers, the upscale, suites-only Cove, and the Reef residences. Honeymooners often favor the Cove, for its adult-only Cain at the Cove pool and gaming. For a more sedate getaway, try the quiet, classy One&Only Ocean Club on the eastern end of the island.
WHAT TO EAT The resort boasts a menu of celebrity chefs: Nobu Matsuhisa is here with his signature Nobu; Bobby Flay has reincarnated his New York Tex-Mex Mesa Grill (local mahimahi and grouper make an appearance here); and Todd English recently opened an outpost of his Mediterranean Olives. At One&Only, Jean-Georges Vongerichten lends his name to Dune’s French-Asian-Bahamian cuisine: Think sweet, clawless local lobsters with curry sauce and bok choy.
Those hungry for a taste of the island should head to Nassau’s Arawak Cay (just a 15-minute cab ride away) and stroll a colorful collection of restaurants better known as the “Fish Fry.” Whether you go upscale or paper-napkin, native conch—ceviche-style conch salad, fried conch fritters, battered cracked conch—is a must-try. Bahamians debate the merits of locally brewed Kalik and Sands lagers, while visitors usually go straight for the sky juice, made from gin, coconut water and condensed milk.
WHAT TO PACK Your best bikini, if you plan to stake out a prime spot on one of Cain at the Cove’s poolside daybeds—and something a little sturdier if you have your eye on the water slides and river rides. Throughout the resort, brightly colored sundresses and sandals are de rigueur.
BEST TIMES TO GO The average daily temperature in the Bahamas is rarely anything but delightful, ranging from the mid-70s to mid-80s. Mid-December through mid-April, when the East Coast is buried in snow and the Bahamas are enjoying their driest season, is prime time for the islands’ resorts; the slightly quieter spring months are often Bahamians’ favorites.
NEWLYWED NEWS The “Honeymoon Concierge” promises a personalized getaway for newlyweds, arranging “for two” experiences from champagne and strawberries and couples’ massages to a frolic with dolphins. And Atlantis’s love of lovers isn’t limited to honeymooners: The resort’s newest event venue, Ocean’s Edge, an intimate pavilion, lawn and beach deck beside the Cove and the Reef properties on the western edge of the resort, is a coveted setting for sunset ceremonies and dinners.
GETTING THERE The Bahamas are barely 55 minutes by air from the Florida coast. From Philadelphia, the flight is less than three hours, direct on US Airways to Nassau’s Linden Pindling International Air- port. Book transportation to Paradise Island when you book your getaway (proceed directly to the Atlantis counter in the ground transportation section of the air- port), or hire a taxi for a half-hour ride that takes you through downtown Nassau. — April White
This article originally appeared in the fall/winter 2014 issue of Philadelphia Wedding.
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