Most people have tropical vacation plans down to a science: Buy a new bathing suit, grab a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses, and lounge on the beach with a cocktail, toes in the sand. This is a tried-and-true plan, but a better one looks like the following: all-inclusive resorts, butler service, chauffeured luxury rides to and from the airport, swim-up bars, primo cuisine... we could keep going. While a lot of visitors probably stop at Nassau by way of cruise ship for a few hours, the island offers an incredible array of vacation activities, luscious gourmet food, and impressive Caribbean scenery.
When it comes to island lodging, travelers snag spots from all-inclusive luxury resorts, Airbnb, and everything in between. Sandals Royal Bahamian is a great place to start if all-inclusive resorts are your thing. Pros include the resort being adults-only; scenic views from literally every direction; activities like karaoke, dancing, and candlelit dinners on the beach; an on-site spa; multiple swim-up bars; and a huge variety of food and drinks. Speaking of food, check out Gordon’s on the Pier, an incredible fine dining restaurant located on the tip of an ocean pier. They offer fresh seafood like Digby scallops, which diners feast on while enjoying magnificent Caribbean ocean views. Since splurging is so much fun, booking a suite with private butler service and Rolls Royce or Mercedes airport transfers may be worth it. The only con is if the kiddos want to tag along; if that’s the case, move on to Atlantis.
Atlantis features five separate towers of rooms and suites, ranging from relaxed, family-friendly hotel rooms to luxury suites. To work up an appetite, go swim with dolphins or stingrays, splash in the enormous waterpark or one of the many pools, catch a movie in the resort theater, or tour the aquariums. Thankfully, there are just as many adults-only activities for both day and night. Go dancing at the nightclub Aura, take a dip at Cain at the Cove (the adults-only pool complete with cabanas, a DJ, a bar, and a private beach), try your luck at the giant casino, and eat at a slew of incredible fine dining restaurants. Atlantis is chock-full of celebrity chef-owned restaurants: Nobu, Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s incredible sushi restaurant; Olives Atlantis, which is home to incredible Mediterranean cuisine utilizing local ingredients and is run by Chef Todd English; and Cafe Martinique by Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, which offers quality desserts including Crème Fraiche Cheesecake and flaming coffee.
Once you’ve eaten your way around both Sandals and Atlantis, you might feel like burning some calories and venturing off the beaten path. The best way to do that and still get some snacks is TruBahamian Food Tours “Bites of Nassau,” a walking tour that combines Bahamian history with local food samples. While engaging guests in the island’s history, guides treat tour-goers to glasses of fresh switcha (Bahamian limeade), conch fritters, steamed chicken with peas and rice at the Bahamian Cookin’ Restaurant & Bar, and a uniquely delicious curried conch chowder at the charmingly European Van Breugel’s Bistro & Bar, which is located in the heart of Old Nassau.
If you’d rather not trek on foot to grab a meal, the Arawak Cay Fish Fry is a local favorite. Named for the original West Indian inhabitants, you’ll find a huge selection of delicious seafood, especially fresh conch prepared cracked (battered and deep-fried) or scorched (spiced with lime, onions and peppers), local beers Kalik and Sands, and tempting cocktails like Sky Juice — a combination of gin, coconut milk/water, sweet milk, sugar, ground cinnamon, and freshly grated nutmeg. There might be some local music featured on the Cay’s stage, but the pleasant buzz of conversation is often enough of a soundtrack for a relaxed meal.
While Nassau’s Paradise Island offers tons of budget-friendly choices, full-blown luxury retreats exist all over the island. Those truly seeking once in a lifetime experiences should look no further than Graycliff Hotel. Originally built in 1740 by an infamous pirate captain, the estate includes a five-star restaurant, luxury hotel, cigar company, and gourmet chocolatier. Check out the wine cellar, which boasts over 250,000 bottles, including one of the oldest and most expensive bottles in the world, a 1727 Rudesheimer Apostelwein from Bremen Ratskeller in the "Rheinghau" Region. The gentleman who hand-rolls cigars in the restaurant is even rumored to have trained under Fidel Castro’s personal cigar roller.
The pinnacle of luxury on Nassau’s Paradise Island is the One&Only Ocean Club. A breathtakingly beautiful resort right down the beach from Atlantis, One&Only Ocean Club has won one of Travel + Leisure 2015 World’s Best Awards and is ranked at #6 for Top Resorts in the Caribbean. Originally built as a private estate for A&P heir Huntington Hartford II, the Ocean Club is full of breathtaking views, priceless ancient art, and the most pristine beach in Nassau. Guests will likely recognize the resort from many scenes in the James Bond film Casino Royale. If you want your Casino Royale martini shaken, not stirred, you’ll want to head over to Dune. Headed by world famous Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Dune offers an innovative blend of French-Asian cuisine infused with local herbs and Bahamian influences alongside spectacular views of the ocean.