According to industry estimates, roughly 3.5 million people visit The Bahamas every year. Some of them come for a taste of the finest conch in the Western Hemisphere. Others make the trip for the aquatic excitement found at Atlantis, Paradise Island. Most want at least a few glimpses of the unfathomably clear waters before they head back home. On March 27, the friendly island nation nearly the size of Connecticut will present another reason to pull out the passport—the grand opening of the $3.5 billion Baha Mar mega complex. With five properties (Baha Mar Casino & Hotel, Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar, SLS Lux at Baha Mar, Rosewood at Baha Mar and the all-inclusive Meliá at Baha Mar), a spa, casino and 50 restaurants and bars, the place will be nothing short of a magnet for the elite the moment its ribbons are cut. Should you come down anytime before or after that big day, use this 48-hour itinerary to help you navigate through Nassau’s cuisine, casinos and other colorful distractions.
Even when Baha Mar opens, One & Only Ocean Club, Bahamas will give all high-end comers a run for their Bahamian dollar. The former private estate of businessman Huntington Hartford II, the Paradise Island treasure was converted to a hotel in 1962. While understated plantation shutters and overgrown palm trees remain from those early days, the place became a part of the One & Only family in 2002. With the name change came an even more fragrant air of tropical refinement.
Once the taxi drops you off, you’re escorted to the lobby and handed a switcha (a refreshing lemonade beverage made with native limes). When reservations are sorted, you are chauffeured on a golf cart across the stunning campus to your room. Inside, you’ll find mahogany floors and mosaic-tiled Roman tubs. Outside, depending on which side of the property you’re staying, you’ll either spot hammocks or huge Atlantic waves.
Lose yourself in the view for a while; just make sure you’re back in a cab by 12:30 p.m. because you need to get to the corner of George and King Street in downtown Nassau for the 1 p.m. edition of the Tru Bahamian Food Tours. The brainchild of the effervescent Alanna Rodgers, this satisfying epicurean journey takes you on a 3-hour trek—yes, you’ll be walking the whole time, but no, you won’t get exhausted over the 1.5-mile stretch—filled with authentic eats (the steamed chicken and peas ‘n rice at your first stop, Bahamian Cookin’, are outstanding), tasty trivia bites (sponges were the island’s No. 1 industry for 75 years) and more than enough chances to gawk at massive cruise ships that stop by the island every day.
After you’ve sampled the native cuisine, head back to One & Only. If you had your heart (and slightly tired thighs) set on a treatment at the spa, now would be the perfect time for it. The Balinese-inspired sanctuary amazes as much with its gravel-paved gardens and floating sinks as it does with a menu filled with aroma stone therapy treatments and 50-plus other services.
If you don’t have anything scheduled, there’s a host of other distractions to fill your time. A few shots from the Versailles Gardens and adults-only pool will make your Instagram timeline come to life. Active types will appreciate a gym filled with Kinesis equipment and well-maintained tennis courts that Serena couldn’t ignore. But if you see yourself simply lounging the late afternoon away on the sand, you can do that, too. We promise the only things that could possibly skew your view of the blue are a woman peddling sarongs and gulls gliding by.
Look down Cabbage Beach to the left just a bit and you’ll see Atlantis. That’s where you’ll have dinner. (Don’t feel as if you’ve betrayed anyone with your restaurant selection either; One & Only happily provides shuttle service to the neighboring resort.) While Atlantis has 21 dining options, go with the Bobby Flay-stamped Mesa Grill if your goal is to get a little flirty over fire-roasted veal chops and Southwestern fries. If things aren’t already hot enough at the table, the establishment’s smart use of red splashes and warm copper elements certainly does the trick.
It’s one thing to have someone working under Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s watchful eye to prepare a spinach and goat cheese omelet or buttermilk pancakes for your breakfast, but it’s quite another to have said meal from Dune’s incredible terrace overlooking the beach. We realize the freshly squeezed watermelon juice and other treats are equally as delightful from your room, but something about the sun’s rays falling down while Sea-Doos hum by just have a way of making things taste better.
When Baha Mar opens, its 100,000-square-foot casino floor, the Caribbean’s largest, will be the place to be for the afternoon. Until that day comes, however, the Atlantis Casino remains a full house of fun. With more than 850 slot machines and ample card tables, you can easily get lost in the place for hours—and that’s before you’ve even taken two selfies in front of the Dale Chihuly glass sculptures or had one single-malt scotch.
If you want to wash off any bad luck from the poker table as quickly as possible, walk from the casino over to Aquaventure, Atlantis’ 141-acre waterpark overflowing with thrill rides, rolling rapids and swimming pools. You’ve seen the shark-filled Leap of Faith slide in the television commercials. We promise that jaws will drop even more from 60 feet up.
Not up for a close encounter with the feisty fish this time? Well, hop in a cab for the quick ride over to John Watling’s Distillery for a tour and a tasting. A historic compound founded in 1789, the property is now the home to a local rum that is nicknamed the “spirit of the Bahamas.” You’ll be able to smell the sugar cane molasses a hundred feet before entering the bottling area. You’ll remember the wonderful notes of walnut and vanilla long after you’ve finished your amber rum in the onsite Red Turtle Tavern.
After a busy day of sipping and sightseeing, you will have earned a quiet evening out. Few places set a mood as amorous as Graycliff Hotel. To merely discount the boutique property as a hotel with a restaurant would be a disservice, though; in addition to a renowned kitchen and 20 rooms draped in 18th-century character, the estate houses Graycliff Cigar Company, an interactive chocolate factory, a history museum and one of the largest private wine collections on the planet. It’s rumored that Jay Z even proposed to Beyoncé somewhere on the gorgeous grounds. Heck, the night of our dinner, the staff was eagerly preparing to host Middle Eastern royalty for an overnight stay.
The funny thing is that after two days on this transformative island, it won’t so much matter if you’re a pop music queen, a Saudi prince or merely the king of your own castle, you’ll be rejuvenated for the plane ride back to reality.