When families find beachfront villas, attentive service and gourmet cuisine, size doesn't matter at a luxurious Caribbean resort like this one.
Itching to get out of Boston’s deep freeze last winter, I could not wait to get to a tropical beach resort. Besides a bit of warmth and much needed sunshine, I was anxious to simply kick back and spend some “quality” time with my family. Luckily, the Old Bahama Bay, billed as the first boutique hotel in the Bahamas, went way beyond my expectations of a small, secluded hotel on a pristine stretch of white sand beach.
In fact, the family-friendly, 73-room hotel — the ultimate antidote to a sprawling all-inclusive Caribbean resort– offers the perfect blend of tranquility, activities, and fabulous cuisine. When my family first arrived at the upscale yet unpretentious resort, we were greeted at the reception desk in the tiny lobby area and escorted directly to our rooms, located in a Bahamian plantation-style villa right on the beach. The handful of pastel-colored beach cottages laid out in a semi-circle showcase the perfectly landscaped grounds, complete with lush, vibrant-colored flowers and manicured lawns. Nearby is the classy 72-slip marina used by visiting and local motor and sailing ships, and inland, a huge parcel of land that will be developed by the Ginn sur Mer company into condominiums, vacation homes and recreational facilities.
Each of the Colonial style villas, designed to blend in with the tropical surroundings, sits directly on the beach. Newer units in a two-story building, as well as the luxurious two-bedroom family villas offer views of the calm gentle surf, pool views or open onto the gardens. Unlike most resorts, there’s no need to walk through a lobby to get to your room, no elevators, and no blaring music before hitting the surf. All you have to do is throw open your French doors, walk right out onto your private beachfront terrace, and gaze at the breath-taking ocean — just steps ahead.
I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical about taking my family here. The hotel kids’ program only meets a few hours around lunchtime each day (for ages 4-12), and what if my two sons, ages 5 and 8, got bored? And, what if my stressed-out husband felt isolated at the West End resort, which is located 45 minutes away from any semblance of nightlife or shopping in the capital city of Freeport? Yet, Old Bahama Bay’s Family Escape Package seemed appealing and it wasn’t difficult to convince the gang to give the resort a shot.
Laid Back with Plenty to Do
We took advantage of the special five-day, four-night family package, which includes two adjoining, deluxe, oversized junior suites– each of which features a sitting area, DVD player, giant TV, WiFi Internet access, refrigerator and wet bar; three meals a day for four people at the resort’s beachfront grill, gourmet restaurant, or casual eatery; a Dolphin Close Encounter at the Underwater Explorers Society in Freeport; two massages; four hours of babysitting by their Bahama Mamas; complimentary bicycles, snorkel gear and non-motorized watersports; and roundtrip airport transfers. The resort also boasts a fully equipped, state-of-the-art fitness center, complete with elliptical machines, treadmills, stair steppers, and plenty of weight machines and free weights.
The attentive front desk staff will help arrange deep-sea fishing trips, horseback riding tours on the beach, shopping and casino excursions to Freeport, and a multitude of other activities. Yet we were perfectly content to spend the bulk of our time at the resort–swimming in the pool, collecting conch shells, riding bikes up and down the marina docks, navigating the wind on Hobbie Cats, and taking long nature walks.
One afternoon, my older son, Ethan, and I checked out a couple of beach cruiser bicycles and took a self-guided tour into the quaint town of West End. This historic fishing village touts a small food market, a few beach shack restaurants, a medical clinic, and a liquor store. We rode our bikes onto the shore dotted with makeshift docks and watched the local fisherman scoop conch out of shells and head out to sea to catch more.
We bicycled back to the 150-acre grounds at Old Bahama Bay to ride through the wooded nature trails, where we marveled at the majestic Banyan trees overhead and came close to pedaling over a snake. Detouring around to the marina community, we caught a glimpse of the new private homes being built on 89 spectacular Old Bahama Bay oceanfront home sites, complete with dock facilities, part of Ginn sur Mer.
It was way past dinnertime for me and Ethan but we were on “Bahamas” time. We leisurely made our way back to our rooms, changed, and casually strolled into Aqua, the first truly gourmet restaurant on Grand Bahama Island, one with extraordinary views of the marina and an elegant British Colonial interior. Up until now we had dined primarily at Dockside Grille because it appeared more “family-friendly.” Surprise, surprise. The staff at Aqua accommodated us with children’s menus so the kids could happily dine on grilled cheese sandwiches while we ordered conch ceviche, fresh grilled grouper, and a bottle of fine white wine from the extensive wine list.
Perhaps the highlight of the trip, however, was the resort’s unsurpassed snorkeling program. The surrounding Atlantic Ocean is teeming with live coral, tropical fish and an array of sponges comprising an unbelievable ecosystem. In addition to sampling the seven snorkel trails, three of which are directly off the hotel’s main beach, all guests are encouraged to reserve a complimentary motorboat trip to offshore trails located around the nearby keys.
One day Kenneth, Old Bahama Bay’s activity leader extraordinaire, picked us up on the shore right in front of our rooms, took us by boat to a deserted stretch of beach and dropped us off. Before going snorkeling, we spread out our towels and enjoyed a picnic lunch prepared by the Dockside Grille. After collecting washed-up shells in all shapes and sizes, we suited up in our snorkel gear, laminated marine life charts in hand, and swam out to the reef. Although we expected to see sea life, we had no idea what we were in for: masses of fish in every color imaginable– giant red star fish, conch, blue angel fish, sea urchins of all sizes, sponges and plenty of other fish that swam by too fast to denote their names from the waterproof guides provided by the hotel.
An hour later, right on time, Kenneth came to pick us up and take us back to Old Bahama Bay. On the agenda for the rest of the day: a long walk on the beach and a dip in the pool. Just fine by me.
Resort Report Card
|Name:||Old Bahama Bay Resort|
Grand Bahama Island
|Seasonal Rates:||$$$$ – $$$$$|
|Choice of Activities:||A|
|Quality of Amenities:||A|
|Bonus:||It may not be big, but it’s big on service and the staff will bend over backwards to accommodate children.|
|Note:||Seem expensive? The all-inclusive price tag is a bargain for true luxury with all the bells n’ whistles — even gourmet food.|
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