Why the Bahamas is on Every Traveler’s Radar This Year
Hurricanes have come and gone, and the Bahamas is back on top thanks to a swath of hotel openings and a fresh "zika-free" designation that's luring honeymooners back in droves. Here's why 2018 is the year to go.
The Caribbean has had a hard time of it lately. In 2015, an outbreak of the Zika virus spread northwards from Brazil to the Caribbean islands, sending sun-seeking honeymooners scrambling to rebook or cancel trips after health warnings threatened current and future pregnancies. Then came the storms: like falling dominoes, Hurricanes Matthew (2016) and Irma and Maria (2017) rippled through the Caribbean, flattening neighborhoods and hotels, ruining beaches, and rendering some islands all but uninhabitable.
But, as they say, time heals all wounds. The Bahamas, hit by all of the above, is finally back on top. Streets have been cleared, beaches have been cleaned, new and old hotels have opened or reopened, and, as of February 2018, the islands have been officially declared Zika-free.
Despite (or perhaps because of) every challenge, there has arguably been no better time to visit the islands. Newfound energy is brewing as travelers pour back into its resorts. Lucky for you, there are even more oceanfront rooms to go around.
In November, the SLS Baha Mar opened—the second of three hotels comprising the 1,000-acre, $4.2 billion mega-resort complex known as Baha Mar. It’s an edgy take on island living: whimsical guest rooms are done up in trompe l’oeil wallpaper and oversized lamps and two pools present clashing personalities (whether you’re taste is more house music and people-gazing or quiet cabanas and chaise-side meal service). That same month, the storied Ocean Club resort—with its 12th-century Augustinian cloister, gardens modeled after Versailles, and James Bond fame—was rebranded as a Four Seasons. (A meal and drink at the restaurant and bar by Jean-Georges is a must.) Of course, one can’t talk Bahamas hotels without a mention of Atlantis, which just re-hauled its entire food and beverage program and opened a new pool, craft brewery, and restaurant by star chef José Andrés at The Cove.
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This spring’s biggest news, however, is the debut of Rosewood Baha Mar, the last in the trilogy of Baha Mar openings that’s poised to be among the island’s most luxurious stays. In addition to the 185 guest rooms (decked out with colonial furniture and breezy sea views), five multi-bedroom beachfront villas come with their own private pools. All have access to a Rosewood spa, farm-to-table restaurant with its own rum room, two cabana-lined pools, and direct access to the hotel’s private beach.
That’s not all. This year’s most surprising addition to the island might be Bahama Barrels, a 1930s-era convent in Nassau that’s been given new life as the Bahamas’ very first winery. Although they do not grow their own grapes (because of the island’s hot climate, the winery sources grapes from around the world), Bahama Barrels bottles its own blends. For something more interesting than a tasting, book one of their wine-blending courses, where you’ll learn about grape growing and take a bottle of your own personal blend home. That the winery is attached to Graycliff Hotel and Restaurant was no mistake. The hotel’s wine cellar is home to over 250,000 bottles of wine, making it the third largest wine collection in the world.
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