MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE
Written by Caylee Matthews
It happens every time. About 15 minutes after taking off from Miami International Airport en route to the Bahamas, a ripple of oohs and aahs begins to cascade down the aisles. "Look at that water…so blue!" Like moths to a flame, all eyes are glued to the windows. It is a sight that continues to enchant, no matter how many times you've been privileged to see it.
It had been decades since my last visit to Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, and I arrived with a little skepticism packed in with my swimsuit. However, any preconceived notions I had were quickly dispelled by the resort's upscale offerings, which make it possible to "stay small" within this behemoth property.
There are five distinct lodging options at Atlantis, with The Reef and The Cove occupying the top spots in terms of luxury and amenities. Perfect for upscale family travel, The Reef is fresh off of a complete room renovation. Its studio rooms, one-to-three bedroom suites, and two-and-three bedroom penthouses offer homelike amenities such as a kitchen and separate living area.
Moving from the hustle and bustle of the iconic Royal Towers and into The Cove, it's easy to feel like you've entered a cocoon of tranquility. The over-the-top theatrical décor of The Royal gives way to The Cove's chic, soaring open-air lobby designed to frame the ocean view. The sound of water slipping over sleek square marble fountains and bubbling in the koi ponds that flank the central passageway helps to soothe the senses.
Guests of The Cove have exclusive access to the 9,000-square-foot adults-only Cove Pool, where you can sip a cocktail while a DJ sets the mood with music. For the ultimate beach day, book one of 20 spacious beachfront cabanas that sport fun and fresh interior design by Lulu De Kwiatkowski, founder of the lifestyle brand LULU DK.
When Atlantis opened two decades ago, food and dining weren't at the forefront. Over time, the resort whipped up a magic sauce of celebrity chefs culled from around the globe. Upping the ante even more, they added up-and-coming Bahamian chefs and culinary innovators, thereby solidifying its reputation as a foodie-friendly destination. Today, there are 40 restaurants and lounges on the property, including celebrity chef collaborations with José Andrés (Fish by José Andrés), Nobu Matsuhisa (Nobu), Todd English (Olives), and Angelo Elia (Casa D'Angelo). Far from being cookie-cutter, each of these establishments offers a uniquely Bahamian twist on their signature fare.
Opened in February 2019, Café Martinique in the bustling Marina Village is Atlantis' newest and its only upscale dining concept to feature a seasonal, plant-forward menu. Head Chef Alessio Pitzalis is a native of Sardinia and a locavore at heart. He deftly combines Mediterranean-inspired flavors with Bahamian ingredients procured through relationships with local producers and farmers, as well as foraging for the island's most exclusive bounty. The Café's 300-label wine vault boasts sought-after vintages from Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Napa Valley.
On the casual dining side, Bahamian Julie Lightbourn opened a second location of Sip Sip, her landmark Harbour Island Restaurant, at The Cove. Her award-winning Lobster Quesadilla is legendary, and the Grouper Reuben (exclusive to The Cove) is a legend-in-waiting. McKenzies started out serving covetable conch dishes from a ramshackle stall under the bridge to Paradise Island. A bonafide destination, management at Atlantis helped McKenzies' proprietors open a second conch stand in Marina Village. Sun & Ice, created by Bahamian chef, photographer, and author Wayne Moncur, employs a farm-to-table philosophy for its ice creams, gelatos, and sorbets.
Just as the food scene has evolved, so has the resort's commitment to making a positive impact on both the Bahamian culture and the ocean environment. Following hurricane Dorian, the resort pledged $3million for relief efforts. This gift is in addition to a partnership with chef José Andrés and his World Central Kitchen team that involves assembling meals in Atlantis' kitchens for delivery to those in need on Abaco and Grand Bahama islands.
The Atlantis Blue Project Foundation is the resort's nonprofit organization dedicated to saving sea species and their habitats. Guests can have a direct hand in conservation through activities such as the Sea Turtle Release Experience. The adventure begins beneath the resort, where you get a behind-the-scenes understanding of the resources needed to care for the resort's 50,000 marine animals. It's here where you meet and name the juvenile sea turtle that will be released. From there, it's a short and scenic boat ride to the release spot at Green Cay. It's an immensely pleasurable experience to snorkel alongside your turtle in the open ocean at the moment moments it is released into its new home.
You can also get up close and personal with the dolphins at Dolphin Cay. The 14-acre marine mammal habitat includes an education center and an animal-rescue rehabilitation hospital whose first residents were 17 rescue dolphins from Hurricane Katrina. Creative and interactive activities available at Dolphin Cay ensure that the health and safety of the dolphins are paramount.
Other resort amenities include its famous 141-acre Aquaventure waterpark, the 30,000 square-foot Mandara Spa and fitness center, Atlantis Kids Adventures for children ages 3-12 and CRUSH teen club. Tom Weiskopf designed the resort's award-winning oceanfront18-hole golf course.
Even with more activities to do than there are hours in a day, one could argue that five miles of white-sand beaches are Atlantis' most enviable amenity. Nearly every corner of the resort provides views of rhythmic waves that beckon you to the crystal blue waters. It is an old-as-time siren song and one that is nearly impossible to refute.
For more information, including rates, special offers, and reservations at The Reef or The Cove at Atlantis: