The Bahamas: Outdoor Adventure, Indoor Luxury At Atlantis
(Story previously published in Canstar weeklies)
I’ve been fortunate to visit a few resorts in my traveling life, but never have I stayed at one quite like Atlantis, Paradise Island. With loads of outdoor adventure, decadent indoor luxury, and full schedule of daily activities and attractions, you get the best of all worlds here.
Atlantis, which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2014, is a sprawling property on one of the best beaches in The Bahamas. It’s situated on a peninsula, allowing for breathtaking views of turquoise waters and whites sands. It’s an ideal destination for group travel, because there really is something for everyone, and every budget.
The economic traveler looking for the most affordable option will find casual tropical décor in the Beach Tower guest rooms. Mid-range spenders can check into Coral Towers and choose from contemporary guest rooms or suites. The iconic Royal Towers, central to all of Atlantis’ premiere attractions, offer deluxe accommodations and are the most photographed structures onsite.
They are just as grandiose on the inside, too, with massive pillars, statues and murals depicting the lost city of Atlantis, and a great big Poseidon’s Chair that entire families can pose for pictures on. The Royal Towers also connects directly to the Casino, with slot machines, card and roulette tables, sports betting, and a special high rollers section that spending $21 on slots didn’t qualify me for.
For the most luxury, The Cove is for you. This gorgeous all-suite tower is closest to the beach, and is the island’s most sophisticated and chic escape, with special amenities available only to Cove guests. The Ocean suites have open floor plan with step-down living rooms, walk-in closets, big-screen televisions, and spacious marble bathrooms that happen to have remarkable acoustics for singing in the shower.
The best thing about The Cove is that you’re guaranteed an ocean view from every room. The balconies are large enough to dine on, and each one is shielded from the next, providing a true sense of privacy and solitude. So kick back, put your feet up, and take in the sunset or sunrise – you’ll get one or the other, depending on which way your balcony faces.
Outside, you have access to Cain at The Cove, an adults-only pool and beach club with chaise lounges, daybeds and cabanas, poolside gaming, an all-day DJ spinning pulsating techno music, and some of the best people-watching around. Cove guests also get access to Cascades pool, located right alongside the beach, much less nightclub-ish, and much more suitable for families.
Since I wasn’t traveling with my family, I was happy that halfway through my trip, I found a surrogate one. The four ladies from Delaware – a mother and three daughters – were on vacation to celebrate a 40th birthday. I felt right at home with these awesome women, and felt a little bit like I was traveling with my own sisters. This made Atlantis feel even more special for me, and opened the door to a whole new level of shenanigans…
Aquaventure Waterpark is 141 acres of aquatic fun, free for guests staying at Atlantis Paradise Island. It’s the largest water park in the Caribbean, consisting of 20 million gallons of water, 11 swimming pools, eight high-speed waterslides, and a kids’ water fort, all connected by a lush tropical landscape.
It also has two floating rides; each one quite unlike the other. The Lazy River is a gentle ¼ mile stretch, offering tranquil drifting in an inner tube. The second is called The Current, and many get on this one thinking it’s the nice meandering river. However, many are quickly shocked and sometimes traumatized to discover it’s a mile-long thrill ride that propels you through extreme rapids, rolling waves, water surges, and darkened tunnels. Lucky for me I enjoyed it, even though I, too, got on the wrong one.
As for the waterslides, they were all pretty nerve-wracking. The most visually intimidating is called Leap of Faith, which offers a 60-foot almost-vertical open-air drop from the top of a picturesque Mayan Temple. It’s the most iconic and photographed slide in the park. Fortunately, it’s over so fast, you don’t even know what happened.
The scariest waterslide is The Abyss. It’s like Leap of Faith on steroids, and in the dark. It goes on and on, with two vertical drops, countless twists and turns, surges of water, you name it. Terrifying is the best way to describe it, and I vaguely remember shouting out four-letter words on the way down before being spit out into an underground cavern. When I finally popped up from underwater, wondering what the hell just happened, the look on my face must have been hilarious judging from the way the attendant was laughing her head off. Glad I could entertain.
The most fun is the Serpent Slide, a five-story corkscrew where you hurtle every which way through darkness on inner tubes before ending up leisurely floating through a clear tunnel in a shark-filled lagoon. If you like watching sharks (and apparently I do) you also get a fantastic view of them along with barracudas, sawfish, giant groupers, and other predators, from inside a 100-foot underwater tunnel that you can walk through.
For a hands-on aquatic experience, mingle with sea lions and dolphins at Dolphin Cay. The shallow water interaction lets you wade in waist-deep while adorable bottlenose dolphins come over and play with you. You can touch them, high-five their fins, even give them a kiss.
One creature you don’t want to get close to, but might enjoy snorkeling with, is the stingray. The ruins lagoon features replica artifacts from the lost city of Atlantis, and guests can snorkel alongside brilliantly coloured tropical fish, spiny lobsters, zebra sharks, and spotted stingrays. Since they tend to stay along the bottom, and snorkelers float up top, we got along just fine.
There is so much to do at Atlantis beyond the aquatic. You can sit on, or stroll along, one of The Bahamas’ most beautiful beaches. Pamper yourself at Mandara Spa, get your workout at the fitness centre, or track some distance in the 25-meter lap pool. Play tennis, go rock climbing, or go shopping. Make pottery, take in a movie, dine in one of 21 restaurants, or imbibe at one of the many lounges and bars.
At the end of your day, take a stroll along the marina and get a glimpse of the massive yachts moored there. It’s fun to witness the luxurious world of yachting, and imagine for a moment what life would be like to live on one of those vessels.
Ahhh… a girl can dream…