Sunday, November 28, 2021

Worth the Trip: The Vegas of the Bahamas

It’s not your grandma’s Nassau anymore; check into the big time at Baha Mar

I dimly remember as a kid the words “Nassau” and “straw market” used in the same breath. Later, it was a stop for most local cruise ships. And then Sol Kerzner and Atlantis began a trajectory in 1994 of high-end resort growth that has reinvigorated tourism on the island of New Providence and raised the bar for luxury and innovation.

The latest contender in this sea change is Baha Mar, a huge resort development that opened in April 2017 with the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar; Baha Mar Casino (the largest in the Bahamas); the Royal Blue Golf Club; the Baha Mar Convention, Arts & Entertainment Center; a score of high-end restaurants; a spa; the works. (In fact, there is even an offshore private island, Long Cay, that you can rent out for private events—find that in your typical beach resort!) Now there is also the sleek new SLS Baha Mar hotel, and the king daddy of luxury hotels in the collection, the Rosewood Baha Mar, which opened this past summer.

The fountains at Baha Mar

Baha Mar is big. And it’s lavish. And it’s a little over-the-top Vegas. The SLS has a much more sophisticated contemporary vibe, and the Rosewood is far more exclusive and genteel. The Baha Mar property has five pools, including one with “rain beds” you can activate when you need a splashy cool-down and the swim-up H2O bar we loved. There is another that is a charming “beach sanctuary” with wading “tidal pools” and the opportunity to interact with marine life. The pools and the beach fronting that sweeping turquoise sparkle of an ocean enjoy proximity to colorful food stands and bars.

But that’s not where we decided to spend our calories. We went for it. Fine dining is one of the hallmarks of Baha Mar. Master Chef Katsuya Uechi’s polished Katsuya is a property  star, as is Cleo, a Mediterranean tapas bar with game changers like a decadent lamb shawarma, harissa tuna tartare, lebaneh and feta. Rock star Miami Chef Michael Schwartz has Fi’lia, and the fancy Shuang Ba offers Chinese cuisine in a dropdead gorgeous space. But there’s more (Baha Mar should be named Baha More) with the crazy Regatta brunch buffet, for starters.

Conch salad (Photo by Tadeu Brunelli)

But the beating heart of Baha Mar is still the casino, and this one does not disappoint. This sprawling, shimmery room is a dazzler, with obligatory banks of blazing slots, the ultra-private high-stake gaming rooms, cocktail servers in glittery dresses. During our visit, the tables were packed, the Blue Note Lounge next door was hopping, and time stood still. Me? I’m not much of a gambler, although I like the bright lights. I did take a spin through Nassau, and although I could see spending a day wandering the West Hill  neighborhood or nabbing some scorched conch from a stand at Lettie’s Cay dock, once you’ve seen the bright lights, you find yourself drawn back to the big time. And that’s what Baha Mar is: big, bold, flashy and fun.

And only 55 minutes away.

This story comes from our November 2018 issue of Boca magazine. For more content like this, subscribe to the magazine.

Marie Speed
Marie Speed is group editor of all JES publications, including Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Worth Avenue, Mizner’s Dream and the annual publication for the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce. She also oversees editorial operations of the company’s Salt Lake City magazines. Her community involvement has ranged from work with the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce to a longtime board member position at Caridad Center. She is also on the George Snow Scholarship Fund review committee. She is a past officer of the Florida Magazine Association and a member of Class XVII of Leadership Florida. In her spare time, Marie enjoys South Florida’s natural world through hiking and kayaking, and she is an avid reader and an enthusiastic cook.

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