If the workday grind has you dreaming of paradise, you might be surprised to learn that it’s closer than you think. A direct flight from Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and a 25-minute cab ride will get you to Paradise Island in the Bahamas in less than four hours.
Formerly called Hog Island, Paradise was given its more tourist-friendly name in the late 1950s. It’s connected via two bridges to the Bahamian capital of Nassau on Providence Island.
Two James Bond films—Thunderball and Casino Royale—were filmed on Paradise Island, as was part of the Beatles’ movie Help! But it’s probably best known for being home to Atlantis Resort, a 141-acre vacation mecca built in the late 1990s and given a $1 billion expansion in 2007.
With an array of hotels on site, Atlantis lets you customize your travel experience. If you’re looking to go the family-friendly route, book a room in the iconic Royal Towers, situated in the middle of the resort and offering easy access to the waterpark, beaches, and kids’ and teen clubs.
I opted to stay at the Cove, an all-suite hotel where every room has an ocean view. At its 21-and-up pool, one can gamble, soak up the sun, and imbibe tropical drinks—all at the same time.
The resort’s Aquaventure Waterpark isn’t just for children. I spent an afternoon trying out some of the more adventurous waterslides—including “The Leap of Faith,” a 60-foot, nearly vertical, open-air slide; and the “Serpent Slide,” a five-story inner tube slide that passes through an acrylic tunnel in a shark tank. A word of warning: These rides had me shaking in my swimsuit and are not for the faint of heart.
A trip to the resort’s Mandara Spa was the perfect way to calm my nerves and cap a long day in the sun. Along with spa staples like Swedish massages, body scrubs, and manicure/pedicures, it also offers a seaweed detox massage. The 75-minute treatment involved multiple body wraps, masks, and a 25-minute massage that left my skin feeling smooth and my body feeling refreshed.
Atlantis provides more than 21 dining options. The food at the lower end of the restaurant spectrum, however, leaves much to be desired. Instead, stick to the eight more upscale offerings, like the Southwestern-style cuisine from Bobby Flay at Mesa Grill, fresh sushi at Nobu, or French-Asian fare from Jean-Georges Vongeritchten at Dune. Each of the restaurants features its own spin on locavore, with options like Bahamian lobster tail and conch. To fully embrace the island life, try a glass of sky juice, a potent combination of gin, sweetened condensed milk, coconut water, and lime.
If you want to venture off campus, go where the locals go: Fish Fry at Arawak Cay. The colorfully painted booths along the shore sell everything from traditional Bahamian dishes to tropical drinks and local beer. Kick back and enjoy the music, a game of dominoes, and a plate of conch fritters in the Bahamian sun.
For nightlife, it’s hard to beat Atlantis’ Caribbean Casino, where the gambling options range from slot machines for beginners to high-roller tables for the pros. Millions of dollars worth of art hang on the casino’s walls, including glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly. Various bars and clubs line the perimeter and help guests get in the mood to make a bet. Having never visited a casino before, I spent an evening parked at a slot machine, and am proud to say I only lost $14.68 in the process. The table buy-ins ($10-$15 minimum) kept me from trying my hand at craps, poker, or blackjack.
Atlantis’ multimillion-dollar marina was designed to attract the jet set and accommodate large yachts. If you like to B.Y.O.B. (bring your own boat), you’ll find slips available for rent. Resort guests also have access to the Ocean Club Golf Course, an 18-hole, par-72 golf course designed by Tom Weiskopf.
To shop, take a cab to the Straw Market in Nassau, where locals sell handmade goods. Browse woven baskets, woodcarvings, and souvenirs like natural sponges. When you’re ready to buy, put your haggling skills to work.
All these activities aside, the real attraction at Paradise Island is, of course, the turquoise waters of the sea. As you’d expect. the island offers miles of beaches with white, powdery sand. Atlantis has three: Cove Beach and two others at Paradise Lagoon, where snorkeling, paddle boats, and other water sports are available in a protected bay.
When planning your trip to paradise, know when to go. There are two seasons in the Bahamas—wet and dry. The wet season, also hurricane season, runs from June through November, with the height of tropical storm activity occurring between August and October. The cooler and less humid dry season runs from December to May. Even then, temperatures rarely dip below 70 degrees.
Trip and photos provided by Atlantis Resort, Paradise Island.