One of the world’s most luxurious resort brands, Sandals have two gorgeous properties located in the Bahamas, each offering their own flavour of the Caribbean.
The idyllic islands of the Bahamas are a mecca for those seeking all of the famous trappings of the Caribbean. And when it comes to places to stay, the options are plentiful, ranging from budget guest houses to the absolute pinnacle of luxury. At the latter end of the scale are two sumptuous all-inclusive Sandals resorts, both featuring an array of great amenities set against a backdrop of breathtaking natural beauty. But which Sandals resort in the Bahamas is the best? We’ve conducted a full comparison to help you decide.
Separated by 140 miles as the crow flies, the two Sandals resorts in the Bahamas are located on completely separate islands – one in the Bahamian capital of Nassau, famous for its pastel-coloured British colonial buildings, on New Providence island, and another in George Town on Great Exuma, the largest in the stunning Exuma chain of islands.
Situated next to Cable Beach, one of Nassau’s most beautiful stretches of powdery white sands, Sandals Royal Bahamian provides easy access to the island’s many attractions. Visit the historic Queen’s Staircase walkway, pick up some crafts at Straw Market, go snorkelling on an offshore coral reef, and marvel at the aquamarine waters of Blue Lagoon Island – all within ten miles of the hotel. Lynden Pindling International Airport, the main arrival point for most visitors to Nassau, is five miles away.
Set amid 500 tropical acres, Sandals Emerald Bay is perched directly on a pristine, mile-long beach overlooking the turquoise-green sea – its brilliant colours said to be visible even from outer space. Nearby places of interest include the famous Pig Beach, home to a colony of feral pigs on Big Major Cay, and the historic Rolle Town Tombs that date back centuries and remain an important reminder of the area’s slave-owning past. Visitors can also embark on numerous local action-packed excursions, including fishing charters and scuba tours.
Style and character
There’s a distinct flavour of European sophistication at the Royal Bahamian, owing in large part to the preservation of The Balmoral Club, which served as an exclusive gathering place for high society figures in the early 1940s, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Today, the refined air of the Club has been kept largely intact, evidenced in the Piano Bar and Billiard rooms where historic photos of the royal couple are dotted across walls and the tradition of British High Tea continues daily. Come nightfall, the resort’s adult-only status sees a party atmosphere take over – although there’s always a quiet area in which to kick back with a good book or glass of wine if that’s more your predilection.
With its laid-back ambience, sand as soft as baby powder, and as much privacy as you desire, Emerald Bay is an opulent hideaway that makes the hustle and bustle of daily life seem like a world away. Bahamian-style architecture is fused with contemporary luxury in the elegant villas and suites, all kept in harmony with the resort’s magnificent natural surroundings. Designed for honeymooners and couples, romance is not just catered for, but nurtured too, thanks to the private poolside cabanas and swim-up pool bar.
Services and amenities
The Royal Bahamian is home to not one, but two private beaches, as well as eight pools – including a freshwater pool with swim-up bar, whirlpools and a misting pool. Guests can sip a cocktail as they laze by the water courtesy of a pool and beachside cocktail service, or deepen their relaxation levels at the state-of-the-art spa. There’s also the chance to escape by sailboat or kayak in minutes to the resort’s exclusive Sandals Island, an offshore retreat with two secluded beaches, a chic Beach Club, and a Zen garden with firepit seating. A range of activities, both in water and on dry land, are also available, including complimentary scuba diving and other high-energy watersports. Select guests can also benefit from private roundtrip airport transfers in a Rolls-Royce or Mercedes luxury sedan.
Whatever your inclinations, be they sporty or sedate in nature, there’s something for everyone at Emerald Bay. The on-site spa houses its own outside pool area where guests can enjoy a therapeutic pre-treatment dip. The ocean views from the resort’s award-winning golf course are seriously impressive, and there’s also a tennis court, fitness centre, and three pools — including a walk-in pool with a dramatic fire pit in the middle – plus unlimited scuba diving opportunities. The evenings are filled with live bands, chocolate buffet night or talent shows, keeping guests entertained late into the night.
Guest rooms and suites
There are a huge variety of accommodation options at both Sandals resort. Located in the West Bay or East Bay building, rooms and suites offer views of the ocean, pool or tropical gardens, and many also feature outdoor soaking tubs or pool access. Alternatively, opt for the Island Village where you’ll find romantic villas – some of which come complete with personal butler service that leaves you not having to lift a finger.
At Emerald Bay, meanwhile, romance is never far away with suites such as the Prime Minister or Grand Isle catering to every honeymooner’s need. The spacious standard rooms all feature a balcony or terrace with views of the gardens or ocean – perfect for pulling up the blinds and having tea on the terrace before a short stroll to breakfast. You can also upgrade to pure indulgence with Butler Suites, which come with English Guild-trained butlers and concierge staff.
Food and drink
There’s no excuse for culinary boredom at either resort. At the Royal Bahamian, gourmet dining is available at ten speciality restaurants, each boasting its own authentic ambiance and dècor. With everything from French cuisine at La Plume to Kanoo Caribbean fare, there’s something for every palate. There are also eight bars offering unlimited premium liquors, including a swim-up pool bar that lets you sip cocktails as you laze by the water. What’s more, for casual eating, three on-site food trucks serve up authentic Bahamian food, Italian classics, and sweet treats and coffees.
The hospitality at Emerald Bay is no less impressive, whether you crave an evening of sophisticated gastronomy, oceanside dining, a refined afternoon tea, or a lively night at an English-style pub. Guests can make the most of a fabulous selection of cuisines in a choice of 11 restaurants, from local Caribbean to Mediterranean and Parisian delights. The same trio of enticing food trucks mentioned above can be found in the resort grounds here, too.
As you’d expect, room rates at Sandals’ two Bahamas resorts vary significantly depending on the time of year when you’re looking to book. Peak season in the Bahamas is from mid-December to mid-April, and weather-wise winter is the best time to visit, with hotel rates reflecting that.
When we searched for guest stays at the Royal Bahamian in early April for two adults, we found rates starting at $5,565 for a 7-night stay in a Standard East Bay Zen Garden Room. This rose all the way up to $9,402 for those seeking to push the boat out and stay in a West Bay Swim-up Oversized Club Level Junior Suite.
At Emerald Bay, meanwhile, prices were pretty comparable when we conducted our searches for the same period, with the cheapest available rate coming out at $6,100 for a 7-night stay in the Beach House Grande Luxe Walkout Club Level Room. The priciest option was $8,712 for a Beachfront Honeymoon Walkout Butler Villa Suite.