Villa-style sleep on Great Exuma’s Emerald Bay beach with an infinity pool and splurge-worthy spa.
A quick flight from Miami, Fort Lauderdale or Atlanta — or an easy connection through Nassau from a range of East Coast hubs — the Exuma Cays are the crown jewel of the Bahamas, an island chain defined by ribbons of white and pink sand and impossibly turquoise water. Along the east coast of Great Exuma, a few miles north of George Town, the 78-villa Grand Isle Resort & Spa occupies one of the island’s most spectacular crescent beaches, at Emerald Bay.
The 78 villas are homey and spacious (the smallest is 1,250 square feet), with separate living rooms, kitchens, dining rooms and private balconies overlooking the manicured gardens or across Emerald Bay and out to sea. Interiors show off a Bahamian fondness for bold tropical colors, but they have a modern vibe thanks to dark wood furniture, cool tile floors and island artwork. The appliances and electronics are all state-of-the-art: full-size washer/dryers, gourmet ovens and new flatscreen televisions. And the beds are dressed with 400-thread-count linens.
Guests have the use of a private four-person golf cart, making all the spoils of this sprawling resort complex more accessible. Fitness fanatics will get their fix in the 24-hour gym or by trying out a slew of non-motorized water sports, including kayaking, snorkeling and paddle boarding. Or tee off nearby at the Greg Norman-designed Emerald Reef Golf Club, adjacent to the hotel, a par 72 championship course that plays to 7,200 yards and features six signature holes along the water. For everyone else there’s pampered relaxation to be had at the full-service spa or beside the infinity pool, which overlooks Emerald Bay. Evenings at Grand Isle Resort are low-key affairs enjoyed with a rum cocktail, a cracked conch appetizer and a Caribbean jerk-style dinner at The Palapa Grill. For couples and honeymooners, the staff can set up private dinners for two (with a prearranged menu of classic Caribbean fare) on your villa’s breezy balconies.