Set on the beach overlooking Emerald Bay in Great Exuma, Grand Isle Resort is a premier resort in the Exumas for those wanting beachfront accommodations without the all-inclusive element. An all-villa property, choices include one, two, and three-bedroom villas with an on-site Elemis Spa and a selection of dining outlets on property.
DESTINATION: GREAT EXUMA ??
The largest island in the Exuma island chain, Great Exuma provides the perfect hub for exploring the region with access to amenities + activities you’d expect on a mid-sized island, plus access to boating for jetting further afield. At about 60 sq. miles with roughly 9,000 inhabitants it’s far from crowded, allowing for a blend of off-the-beaten-path feels with the benefit of access through a local airport. To explore the Exumas at large a boat charter is practically a pre-req to experience the breathtaking moments visitors gush about.
Grand Isle Resort & Spa is set on a pristine stretch of sand in Great Exuma, about a 15-minute drive from Georgetown Airport (GGT). We stayed in a three-bedroom villa which was perfectly appointed and gorgeously decorated. The villas have washer/dryers and a full kitchen, which made dining in a few nights a breeze. Each of the villas has access to a golf cart (for a daily fee) to zip around the property and to get to the golf course at the adjacent Sandals Resort. If you can pull yourself away from the beach, the pool is a beauty, set just in front of on-site restaurant Palapa Grill Restaurant. On site, ladies – and gents! – will appreciate the Elemis Spa for facials, massages, and other pampering. I opted for an anti-aging facial part way through our stay to combat the days of sun, sand and sea.
The Bahamas are a destination that’s really all about the beaches, and the Exumas are arguably some of the best in the country. In our experience at Grand Isle Resort, the beach was a draw but there weren’t enough chairs or palapas on the resort’s beach to accommodate everyone who’d been keen on sunning in the sand. Many of the beach umbrellas are comically small, too, which means that you’ll want to arrive early to snag a seat with enough shade to post up for the day. We found beach service to be sporadic at best, and mostly non-existent but the beach bar is just a few steps off the sand so snagging your daily Goombay Smash is still a breeze.
Beach lovers who are fine with casual food and cooking in will find the Exumas a veritable heaven on earth, and truth be told, we were grateful to have a kitchen in our villa to allow for nights in. If I had to draw attention to one glaring gap in our experience, it was in the dining. Casual beach bars abound in the Exumas and make for a fabulous beachy daytime experience, but if you’re looking for a more glamorous evening out, you’ll be looking for quite a while. On site at Grand Isle Resort, we dined at 23° North and Palapa Grill. 23° North, which was our best dining experience at the resort, is the newest addition to the Grand Isle Resort scene with a beach club vibe that offers ‘Asian-Bahamian fusion’. Palapa Grill offers simple family-friendly food in a rather small poolside setting (the number of tables seemed a bit surprising given the somewhat large size of the property). Service at Palapa Grill was suspect during our stay: after showing up for our reservation and waiting a half hour to be seated we finally decided to leave. On the bright side, we ended up at 23° North, which we enjoyed. Generally speaking, the food scene in the Exumas is underwhelming so epicures who prioritize great dining should prepare for a more casual vibe and a few nights in.
Planning your getaway to the Exumas? Here’s some inspiration for your trip:
- ITINERARY INSPIRATION: One Week in the Exumas
- Boating in the Exumas
- 10 Things to Do in the Exumas
- Exploring Stocking Island and Sandy Cay by Boat
- Exuma Cays: Dream Trip to the Bahamas (The Planet D)
- 6 Reasons You Need to Visit Exuma Bahamas (The Lovely Escapist)
Number of Rooms: 78 villas (1 – 4 bedrooms each)
Cost Per Night: $400 – $2600/night depending on the season and villa size
Must-Try Eats & Drinks: Try the Goombay Smash at the bar
Hotel Highlights: The villas are beautifully done + Emerald Bay is world-class
Worth the Investment? Maybe – service left quite a bit to be desired. With a group, I’d probably opt for a stand alone villa instead.
Find more inspiration in my Hotel Insider series