Last Fall when I reviewed Atlantis Paradise Island, it was my first time in the Bahamas. This summer I was invited to visit the Grand Lucayan Beach & Golf Resort on Grand Bahama Island and jumped at the chance to further explore the former British colony. Grand Bahama Island is the 4th largest of the 700 islands that make up the country and just about 50 miles from Florida. The island is rather populated and more commercial than Paradise Island, which means there are lots of things to see and do for residents and visitors alike.
The Grand Lucayan Beach & Golf Resort is the the largest hotel on the island and considered by many to be the finest. The hotel offers the sandy beaches, warm sun and ocean breezes that the Bahamas are known for, along with lots of amenities, dining options and planned activities. Its in the the island's touristy Lucaya district makes it easy enough to take in some of the local sights if you want to stray from the resort. Easy to get to and hard to leave, the Grand Lucayan Beach & Golf Resort is a paradise for families.
The Grand Lucayan Beach & Golf Resort is comfortable, casual and really kid friendly, a perfect spot for a family getaway. The hotel rooms are spacious and nicely appointed in a tropical style, each with private balcony or a patio. We had an ocean view room on the beach side of the hotel with relaxing water views, but you can opt for a marina view too. The grounds are beautifully landscaped with four swimming pools and seven acres of beach just beyond them. We spent most of our time at the 2 connecting serpentine pools, with a waterfall at one end that my son really enjoyed and a swim up bar at the other for me and my husband. Surrounding the pools are plenty of lounge chairs, some under umbrellas others in the shade of towering palm trees and while the atmosphere was festive and friendly. For a more peaceful experience though, head to the far end of the resort near the fitness center, the lap pool and beach were both completely empty during our visit and it felt like we had our own private resort.
As much as I aspire to those sorts of vacation where you simply sit under a tree, reading a book and taking a break for a swim every now and then, I realize that after an afternoon of lounging around, I always need some action. So what I really liked about the Grand Lucayan Beach & Golf Resort was the number of activities they had available for guests. Instead of lounging on the beach you can arrange to borrow a non-motorized boat or a boogie board from the hotel or try out a jet ski and banana boat for a fee. Pool side there is scheduled coconut bowling, limbo contests, nature walks, pool races and other activities to join in. My son and husband loved the water balloon toss and playing chess with the hotel's oversized pieces.
The resorts location made it a perfect jumping off spot for other activities. If you tire of resort living, you can head across the street to the large, colorful and busy Port Lucaya Marketplace and Straw Market. Several tour ships offer excursions to the shopping and dining area so it is pretty touristy, but it is the hub of the area and a great place to pick up a Bahamian souvenir, soak up some local culture, purchase local spirits or grab a bite to eat. Through the marketplace is UNEXSO, the Underwater Explorers Society. If you want to swim with the dolphins or go on a scuba diving adventure, this is the place to do it.
The concierge at the Grand Lucayan Beach & Golf Resort can set you up with a variety of farther afield off-site excursions. We did two during our stay. My son was desperate to go snorkeling, and being the indulgent parents we are, we made sure it happened for him by booking a three hour trip with Pat & Diane Tours their dock was located right in the marketplace which was really handy, but if you aren't staying nearby, they will come and pick you up.
We had an amazing day exploring the Lucayan National Park, the pristine, ecologically diverse green spot on the Eastern side of the island, home to Gold Rock Beach featured in the blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean films At World's End and Dead Man's Chest. When we arrived on the island I learned that the park wasn't walkable from the resort, like I had thought, so a rental car or taxi was necessary to get there. With a little bit of research I came across Grand Bahama Nature Tours who run really cool trips through the park and provided round trip transportation to and from my hotel.
This amazing eco-tour was a highlight of our trip. We toured the parks underwater cave system, kayaked through a mangrove forest, and then wrapped up the afternoon with a relaxing day at the beach. The tour included lunch in a private shelter too, where we met and fed the local raccoons. These little critters have a pretty interesting back story, while they are the same exact species you would find in the states these Bahamian raccoons were brought to the island by the rum runners and don't have rabies. It was quite a trip feeding these animals on a Bahamian beach and we had to rip my animal-loving son away from them when it was time to leave.
The Grand Lucayan Beach & Golf Resort has nine restaurants ranging from quick service snack spots to fine dining. Start your day at Willy Broadleaf's breakfast buffet or grab coffee and a pastry quickly in the Plantation Cafe. The al fresco China Grill has a good variety of salads, burgers and sandwiches for lunch, you can eat on their the patio or bring your meal back to your beach chair. For dinner there are several options, including the resorts high end Pan-Asian China Beach or the Caribbean influenced pub food at Iries Bar. While I didn't hit the local favorite Wednesday night Fish Fry at Smith Point, I was able to get a feel for what they are like and my fill of conch, snapper and rice and peas at Grand Lucayan's festive version at Willy Broadleaf's where my son had coconut water straight from the shell. The resort also throws a big outdoor Bahamian style barbeque once a week, weather permitting.
Another dining destination is Flying Fish Modern Seafood, one of the finest restaurants in the Bahamas and adjacent to the resort. The elegant restaurant isn't the type of place I would normally bring my 9 year old boy for dinner, but I really wanted to experience it. The staff was incredibly welcoming to all three of us and even let my son order from the more kid-friendly bar menu while we were seated in the dining room.
The Grand Lucayan Beach & Golf Resort is located at 1 Seahorse Lane in Freeport on Grand Bahama Island. Rooms start at $125 per night and they offer a variety of money saving offers throughout the year. There are direct flights to Grand Bahama International Airport from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Charlotte and Atlanta. The resort doesn't offer free shuttle service but you can easily get a taxi at the airport and one way transportation will run you about $20 USD.