Secrets of Atlantis: Tips for a Bahamas Family Vacation with Kids

Aquaventure, Atlantis's gigantic water park, has a slide for every thrill level.
Aquaventure, Atlantis's gigantic water park, has a slide for every thrill level.
10/2/23 - By Jamie Davis Smith

I’m not sure where my kids first heard about Atlantis, the wildly popular (and enormous) family resort and water park in the Bahamas. But once they discovered its existence, they were desperate to visit. I was skeptical that a trip was worth the cost, but once I started looking into Atlantis, I was sold. 

First, the location on the Bahamas' Paradise Island—with its picturesque beaches and clear blue waters—is a draw. The animal encounters are also intriguing, especially swimming with dolphins. And, Atlantis’s water park is huge. There is literally something for everyone, from toddlers to adventurous teens to parents who want to lounge by the pool.

I finally decided to make my kids’ (ages 13, 12, and 8) dreams come true and book a stay. We had a fantastic five-day visit filled with just the right mix of relaxation and adventure.

Here are my tips on making a trip to Atlantis with kids a success. Find more top places to stay in the Caribbean in our Family-Friendly Resorts & Hotels Guide and our Caribbean Family Travel Guide.


Atlantis Paradise Island, Bahamas
Located on Paradise Island, the sprawling Atlantis resort offers five hotels and plenty of water fun.

Top Tips for Visiting Atlantis

1. Hotel Options

Atlantis features five on-site hotels. Which of these is best for your family depends on several factors, including your budget and the amenities that are important to you.

We chose to stay in The Royal, a set of two iconic towers in the heart of the resort. The Royal's central location appealed to me, but after visiting I realized that the Alantis is very walkable and nothing is all that far.

The Reef has the benefit of full kitchens in each room and the option for a two-bedroom suite. It's also right next to two pools that tend to be less crowded than others, and there's a Starbucks in the lobby.

For the slightly more budget-conscious, The Coral has spacious room options and the added bonus of a special Kids Concierge area, where staffers are dedicated to setting up family activities.

The Cove is near the water fun and welcoming to families, but we've heard that noise from college kids and nightlifers can be an issue, especially around spring break time.

Finally, Harborside Resort is located across the marina (a short distance) from the main Atlantis property. Featuring one- to three-bedroom villas and amenities like full kitchens and laundry facilities, it's great for large groups or families.

However, since guests don’t need to stay on-site to access the water park, restaurants, and pools at Atlantis, staying off-site can make your visit more affordable. Comfort Suites Paradise Island comes with access to Atlantis and is a great budget option. You can also stay anywhere else on the island and buy a day pass to Atlantis. With both of these options, every member of your party needs to stand in line to get bracelets each morning, which can be a hassle. But, it might be worth the trade-off.

One really nice thing about staying on property is that guests from other hotels and cruise ships typically don’t stay all day. By staying on-site, my family was able to take full advantage of the less-crowded morning and late-afternoon hours.

RELATED: 30 Best Warm Weather Vacation Ideas for Families

Frankie Gone Bananas at Atlantis Paradise Island, Bahamas
Frankie Gone Bananas serves up delicious seafood in a colorful setting.

2. Atlantis Restaurants

There are 21 restaurants at Atlantis ranging from casual to gourmet, along with several food stands. Carmine’s has the biggest portions of Italian food I have ever seen, and it was a favorite. We also splurged on Japanese food at Nobu, which we loved. My kids enjoyed the extensive breakfast buffet at Poseidon’s Table. For lunch, we grabbed a pizza from Marina Pizzeria, which is a great budget option. There is also a burger shack in Marina Village and plenty of casual kid-friendly food around the resort.

Note: Restaurants often book up weeks in advance, so do yourself a favor and make reservations a few weeks (up to 90 days) before your trip.

When it comes to beverages, Atlantis gives guests refillable water bottles at check-in. There are places to fill the bottles all around the resort. Although I’ve heard complaints about the taste of the water, it is safe to drink and I didn’t mind the taste. On our first day, I also bought a bottle that could be refilled for free at soda machines around the resort. Between the two, my family stayed well-hydrated.

3. Grocery Delivery

Atlantis is not an all-inclusive resort; in fact, unless you purchase a dining plan (which may feel restrictive), everything down to coffee from the hotel lobby costs a pretty penny. To cut food costs, you can order grocery delivery from Instagopher or visit an off-site market and have some meals in your room or suite. This works especially well if you stay at The Reef or the Harborisde Resort, which have en-suite kitchens.

4. Aquaventure Water Park

The highlight of Atlantis for most families is the resort’s vast water park. Aquaventure is 141 acres of pure fun in the sun. My family has visited a lot of water parks, and this one is truly unique.

Several of the rides at Aquaventure involve  zipping through aquariums filled with sharks. Although it sounds scary, my 8-year-old rode nearly all of the rides without a second thought.

A favorite for all of us was the not-so-lazy river, Rapids River. It's the perfect mix of floating on waves and being bounced along rapids. One thing I learned the hard way is that there are eight exits along the enormous river and it’s hard to stay together, so be sure to coordinate a meet-up strategy before getting on the ride.

Lines for the most popular water slides (for kids 48 inches or taller) start building up by late morning, when day-trippers arrive. Your best bet is to hit the park when it opens at 10am or just before it closes in the late afternoon. If you have brave (and tall) kids, consider trying the Leap of Faith (a near vertical drop into an enclosed acrylic tube surrounded by sharks), but for most elementary schoolers, the Serpent Slide and the Jungle Slide are faves that offer plenty of thrills.

I was pleasantly surprised to see multiple areas that looked safe and fun for babies and toddlers. The 9,000 square-foot Poseidon’s Playzone is fantastic for younger visitors. There are also zero-entry pools, some very gentle slides, and other splash areas.

Before my trip, I read about securing items at the water park. Some people buy waterproof pouches for their phones, while others lock their items up. I felt pretty safe and left my bag unattended for hours at a time without issue, but I recommend you do whatever makes you feel comfortable.

5. Atlantis Pools

Although the water rides and slides are the main attraction, Atlantis also has 14 swimming pools, each with a different vibe. One pool, the Cove Pool, is for adults only and is only open to guests of The Cove hotel. Otherwise, the pools are all open to any Atlantis visitor, and a few are reserved only for guests staying at the Atlantis.

My kids really enjoyed the Coral Pool, which had plenty of places to lounge and is the only on-site pool with a swim-up bar. Our other favorite pool was the Grotto Pool, which has pretty waterfalls. I strongly recommend walking around and checking out all of the pools on your first day to figure out which ones look like the best fit for your family.

Atlantis swimming with dolphins
Swimming with dolphins is just one of many exciting marine experiences at Atlantis.

6. Atlantis Marine Adventures

Atlantis offers many marine encounters at an added cost, including opportunities to splash around with sea lions and stingrays. But it's the dolphin experiences the resort is famous for—and for good reason. We splurged on a swim-with-the-dophins experience and it was phenomenal. We all enjoyed getting up-close and personal with dolphins, including having them push us with their noses and holding onto their fins for a ride. I was a little nervous about my 8-year-old being able to fully participate since he is not a strong swimmer, but Atlantis provides life vests and wetsuits, and he did really well.

I'd recommend budgeting for a dolphin or marine experience if you can. It won't be cheap, but it will absolutely be worth it.

7. Atlantis App

Atlantis has a lot to do in addition to the water park, pools, and marine activities, and I am positive I would have missed some of it if I had not downloaded the resort’s mobile app. The app has a list of can’t-miss attractions along with an interactive map. This made hitting all of the top activities easy, and I didn’t worry that I was overlooking anything my kids would enjoy. Although we were lucky enough to have beautiful weather for our entire visit, I also liked that the app has suggestions for things to do when it does rain on Paradise Island.

8. Atlantis Marine Exhibits

Atlantis is home to a huge variety of marine habitats and exhibits, including ones featuring jellyfish, seahorses, stingrays, and other animals. My kids loved The Dig, a unique underground aquarium designed to look like the lost continent of Atlantis. It features sharks, lobsters, fish, and more. The app has a feeding schedule for the sea creatures, so be sure to check it—my kids really enjoyed watching scuba divers feed the sharks.

The Predator Lagoon & Tunnel was another highlight of our trip. We loved walking through a transparent underwater tunnel and feeling completely immersed in the aquarium. Seeing sharks swim right over us was awe-inspiring.

9. Atlantis Kids Adventures Kids Club

Although my family did not use the kids club at Atlantis, we passed by and it looked like a lot of fun. Children ages 3-6 can enjoy themed spaces and activities such as a pretend grocery store, a Victorian dollhouse complete with tea parties, LEGO building, and more. Kids ages 7-12 can "choose their own adventure," including cooking lessons, arts and crafts, outdoor play, and other activities. Families can pay for a morning, afternoon, or evening block of time.

If you'd like to have a baby or toddler cared for during nap time or nighttime, Atlantis has CPR-certified sitters that can come to your room for an hourly fee.

And teens ages 13-17 can enjoy a teen-only nightclub in the evenings, an arcade, and fun activities just for them.

10. Evenings at Atlantis

I was surprised—and my kids were disappointed—to discover that the pools at Atlantis close early. During our visit, they closed at 7pm, and they may close as early as 5pm at certain times of the year. This wasn’t a deal breaker, as we decided to spend more of the day at the pools and water park instead of taking a mid-afternoon break like we usually do on vacation.

I also expected Atlantis to have more evening entertainment. One night during our visit there was a Junkaroo parade. I thought it was fun, but my kids thought it was too loud and crowded to enjoy. There is also an on-site movie theater, but we didn’t want to spend our vacation watching movies we had seen before, so we skipped that.

Instead, we spent our nights wandering the marina adjacent to Atlantis and getting ice cream. Though this wasn't how we expected to spend our evenings, it was a very nice way to end the day. A big bonus of slower nights is that we all got to bed earlier and woke up in time to have full days.

11. Passports

Although the Bahamas is just a short trip from much of the US, everyone (including infants) is required to have a passport. Though American visitors do not need six months of validity left on their passports (as is common for visiting other countries), your passport does need to be valid for your entire stay, so make sure it's not set to expire before you the end of your trip.

RELATED: Caribbean Travel Guide for Families

Girls on beach
Soak up the low-key moments with family and friends, from beach time to simply strolling the grounds.

12. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

Remember—a trip to paradise is supposed to be fun and relaxing, so don’t overthink things too much. I visited as a solo parent with three kids and had a fantastic time. It’s not necessary to over-plan—just go with the flow and know that it's almost impossible not to have a great time at Atlantis.

Additional reporting by Kelley Heyworth

Photos courtesy of Atlantis except where noted