One of the familiar challenges of planning a family vacation is finding a place where everyone can relax, enjoy themselves, and have fun. (Including you, the parent.) Nassau, Bahamas’ Baha Mar resort is a sophisticated tropical vacation destination that really does have something for everyone, from incredible kid’s pools and activities, to spots where parents can do grown-up things. And of course, lots of places where you can all chill out and have fun together. We checked it out—here’s our report!

photo: SLS Baha Mar

Closer Than You Think

The picture postcard tropical vacation with crystal blue waters and gorgeous beaches is not as far away as you might imagine. (From NYC, the flight is less than three hours.)

Perhaps the best news? Touch down and you’re essentially there; hop in the SLS shuttle for a 10-minute drive to the resort.

photo: SLS/Baha Mar

Many Choices, All Good

As mentioned, at Baha Mar, you’ve got options, and that includes where to stay. The resort is home to three hotels: The Grand Hyatt, luxury property Rosewood, and the contemporary and comfortable SLS Baha Mar (pictured above)—all of which have access to the resort’s amenities. We stayed at SLS, and loved its combination of chic surroundings, thoughtful design (charging ports, and lighting controls next to the bed FTW), and superior yet warm and welcoming service.

If you’re looking to have an extended stay, or one with a large group, stylish residence suites make it easy, with a spacious living room, equipped kitchens, two bathrooms, a washer/dryer, and dreamy beds. You can even have the kitchen stocked with essentials for you before your arrival.

While Baha Mar itself is large, with three hotels, numerous restaurants, shopping, and even a casino, it does not feel overwhelming. (We weren’t there during high season, but it also did not feel crowded.) The resort is also well-designed in that somehow, no matter where you are, it doesn’t take long to get somewhere else—your hotel room, the beach, a pool on the other side of the property, etc.

photo: Mimi O’Connor

Fun in the Sun, Poolside

If your idea of a vacation is relaxing by the pools, you’re in luck: there are an incredible 11 pools on site at Baha Mar, each with its own vibe and target audience.

Kids (and kids at heart) flip for “Dean’s Blue Hole”—named for the popular Bahamian snorkeling scuba diving destination—home to two “cliffs” for jumping into the pool, as well as The Grotto, where you can get an underwater view of schools of fish, sea turtles, nurse sharks and stingrays through an aquarium-style wall of glass. Also here is a very kid-friendly pool of varying depths, and bar for drinks and light bites.

But that’s really the tip of the tropical iceberg. Other options include “Drift”, with a wade-in pool that increases in depth gradually, cool platforms with rain shower walls at the touch of a button, and private cabanas available for rental. From SLS, you can roll right into “Bungalow”, a deeper pool with a Mediterranean feel; the raucous pool is “Privilege”, where the tunes are loud and the floats oversized, while other pools in the resort offer a more tranquil experience.

photo: Mimi O’Connor

Fun in the Sun, Seaside

Steps from the pools is the clean, white-sand Cable Beach, where you’ll find clear blue, temperate waters. Take a walk on the pier, relax on lounge chairs under beach umbrellas, then take advantage of the free water fun accessories such as snorkeling gear, kayaks, water hammocks, and more. (Pro tip: it’s first come, first served, so get there early.)

photo: Mimi O’Connor 

Just for the Kids

Aside from the considerable fun kids can have at the pools and the beach, Baha Mar also offers kid’s programming dubbed the “Explorers Club,” for children ages three to 12. Activities with engaged and experienced staffers include arts and crafts, wildlife encounters, games, movie nights, and more.

There are three sessions per day, morning, afternoon, and evening and cost $55. In-room babysitting services can also be booked. (Deal alert: the Explorers Club daytime sessions include a visit to the resort’s BEACH Sanctuary, home to various aquatic life, an experience that is $65 if booked separately.)

photo: Mimi O’Connor

Sea Creatures Up Close

One of the crown jewels of Baha Mar is the BEACH Sanctuary, home to nurse sharks, stingrays, sea turtles, and tropical fish. (The Grotto provides an underwater view of the habitat.) Guests can tour the facility during feeding times twice daily for free, or book a one-on-one interactive experience with the marine life.

photo: Mimi O’Connor

Feathered Friends

In addition to sea creatures, you’ll also find lots of birds at Baha Mar. Step into The Aviary and make new friends instantly as the resident birds literally come and eat out of your hand. ($10 per food serving.)

The head over to Flamingo Cay, where the Baha Mar flock of pink birds resides. Don’t miss the Flamingo Parade, a free happening held twice daily by the resort’s Chief Flamingo Officer.

photo: Mimi O’Connor

Grown-Up Time

Baha Mar is also a spot where you and your partner can have some adult fun as well.  Pick your pleasure: a treatment at spa ESPA; cocktail hour at the SLS rooftop spot Skybar (pictured), or gaming at the casino, which is not only the largest casino in the Bahamas, it’s got windows.

If you golf, there’s par-72 course designed by famed linksman Jack Nicklaus himself, and if you’d like to pick up a little something for yourself, you can swing by one of the resort’s shops, which include everything from Tiffany & Co. and Cartier to MAC, Lily Pulitzer, and local retailers.

photo: Mimi O’Connor

Food & Drink

As with everything else, there are many options for food here. While none of it is a bargain (guac and chips with a glass of wine will set you back $40), everything we ate was a cut above. And, great news: every restaurant has a kid’s menu. 

For coffee and quick bites on the go, try French spot Cafe Madeleine or Starbucks. Casual by- and on-the-beach food can be grabbed at various airstream trailers (so cute) and stands by the shore; choices include Umami Burger, beachside Mexican, poke bowls, pan-latin cuisine, and more.

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In addition to a noodle bar and gastropub, Baha Mar also features numerous “destination dining” restaurants, many outposts of celebrated chefs. A sampling includes steakhouse Carna by Dario Cecchini, and Italian eatery Fi’lia (where you can book an experience with the kids to make your own pizza). Just off the lobby of the SLS hotel is Cleo Mediterraneo, which not only serves tasty Mediterranean cuisine inside and out on a patio area overlooking the pool, it’s also where you can feast on one of the best breakfast buffets we’ve ever encountered. (Be sure to sample the bread pudding.) Heads up: kids five and under eat free at all SLS restaurants this summer.

Online: bahamar.com

—Mimi O’Connor

We were guests of Baha Mar and SLS but all opinions expressed here belong to the writer.

Cover photo: Baha Mar/SLS

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