We took a wonderful family beach vacation in late January! We spent four nights visiting friends in Tequesta, Florida and another four nights at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar in Nassau, Bahamas. My four year old and nine month old both had a terrific time. During my trip I posted a lot to my Instagram stories and got tons of messages asking if I recommend the hotel, what restaurants I liked, what activities we did and what I packed.
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I already posted separately on packing efficiently for a family vacation and have also posted about traveling with a baby and a neat tip for cleaning bottles and pacifiers on the go. In this post I share lots of specifics on our experience at the Grand Hyatt Bahamar and at the end include a beach vacation packing list.
Convenience and Price
It’s a quick easy flight to Nassau both from NYC and from Florida, plus there are affordable high end accommodations.
When to Visit the Bahamas
Mid-December to mid-April is peak season in the Bahamas. Temperatures on the island rarely fall below 60 degrees, but you may want to avoid June-November, which is hurricane season, as well as May, which is when the rainy season starts.
We went in late January. It was 75 to 80 degrees and somewhat windy, but the pools are all heated so it was good for us. Also the baby napped in the stroller and I didn’t need to worry about her getting too hot (another friend’s younger baby got sunburned in April). The forecast called for rain during our stay but we lucked out and it didn’t rain until the last day (though it was overcast at times).
We stayed at the Grand Hyatt Bahamar. Bahamar resort opened less than two years ago and it’s gorgeous.
The resort is huge and is made up of three connected properties — Grand Hyatt, SLS and Rosewood.
There are loads of pools, gorgeous beaches and an abundance of gourmet restaurants and casual eateries. We loved finding fun design elements and nighttime fountain light (and even fire) shows in the evenings.
Grand Hyatt vs. Rosewood vs. SLS
Grand Hyatt is least expensive, SLS is sexier and more expensive, and Rosewood is sophisticated and more exclusive and most expensive. We had friends who stayed at the Grand Hyatt and loved it. I didn’t look into the others before the trip.
We stayed in a deluxe ocean view two queen room with a small balcony at the Grand Hyatt. It was plenty luxurious for us — it was really modern, had a great view and small balcony, and huge bathroom with a large soaking tub. If you are traveling with kids, ask if your room has a tub. Apparently not all do, and because we were traveling with kids we were given an upgrade to a nicer room that has a tub.
Guests of any of the three hotels have access to the entire property with the exclusion of the Rosewood pools and beach area.
If you have the budget and appreciate a truly luxurious hotel, look into the Rosewood Bahamar. I learned after our trip that the SLS Bahamar has suites, so I’d consider that next trip.
I haven’t confirmed this with the hotel, but one of my Facebbok deals group members told me that the SLS suites have a kitchen, washer and dryer and come with free private airport transfer (plus her driver stopped at the grocery so she could pick up milk, eggs and bread).
The one negative of the Grand Hyatt is that you need to walk through the casino to access the pools, beach and most restaurants . I don’t love the casino ambiance. While it wasn’t super smokey, I did smell smoke a few times passing the casino. There is also a cigar bar on property, which I tried to avoid.
Bahamar vs. Atlantis
I considered staying at the Atlantis. From what I understand, the Atlantis offers a lot more kids’ activities but has less good food options and is much more expensive for a modern room (much of the resort is older construction). I would consider the Atlantis for a longer trip or for older kids as many of the rides are for age 8+.
A few people asked me about noise. There were some private events some nights including loud music in the pool area and fireworks over the water one night. My kids had no problem sleeping through it and we watched the fireworks show.
There were enough activities on site to keep us occupied for our four night stay.
Pools + Pool Activities + Beach
There are so many beautiful pools! We spent most of our time at the pools.
The Drift pool, which is super kid-friendly, was our favorite. It has a nice shallow area with little fountains.
My son also loved the Sanctuary Pool Cave. It’s covered, which is great for getting out of the sun. From the pool you can watch the fish, nurse sharks and turtles in the actual sea life sanctuary.
There is a giant chess board at one of the pools. There is also a giant connect four game at a pool and another in front of the kids’ club. My son had fun with both games.
SLS has a DJ at the pools on Fridays and Saturdays. This didn’t appeal to me (kind of loud), but some people may like the energy.
The towel huts offer free sunblock and filtered water. I used the water to rinse out bottles (see my article on formula feeding for a neat tip on washing bottles and pacifiers on the go).
We didn’t spent much time at the beach because my four year old loved the pools and my baby was often napping in her stroller, which is hard to push on the beach.
The hotel has a beautiful sea life sanctuary that houses star fish, stingrays, nurse sharks and turtles. Anyone can walk in to observe. My son got to feed and hold some of them as part of his afternoon at the kids’ camp. He picked up a starfish, fed squid to nurse sharks and lettuce to the turtles.
The sanctuary also offers other activities for adults like renting a seabob (like motorized snorkeling)
Aviary / Bird Feeding
During two blocks of time each day you can enter the aviary. We purchased bird food sticks at the aviary (cost about $10) to feed the bird. I don’t think you would see much of the birds if you didn’t buy the sticks. The staff knew all of the birds by name and seemed affectionate toward them.
Flamingo Viewing and Parade
There is a little flamingo garden where you can watch the flamingos any time of day. Twice a day they hold a Flamingo Parade, where guests can essentially go on a little walking tour with the youngest flamingos. The staff really seemed to love the birds and it was sweet to see the flamingos snuggle with them.
My son spent one afternoon at the kids’ camp. It’s a bit pricey at about $60 but he enjoyed it and made some friends. There is a schedule of different activities each day, so it’s worth taking a look and choosing the session that your child would enjoy most.
Tip: they require proof that your child is over three, so be sure to take a photo of his birth certificate. They also have a “no touch” policy, so your child needs to be fully potty trained.
Boat Ride + Dolphin Encounter
The hotel offers free boat rides to the neighboring Balmoral island. The journey is nicer than the destination — meaning you may want to ride the boat round trip and not even visit the island unless you are interested in the Dolphin or stingray encounters.
Tips: Life vests are available at the Bahamar pools. I didn’t try them out as I had my own (we have this one for age 3-5 and it’s excellent). Before boarding the boat be sure they give you a bracelet permitting access to the VIP beach area. It’s not particularly nice, but if you end up with a wait for your dolphin or stingray encounter you can hang out there.
We did the Dolphin encounter and really enjoyed it.
The dolphin encounter was about $97/per person and the baby was free. If you want to purchase the professional photos it’s another approximately $117 / family. No phones or cameras are permitted in the animal / fish area so you can’t take your own photos.
Tip: If you have water shoes that stay on securely (like Reefs) wear them as the stairs going into the water are slippery and the ocean floor is rocky and uneven. My husband and son were fine in their Teva Sandals and Natives. I went barefoot because I was in flip flops and found the stairs to be slippery and the ocean floor difficult to walk, I was holding my baby and didn’t feel entirely steady.
Rainy Day and Other Activities
Luckily we didn’t experience any rainy days. If it rains, I recommend doing the buffet breakfast (more on restaurants below) and taking your time as there isn’t much else to do.
I heard that there is a teen area called “Vibes” that offers table tennis but didn’t get a chance to visit it.
I also heard that there is an arcade and museums nearby off property.
The kids club operates during bad weather and will do crafts and put on a movie.
You can take the bus or a cab to the Atlantis resort and visit the aquarium or get a day pass to their water park.
There is an abundance of restaurants and eateries on property, including at the pools and beach.
Every restaurant that we visited offered high chairs and a kids’ menu. They also allowed me to order off menu sides of avocado or scrambled eggs for the kids.
I don’t eat shellfish and generally avoid meat and poultry, so you will see a lot of fish choices below. I also love fish tacos and got them often. I wish I’d done a better job documenting my meals, but it’s challenging when you’re also trying to wrangle two kids.
We ate breakfast at this French cafe three out of four days. The toast, egg dishes, yogurt granola parfait and pastries were all wonderful. They also offer whole grain bread and made scrambled eggs for our kids.
We didn’t visit Starbucks but it’s worth mentioning that there is one on property in the Grand Hyatt.
We had breakfast here one morning. The kids ate free and the breakfast came out to about $80 for me and my husband. They offer a huge variety of food including omelette stations and desserts. I appreciated the assortment of fruit, including starfruit, which my daughter went crazy for. They also have an entire freezer display of assorted ice pops. My son was thrilled to get one to go (see my article on efficient travel — we took him to breakfast in pajamas to minimize outfit changes, which was helpful when he dripped ices all over his shirt).
Friends of mine refer to it as the best buffet ever. I wasn’t as impressed. I preferred getting one or two gourmet items from Cafe Madeleine.
This Mediterranean restaurant at SLS, was my favorite. It has a beachy Miami feel and the food and drinks were amazing. I had the most interesting tuna tartare and truffle pizza. My husband enjoyed a tajine. I also had an awesome drink with a kick to it.
Drift Bar at the Drift Pool
We had both table and lounge chair service at least 4x from this restaurant. It’s a solid choice. I had the blackened grouper, which was great and a feta salad. They also make all the slushy alcoholic drinks like mudslides and pina coladas.
We ate lunch in one of their open air cabanas overlooking Koi ponds while my son was at camp. I think we made the right choice going without my son as it has a more sophisticated vibe and there were no other kids in sight. I saw beer battered grouper fish tacos on the menu and they accommodated my request for grilled instead (in case you’re wondering, I gained 2 lbs on this trip but lost it quickly).
During my trip I posted a lot to my Instagram stories. I got many messages specifically asking about this restaurant from people who were planning to visit the hotel. I thought it was good, but overhyped. If you live in a major city there are likely many Italian restaurants that are as good within a stone’s throw. We shared a pizza, which was burned (Cleo’s was far better), and a whole branzino, which was huge and really delicious. The drinks were good too. Maybe it was an off experience, but the hostesses weren’t particularly friendly.
This is a solid restaurant. We had sushi and fish. All good but not a standout. I may just be spoiled by NYC’s restaurants. Try to sit outside so you get a view of the fountain show, my son loved it!! Also the staff was extra friendly to my son.
Beach Food Trucks
My son said his favorite beach was the “eating beach.” But pretty much every area of the beach has food trucks that offer a more quick and casual dining experience.
I loved the tuna tacos at Umami Burger by the dock. We also enjoyed ice cream from Scoops. My husband and son ate from some of the other food trucks and said they were good too.
My driver told me that there is a grocery store within walking distance. I thought I’d stop by to get water but we received a few bottles of Dasani in our room each day and there was filtered water at the pools and Dassani on the Rosewood property, so I didn’t need to go.
There is also a convenience store next to the Starbucks, which I heard carried packs of a couple of diapers. There is also a shop called Forget Me Not near the dock that sells beach gear like toys and swimsuits (quite pricey).
What We Packed for Our Beach Vacation
See my post on traveling efficiently with kids too, but here are some of the items that we packed.
Look out for my upcoming post on packing for a beach vacation. Here are some key items that we packed:
My family is unabashedly the most covered up at the beach. I find it easier to stay covered up with clothing instead of constantly worrying about applying sun protection.