By Kristina Smith
“Anything you want, anything at all, you just let me know,” said my butler (butler!) after showing me around my home away from home.
I am in the Bahamas – Great Exuma to be precise – at the Sandals Emerald Bay Golf, Tennis and Spa Resort. Just a short flight from Miami, over impossibly brilliant, turquoise waters spotted with islands and sandbars, the tropical resort sits on one mile of powdery, white-sand beach with panoramic views of the Caribbean waters from every angle.
All of its guest rooms and suites are directly on the beach or just a short walk away, and it’s truly unlimited, anytime, all-inclusive luxury with a no-tipping policy. The staff are warm and friendly, the sand is so soft, and it’s all so quintessential island paradise I find myself humming “Kokomo” more than once during my stay.
My suite was tastefully decorated, with a king-sized bed, breakfast table, and large bathroom with double sinks, soaker tub, and walk-in shower stocked with Red Lane Spa products. The mini-fridge provided water and cold beverages (plus the Pinot Grigio my butler kept it stocked with, bless him).
Sliding glass doors lead to a private beachfront terrace with loungers, hammock and table for two, with gorgeous views of the coastline. I brought along my mat and did yoga every morning to the sounds of crashing surf, before enjoying the coffee and fruit set out for me at sunrise.
The butlers are there to ensure your every whim and wish is met…breakfast in bed? No problem. Suitcase unpacked? Check. Towels and a reserved beach cabana for two? Done. Afternoon cocktails on the veranda? Ask, and it is done. (And often, forget to ask, and it is done).
The resort itself boasts eleven on-site restaurants, with both buffet and a la carte menu options ranging from classic Italian to romantic French to Caribbean jerk barbeque, plus incredible Indian food, sushi and a cafe for coffee and sweets.
The food was delicious and healthy options were plentiful, as were vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free choices, and I was pleased to learn that the fresh produce and seafood were sourced locally. Cocktails, wine and beer are always available also, whether during meals or at any of the six on-site bars.
For swimming and sunbathing, there are three freshwater pools, including the Caribbean’s largest zero-entry pool with a central fire pit for cozying up at dusk.
This pool can get noisy come mid-afternoon (swim-up bar!) so if that’s not your thing, head to the quiet pool or the beach cabanas for some chiller vibes.
RED LAND SPA
A getaway to Sandals Emerald Bay would not be complete without at least one visit to its award-winning spa. A peaceful oasis, you will be warmly welcomed to its 16,000-square-foot facility, boasting a beauty salon and 17 relaxing treatment rooms, some intimately designed for couples.
Their full menu of Caribbean-inspired skincare and bodywork services uses signature botanicals and aromatherapy elements for luxurious experiences that refresh and soothe body and mind alike. And it’s not only women and couples who frequent the spa here.
Spa and Fitness Manager Timeka Johnson explained that since Sandals is very popular for destination weddings, anniversaries and special occasions, they welcome a lot of bridal parties, mother-and-daughter duos, and men who opt for haircuts, facials and manicures.
My Himalayan salt stone massage was heavenly and soothed achy flight muscles with tropical scents and a full body massage with warmed salt stones.
On my next visit, I’ll try the 90-minute Raindrop Dreams massage, where a series of seven essential oils are dropped along your spine, followed by a hypnotic, full-body and foot massage. Oh, and the Sweet Coffee exfoliating body scrub too (I was enticed with a tantalizing sample).
The spa also offers a small boutique so before you go, be sure to pick up some of Red Lane’s signature items to take home – I highly recommend the Teatree Aloe Recovery Gel, which came in very handy after falling asleep in the sun one afternoon.
On top of the Sandals Emerald Bay spa’s treatment rooms, it’s here you’ll find a yoga and Pilates studio and fitness centre, which offers up cardio machines, free weights, high-energy group classes and personal training services.
Come early for your treatment to take advantage of the spa’s steam room, and stay afterwards to relax in its secluded, tranquil gardens with plunge pools for a soothing escape.
If golf is your vibe, the 18-hole, Greg Norman-designed course boasts six stunning oceanfront holes where you catch the ocean spray, while pros are on-hand to perfect your swing on the six Har-Tru tennis courts. (Hint: there is a 2.6-mile jogging trail wrapping the golf course, but I suggest you get your run in first thing before the golf carts fire up).
On the beach, paddleboards, kayaks, and windsurfers are all free to use with sign-up (and calm seas), and the clear Emerald Bay waters are amazing for snorkelling (gear provided).
If you’re a certified diver, you can dive every day with knowledgeable divemasters and, if you’d like to be, they offer a PADI certification program on-site (complete the 8-hour classroom portion online before you arrive).
If in the Bahamas, you will most definitely want to explore the Bahamas. With a kiosk at the resort, Island Routes offers luxury adventure tours from a few hours to a full day.
I joined the Exuma Swimming Pigs Adventure, where we boarded a 35-foot PowerCat to zip in and around cays and uninhabited (or celebrity-habited) islands, stopping to snorkel, beach comb, and meet the area’s infamous swimming pigs.
“Pigs” is a bit of a misnomer, as these creatures are enormous, boar-like, with jutting tusks, snatching carrots from our hands with barely a breath. But, adorable in their own way, like the stingrays gliding over our feet, or the iguana we met a short time later, who went wild for the grapes we rolled to them.
The stunning beauty of Exuma cannot be overstated, though I ran out of adjectives just taking in the turquoise seas, shallow waters, and marine creatures.
Before the adventure was over, we stopped on a sandbar (of Pirates of the Caribbean fame) and enjoyed cold beers while floating around on pool noodles – absolute bliss.
Secluded, romantic, peaceful…Sandals Emerald Bay is the ultimate island getaway.
Get there fast and then take it slow.