Paradise for Kids (Parents, too): Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas
Easy to get to, easy to love. So easy in fact, that vacationing here can become addictive at this sprawling resort and water park.
If there is a better destination in the Caribbean to take the kids than Atlantis, Paradise Island, I would like to know where that place is. As would the gentleman I chatted with while in line at the Starbucks in the lobby of The Reef Atlantis, the resort where my daughter and I stayed this past summer. You see, he had already been to Atlantis 12 times this year—and it was only June. “I am the single dad of a 9 year old,” he explained with a tired look. “We came 18 times last year.”
Eighteen times. Eighteen. “Do you own a unit in this property?” I asked, knowing that the Reef has condos as well as guestrooms. No, his son just really, really loves it. At this point in our stay, we were pretty much in agreement with the kid, and we hadn’t even checked out Aquaventure, the 141-acre, seven-million-gallon waterpark, for which the resort is famous.
For me, a working mom with three kids, the ease of getting there is high on my list of vacation priorities, and traveling to this particular paradise couldn’t be easier. Since JetBlue now offers direct flights from White Plains to Nassau, you can leave your house after breakfast, and be at the resort in time to enjoy the beach in the afternoon. Also high on my list are cleanliness, great food, luxury, comfort, and service. The Reef and everything about Atlantis scored high in all of those categories. As far as the priorities of my travel companion, my 12-year-old daughter: Fun, cupcakes, shopping, room service, and animals top her list. Again, score five for five.
Our room at The Reef was glorious with a luxurious bathroom and a spectacular view of the ocean, beach, and resort. Every staff member we encountered greeted us with a smile and a salutation. They were not only knowledgeable about the resort, but were also well acquainted with the Bahamas in general. The restaurant choices included some NYC favorites, like Virgil’s BBQ and Carmine’s, as well as Bobby Flay’s Mesa Grill, and the upscale Mosaic, which had one of the most delicious (and beautiful) brunches I have ever experienced (but not a great idea before a morning of swimming).
For kids, in addition to Aquaventure—with its 18 water slides (including the Leap of Faith, which shoots you 25-miles-per-hour down a 60-foot plunge through a shark tank); two river rides; 12 pools; young children’s water-play area and rock-climbing wall—there is plenty more to do. New additions to the resort include: CRUSH, a club for teens, which is home to an interactive Internet Lounge, a Gaming Stadium, and Dance Club; and Atlantis Kids Adventures for children ages 3 to 12, which features culinary lessons (such as cupcake classes), interactive electronic art, play areas (such as LEGOS and a child-sized Victorian dollhouse), and much more. These programs require reservations, charge a fee, are supervised, and also provide one-on-one supervision for children with special needs.
Aquaventure is a huge draw, featuring a range of fun, from kiddie-pool areas to the terrifying Leap of Faith down a slide into a tube through a shark tank to swimming with the dolphins.
Atlantis isn’t just about adult versus kid fun, however. There are plenty of activities to enjoy as a family. In fact, the highlight of the trip for both my daughter and me was the shallow water interaction at Dolphin Cay, where we got to hug and kiss an adorable dolphin named Jeremy, who is one of 16 displaced Katrina dolphins. Atlantis, which is home to the largest open-air marine habitat in the world, offers so many marine activities that you could easily spend a week doing nothing else.
Atlantis does try to have something for everyone, and tries really hard to do it in the biggest, best way possible. To quote a fellow travel writer, “I’ve been to Caribbean resorts before, but this is outrageous.” Just try telling that to the weary dad at Starbucks. Never mind—we’re sure his son tells him that all the time. —Kathryn Walsh
DETAILS: Rates per night in the winter range from $250 to $700 in the five towers (Coral and Beach Towers, Royal Towers, The Reef Atlantis, and The Cove Atlantis). The week of December 28 to January 4 is more pricey, at $400 to $1020 per night. For the ultimate splurge, stay in the Bridge Suite, which connects the two wings of the Royal Towers for $25,000 per night.
GETTING THERE: JetBlue offers nonstop flights to Nassau from JFK; Delta offers nonstop flights from LaGuardia.
CONTACT: Atlantis, Paradise Island One Casino Dr, Paradise Island, Bahamas (888) 877-7525; atlantis.com