There is probably only one island in the world where you can swim with dolphins, see the Jonas Brothers in concert, and shop at designer boutiques all in the space of a few hours: that place is The Bahamas’ Paradise Island, a 3.2km-long (2-mile) strip just across from The Bahamian capital of Nassau on New Providence Island. If you’re looking for authentic island charm, choose another Bahamian destination, but if all you want is hassle-free fun in the sun and nonstop entertainment, within a few hours’ flight of most of North America, then waste no time booking a trip to Paradise Island—and, specifically, to the Atlantis resort.
Leaf through any travel publication and you’ll no doubt see advertisements for the megaresort that is virtually synonymous with Paradise Island. The astounding Atlantis conglomeration counts a staggering 3,769 guest units between hotel rooms, suites, cottages, and oceanfront villas. There are other resorts and hotels on Paradise Island, but even guests of the tony One and Only Club here confess that Atlantis is where all the action is, and where everyone who comes to Paradise Island ends up spending most of their time. With more than 35 restaurants, helmed by the hottest chefs on the global dining scene, and a huge water park with rides and wildlife encounters, Atlantis is the most unabashedly over-the-top vacation destination in the Caribbean.
The savvy marketing folks at Atlantis have made sure that the resort appeals to the broadest possible base. Billions of dollars have been poured into state-of-the-art facilities that exist nowhere else in the Americas. For animal lovers of all ages, the resort’s Dolphin Cay offers visitors a chance to swim with the Atlantis’s resident dolphins (a few of which are rescues from aquariums forced to evacuate during Hurricane Katrina) in a 5.6-hectare (14-acre) lagoon and beach area. Kids also love Atlantis’s Aquaventure, a 57-hectare (141-acre) water park with innovative slides, rides, wave pools, rapids, and a mile-long lazy river. And for when, if ever, you feel overstimulated by Atlantis’s packaged attractions, there are long stretches of beautiful beach nearby, like Paradise Beach, with its chikees (thatched huts) providing relief from the baking sun. Paradise Island also has a gorgeous 18-hole, Tom Weiskopf–designed golf course, whose greens abut the turquoise sea.
Sundown is when the grown-up entertainment at Atlantis really comes alive. Celebrity chefs Nobu Matsuhisa, Bobby Flay, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten have all loaned their names to restaurants in the Atlantis sprawl, and there’s a happening casino here as well. Big-name concerts—pop sensations like the Jonas Brothers, or adult-contemporary mainstays like Gloria Estefan—also come to Atlantis throughout the year. Between all that and the onsite bars and nightclubs, the partying goes on into the wee hours. Recover the next day, perhaps, with a treatment at the resort’s luxurious Mandara Spa.
Atlantis has thought of everything, though none of it comes cheap: Rack rates start at $300 per night, which doesn’t include any meals or dolphin encounters. You can save a good deal of money by booking a room at one of Paradise Island’s more proletarian accommodations, then wandering over to Atlantis and paying for its attractions a la carte—the prices are the same whether or not you’re a resort guest.