Nassau’s Paradise Island Offers the Perfect Getaway

Pirates, astronauts, and James Bond share at least one thing in common: a love of the Bahamas. Swashbucklers flocked to the island country for centuries in search of riches and safe havens. Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, when viewing the Bahamian waters from the International Space Station, was astounded by the spectrum of blues. Even Bond couldn’t resist the allure; scenes for the 2006 movie Casino Royale were filmed at the One & Only Ocean Club, an ultra-opulent resort on Nassau’s Paradise Island.

Once known as Hog Island, Paradise Island is now a tourism mecca, located north of the Bahamian capital city. While the destination is perhaps best known as the home of the Atlantis megaresort, the One & Only Ocean Club is the only option for travelers thirsting for an exclusive luxury getaway.

The property dates back to 1939, when a Swedish industrialist built his own private paradise with Versailles-inspired gardens and a moniker fit for royalty: Shangri-La. Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co. heir Huntington Hartford II purchased Shangri-La in 1962, adding a hotel, a golf course, bronze and marble statues imported from Europe, and a twelfth-century Augustinian cloister brought over from France. He renamed the estate the Ocean Club and celebrated its opening with a star-studded event with guests like Zsa Zsa Gabor and William Randolph Hearst.

Today, the One & Only Ocean Club endures as a hotspot for celebrities and those who live like them.

Hartford’s original 52-room hotel still stands but has been updated for modern times. Following a multimillion renovation, the Hartford Wing exudes a contemporary Bahamian elegance complete with custom-designed furnishings that evoke island living with an upscale twist. The wing’s central courtyard also received a facelift and is now reminiscent of a Moroccan riad with geometric tiling, an elaborate fountain, and comfy seating galore—making it the ideal locale for an early afternoon nap or a happy hour tipple.

Rooms in the Hartford Wing have been remodeled to fit modern Bahamian living. Terraces overlook the ocean or the resort’s lush gardens.

Guests staying in an ocean-view Hartford Wing room overlook another new feature: the infinity-edged Ocean Pool. A lounge chair on this pool deck is the “it” spot at the One & Only—wake up early and reserve a seat before heading to your beachside morning yoga class. It’s easy to understand the draw: Loungers are treated to a decadent panorama, where the 125-foot-long pool gently gives way to the cerulean sea.

When you relax at the Ocean Pool, the One & Only’s indulgences come to you. Spa therapists trek over to offer foot massages and pool attendees are at the ready with ice-cold water as well as more decadent treats from the adjacent (and new) Ocean Pool Grill, which serves classic Caribbean fare like conch ceviche with citrus juice and out-of-this-world fish tacos. You can rise and enjoy table service or have lunch delivered to you on a tray. We recommend the latter.

Villas offer private pools and beach access.


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Dune, the hotel’s premier restaurant from chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, is located at the end of a koi pond-lined walkway steps from the Ocean Pool. The menu boasts Vongerichten’s famous Asian-influenced dishes but reinvented with an island flair. Think: local lobster in a curry sauce with fried plantains and bok choy followed by a banana cake with a praline crunch and salted-caramel ice cream served with regional rums.

Dune serves seafood delicacies like steamed shrimp salad.

Follow the beach to the left of Dune and you’ll arrive at the Crescent Wing, a collection of rooms and suites outfitted in quintessential British Colonial decor by Adam Tihany, who redesigned The Breakers’ HMF and Flagler Steakhouse. Each offers an ocean view, but the Crescent Wing is still not the One & Only’s most extravagant accommodations. No, for that you’ll have to travel to the other side of the property and book a garden cottage or a beachfront villa. De rigueur for posh island living, the villas come with full kitchens, personal chefs, private beach access, and their own infinity pools—so snagging a seat is no longer a worry.

Tee off at the Ocean Club Golf Course before retreating to your garden cottage (below), the best fit for families.

Regardless of where you stay, the One & Only treats all guests to certain signature amenities, like 24-hour butler service and a daily delivery of Champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries.

In between Champagne toasts and lounge-chair dreams, you can take part in a multitude of activities, both rigorous and lackadaisical. Relax with a One & Only spa treatment in either an ocean-side cabana or private outdoor villa. Indulge in retail therapy at the Neo Boutique or squeeze in a few games at the tennis courts. Rent a bike and cruise the property or reserve some clubs for a round at the nearby Tom Weiskopf–designed golf course.

However you spend your day, end it with a walk through the romantic Versailles Gardens and Cloisters. Here, in the calm company of statues, you’re perfectly positioned to watch the sun set over Nassau Harbor and, for a moment, witness the blue waters illuminated in a halo of pink and orange hues.


3 Off-Site Activities

  1. Explore the reefs, cays, and coves of the Bahamian Out Islands with a private yacht charter, organized by the One & Only and available in half- and full-day trips as well as overnight excursions.
  2. One & Only guests are granted access to the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort and all its restaurants and activities, including its Aquaventure water park. A One & Only driver is at the ready to escort you there and back.
  3. If you yearn for a true Bahamian experience, explore Nassau’s culinary scene with island favorites ranging from authentic fish fries to Sky Juice, a cocktail of coconut water, condensed milk, and gin.

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