Americans seeking a quick escape to a sunny tropical island will soon have a new option at their fingertips: A long-awaited $3.5 billion luxury resort development called Baha Mar is opening March 27 in Nassau, in the Bahamas. Nassau is just a three-hour flight from J.F.K.—and the resorts, on Cable Beach, are just a five-minute drive from the airport—so it will be an easy getaway for many in the Northeast. As I’m one of the only journalists who’s seen Baha Mar—I just happened to be passing through Nassau yesterday and went to take a look—I figured I’d share what I learned.
Baha Mar will have four swank hotels— the Baha Mar Hotel & Casino, a Grand Hyatt, a Rosewood, and a SLS LUX—as well as a 30,000-square foot ESPA, a 200,000-square-foot conference center, and more than 40 restaurants, bars, and shops. There will be 3,000 feet of white-sand beach, a Beachfront Sanctuary filled with sea creatures, and a reef you can swim to and snorkel at.
The development has already transformed Nassau—to build it, they had to move the prime minister’s office and two banks and reroute a road—but that’s nothing compared to the transformation to come. Nassau recently spent $410 million renovating its airport and building a gleaming new terminal, as it plans to grow airline service to the Bahamas by 400,000 passengers within the next year. There are even plans for flights from China.
Big developments on small islands usually make me cringe, but my tour guide—Baha Mar’s director of public relations Paul Turnquest, who was born and raised in the Bahamas and ran The Tribune newspaper there for years, says the locals are happy about Baha Mar because it’s bringing 12,000 jobs and a ton of economic opportunity to the island. “If you’re someone who makes straw bags, your bags could be chosen for one of the hotel gift shops,” says Turnquest. “Imagine the impact that this property will have on the lives of the people here. For many, this is the opportunity for them to be on a world stage.”
Will travelers come? Will they like it? We’ll find out after March 27. Meanwhile, here’s a first glimpse. (I was not allowed to photograph the areas still under construction—which is pretty much everything except the golf course and golf clubhouse.)