Great Exuma’s charm comes from being untouched and remote, but it is also home to one of the nicest hotels in the Caribbean. Grand Isle Resort was originally built as a Four Seasons Residence, with no detail overlooked. As soon as you enter the gates to the property, you will notice the perfectly manicured landscapes, polite staff and the high quality furnishings and buildings. Grand Isle is the hotel I stayed at during my first time to Exuma in November 2014, and always look forward to staying there again, including my most recent stay in December 2016.
Grand Isle Resort is located on Great Exuma island, the largest island in the Exuma chain. There are direct flights from Toronto, Canada (on Sundays all year round, and on Thursdays Nov-April), Miami, and Atlanta. There are several daily flights from Nassau to George Town (GGT is the main town on Great Exuma), so you can easily connect via Nassau (Sky Bahamas, BahamasAir). You can charter planes to fly from Nassau to GGT as well. Grand Isle is also accessible by yacht, as it has its own protected large vessel marina. For more information on Great Exuma in general, click here.
Location on the Island
The hotel is located on the northwestern part of the island. From the airport, it’s about a 15-20 minute car ride northwest. The main town, George Town, is about a 35-40 minute car ride southeast from Grand Isle. Many of the tour groups are based out of the northern part of the island (the swimming pigs are located on their own small island close to the northern tip of Great Exuma) so if you plan on doing many tours it is a good location. Grand Isle is also right next to the popular Sandals Emerald Bay Resort, and they share the same golf course.
Grand Isle consists of very large one, two, and three bedroom villas. Even the one bedroom villa has a full size kitchen, separate living room, and large master bath. If you have more people travelling with you (especially families) the two and three bedroom villas are also great options, and are very comfortable, quiet and spacious.
Some of the villas are located further from the reception/restaurant/pool, but each villa comes with a golf cart so you can easily get to and from where you need to go around the property. You can use the golf cart to tour around the golf course and take in the amazing views of the cliffside.
The Pool & Beach
The main pool is located in front of the main restaurant, near the reception building and gym/spa area. It is an infinity pool and large enough to do laps in. There are more than enough lounge chairs at any time of the year or any time of day, so you never have to be forced to “save” chairs like you do at my many resorts. The staff around the pool have as many beach towels as you need on hand, and the beach is quick walk down the stairs from the pool area. There are lounge chairs around the beach dedicated to Grand Isle. You can also order food and drinks to come down to the beach area (but you might have to come up to the pool area to make the first order). The beach (Emerald Bay) is large and long enough to have long runs or walks on the beach, and there are usually hardly any people on it!
There is one restaurant on the hotel property called “The Palapa Grill.” The food is some of the best on the island and features a wide range of popular dishes such as lobster, steak, grilled fish (snapper, grouper) and more. A tip about the restaurant is that is closes early, so make sure to have dinner pretty early as the last seating is at 9pm! There a few restaurants near the hotel that you can take a taxi to, but it won’t be as good food as in this restaurant. If you do want restaurant and food variety, especially if you stay longer at the hotel, pre-arrange taxis to go to the other popular restaurants around the island such as Catch a Fire, February Point’s Rusty Anchor, Exuma Beach Resort’s Latitudes (especially during Taco Tuesday!), Peace and Plenty (Thursday BBQs), or if you want a great breakfast/lunch place, one of my favourite spots on the island is Driftwood Cafe right in George Town. The hotel front desk can arrange taxis for you upon request, and you can arrange with the driver during your drive down about the return.
Each villa also has a full size kitchen, so if you feel like planning ahead and bringing or buying food, you can easily cook meals. If you plan on buying food, you will either need a taxi or rent a car to get to the grocery stores in or close to George Town, which are about 40 minute drive from Grand Isle. The main grocery store is Exuma Market right in the heard of George Town, but you can also buy food at Smitty’s (just north of George Town) and Prime Island Deli Meats & Grocery (best butcher on the island). Liquor stores are located near the grocery stores. Also remember you can bring many types of food in your checked luggage, such as meat. Note that you can’t bring in any fresh fruits/vegetables.
Gym & Spa
The gym is located next to the pool and restaurant and is probably the best gym on the island and has a wide range of equipment. There is the SeaStar spa facility to book any massages and other services.
At the hotel, they provide you with complimentary snorkel gear, paddle boards, kayaks. The hotel hosts different theme nights at the restaurant, and also do bonfires on the beach with music and drinks. There are TVs in the villa living rooms if you want to have a movie night. You can also get a taxi/rent a car to leave the property and visit the popular bars or beaches around the island!
Grand Isle’s golf course is one the best in Bahamas. The Emerald Reef Golf Course is an 18-hole championship course designed by legendary PGA pro Greg Norman. It is the longest course in the Caribbean with a par 72, and features stunning ocean views, especially at the end when you finish on the cliffside of Emerald Bay.
One of the must-do activities when staying at Grand Isle (or anywhere on Great Exuma island) is to do a boat or jet ski tour! Exuma is all about seeing the water around the cays, the untouched islands, the wild but friendly animals, and just immersing yourself in the unique beauty the area has. A trip to Exuma and staying only on the main island will never show you the full potential of why the Exumas are one of the best places on earth. If you want to book a boat or jet ski tour, contact Exuma Water Sports (firstname.lastname@example.org). With their group or private tours, you can see the famous swimming pigs, iguana island, sandbars, starfish, go snorkelling, go jet skiing, and much more!
For the hotel’s level of quality, from the service, to the rooms and food, to the beaches and activities, the price is very reasonable. A similar hotel in Nassau or many of the other Caribbean countries would easily be twice the price. Average price i’ve seen for a one bedroom is around 350-400usd/night.
Option to Purchase
The villas at Grand Isle can be purchased and are managed by the Grand Isle Resort group. Grand Isle rents out the villas on the owners’ behalf and it reduces the overall ownership costs. If you are interested in purchasing one of the villas, please contact me and I can get you in touch with the right people!
Imagine visiting an island where there is absolutely no one around. Perfect turquoise clear water, pristine white sand. Hardly anyone has ever visited, so there are still friendly wild animals that will come up to you to say hi. Everything is clean, the food tastes good, and you feel safe. Not too far of a flight, and not overly expensive. Now imagine all of that, but also being able to stay at a luxury 5 star hotel at the same time. Grand Isle in Exuma is exactly that – best of both worlds. Can’t wait to come back!
PS. Check out my latest Youtube video on Exuma! You will see some of my favourite drone shots of Grand Isle hotel in it from my trip, in addition to the wide variety of things you can do and see while you visit this amazing island!