A first-time traveller’s guide to Paradise Island

One of the many beautiful marinas at Paradise Island

Whether you are a regular visitor to The Bahamas and you’re looking to enjoy a different perspective of the islands, or you’re planning a trip to The Bahamas for the first time, Paradise Island is fast becoming the go-to haven for beach lovers, water sports and all-round fun-seekers. Instead of staying in downtown Nassau, why not consider venturing away from New Providence Island towards Paradise Island?

Paradise Island is connected to Nassau via two bridges – one incoming and one outgoing. Most visitors to The Bahamas will fly into Lynden Pindling International Airport. At the time of writing, there is no direct bus services between the airport and Paradise Island. Instead, you will be required to hop into a taxi, which usually costs around $30-35, to take you across the bridge from the airport. The $1 bridge toll will also be incorporated within the final cost of your metered journey. It’s also possible to hop aboard a ferry from the mainland. However, be mindful that these ferries won’t depart until they are as close to full as possible, so it’s unlikely to be your quickest mode of transport.

Paradise Island is a relatively new area for visitors to explore in The Bahamas. You only have to go back 60 years to find that Paradise Island was largely undeveloped – and also went by the rather ugly name of Hog Island. However, the look and feel of the island was radically transformed in the mid-1990s when the first purpose-built hotel complex was approved for construction. South African property developer, Sol Kerzner was the mastermind behind the initial phase of the hotel resort now known as Atlantis. However, Kerzner was forced to sell his flagship Atlantis resort in 2011. The arrival of the Atlantis Resort brought about the island’s new identity, Paradise Island.

The magnificent Atlantis Resort on the Paradise Island skyline

Since the first part of the Atlantis Resort was created in 1994, the complex has grown from strength to strength, becoming the focal point of Paradise Island as a 2,900-room mega-resort. It is now one of the most exciting holiday destinations in the Caribbean. It boasts five miles of the best crystal-clear beaches in The Bahamas, a 141-acre water park, an ocean-front golf course and a Las Vegas-style casino. Its casino attracts poker fanatics every year as it plays host annually to the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure (PCA), one of the most exciting live tournament brands in the world. It has been a staple of the global circuit since 2004, running five different tournaments each year in early-to-mid January. This ensures there is something for every player and every bankroll in the Caribbean sunshine.

However, there is more to Paradise Island than just the Atlantis Resort. Although the hustle and bustle of Atlantis reigns supreme, there are plenty of ways to relax and switch off here without having to venture across to Nassau. Cabbage Beach is a particularly popular haunt for those seeking white sand and striking blue seas. Situated to the north of the island, on the opposite side to Paradise Island’s docks and marinas, it’s a haven for snorkelers, parasailers and water-skiers, giving other Caribbean islands such as the Turks and Caicos a real run for their money.

Of course, there is plenty within the Atlantis Resort to shout about and enjoy too. Its 14-acre dolphin sanctuary is particularly popular, allowing guests to get up close and personal with a family of bottlenose dolphins and sea lions. The Atlantis Resort is home to dozens of professional marine biologists that regularly take guests to the depths of the Atlantic Ocean with scuba diving experiences and shark adventures. Those looking for more relaxing, light-hearted experiences at Atlantis should visit the Jokers Wild Comedy Club, which hosts both local and international comics six days a week.

It’s clear to see – with the plethora of multi-million-dollar complexes and condos and independent resorts – that Paradise Island is an exclusive place to stay and experience Bahamian culture. The island alone generates more than a tenth (11%) of The Bahamas’ GDP, which is quite remarkable when you consider that The Bahamas boasts some 700 individual islands. It just goes to show what an influential place it is to savour and the fact that it’s safe for groups and individuals to visit is an added bonus.

Story first appeared at torontocaribbean.com

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