By Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon
GREAT EXUMA — IT’S IRONIC that while I love to travel far from home, many of the resorts I love actually feel a lot like home. Maybe it’s because in reality they’re lot a nicer than my place – you know, the setup I’d have if travel journalism paid big bucks. Case in point: this beachfront roost on Great Exuma.
Initially built as private residences, Grand Isle’s 78 one- to three-bedroom townhouses are spread along a gentle slope overlooking the sugary mile-long comma of Emerald Bay, and most have a view of the archipelago’s signature jaw-dropping expanse of blue.
I appreciated that the bedrooms are on the ground floor of the two-story units, so you can literally roll right out of bed and onto the beach – or to the 12th hole of the neighbouring golf course, which runs through the property.
Above: a one-bedroom “Arawak” room
The upper floors are spacious and well thought-out, with slick kitchens (solid wood cabinetry, SubZero fridges) that make self-catering, if you’re into that sort of thing, a pleasure. (I’ll have my meals at the poolside Palapa Grill, thanks very much.)
Since the houses are privately owned, the décor in the second-floor open-plan living/dining areas is slightly different, but of a commonly high standard. The style of mine, in villa 1212, was totally to my taste, with a colorful cushion-strewn Bali bed that took centerstage and mod whimsical sconces on the wall.
Above: a villa
A deep balcony overlooked the sea, and though I’d have appreciated more privacy (some sort of screen at either end would have been nice) come nightfall, it was the perfect spot for stargazing over a nightcap.
Why I Loved It
• Dedicated routers in each townhouse, in the lobby and around the pool meant that I had reliable Wi-Fi when and wherever I wanted it – a welcome convenience in the Caribbean, where it can be frustratingly hard to get connected.
• I’m a bit of a bathroom snob, so the whirlpool tub, large shower, marble countertops and L’Occitane toiletries were much appreciated. Bonus points for having a separate area for the commode. (A demerit, however, for lack of a makeup mirror.)
• Each home comes with its own electric golf buggy for tooling around the grounds, and a private garage where you can recharge your resort ride overnight.
Above: island transport
• The homemade ice cream at the poolside restaurant is a must, I tells ya! The coconut flavor was creamy and mild, with a silky, yogurt-like texture and just the right amount of sweetness. Think I’m overselling it? Try it for yourself.
Above: Grand Isle viewed from the sea
Why You Will Too
• If you’ve enjoyed an adults-only escape down the beach at Sandals Emerald Bay and now you want to share the Exumas experience with your children, this is the place. There’s plenty of room for everyone to spread out within a compact gated community where little ones can’t wander too far away.
• It isn’t for the casual golfer but for those who take it seriously, Sandals’ Emerald Reef Golf Club just next door has an excellent but challenging Greg Norman-designed course, made all the more so by narrow fairways and constant sea breezes.
• Sun-scorched bodies are restored by the competent therapists in Grand Isle’s tiny spa, where even the most macho of men can feel at home. (A first-timer I met couldn’t stop raving about his pedicure – and the two complimentary glasses of Sauvignon Blanc that accompanied it.)
• Love it so much you want to stay? You’re in luck because there are still a few homes up for sale. Cough up around $500,000 for a fully furnished one-bedroom and Paradise can be yours.
Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon, Caribbean Journal’s Travel Editor, is also the founder of JetSetSarah, “where travel and shopping meet.”