Harbour Island and Atlantis Notes

Old Jul 12th, 2001, 06:12 PM
Ron Chan
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Harbour Island and Atlantis Notes

Old Jul 12th, 2001, 06:18 PM
Ron Chan
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For reason this didn't post so let's try this again . . .

Part 1

This website has been such a great help in planning vacations over the years that I thought it was about time I gave something back to these boards.

My family (wife and two kids, 4 and 10) and I just returned from a ten day vacation to the Bahamas. Our itinerary was as follows: San Francisco to Nassau (overnight in Nassau), then Nassau to Harbour Island for 4 nights at the Coral Sands. From Harbour Island we went back to Nassau and stayed 4 nights at the Atlantis / Coral Towers. Here we go . . .

From San Francisco we flew into Miami and caught a two-engine prop plane to Nassau. Coming from the West Coast it takes awhile (Flight was at 7.00AM and non-stop) and by the time we got into Nassau it was 6.30PM, way to late for any flights to Harbour Island/Eleuthera.

Our family stayed at the Radisson on Cable Beach for one night mainly due to the proximity to the airport for the next day’s flight. There are cheaper places to stay in Nassau for one night I’m sure (our room was $160), but the price was not a big deal for us as much as the convenience. The room at the Radisson was pretty nice, no surprises, however the service was pretty close to dismal. From check-in to bell captain to check-out, I would have to say it was one of least service oriented hotels I have ever been in. For example, in the Bahamas there is a official tax/service tip of 15% on everything, and I mean EVERYTHING. As such, there is no official “tipping” except for cabs. At the Radisson there is sign at the front desk which explains that a 15% service tip is automatically added to your bill when you check out. But, did that include Bellmen? I wasn’t sure, so after the bags were brought up to to the room I asked as gingerly as possible if his tip was taken care of by the hotel policy. His response was as if I had insulted his mother. “Do whatever you want, if you don’t want to tip that’s fine!”, he grumbled after which I gave him a tip anyway (which made me feel even stupider!). Anyway, the upshot for the Radisson is that the grounds (nice swimming pool area) and rooms were very nice, nothing spectacular which I guess is what the Radisson is about. The service leaves much to be desired.

The next morning it was back to the airport and off to Eleuthera, about a 20 minute plane ride. Getting off the plane in Eleuthera you know you are on a small island when your bags are wheeled to a gate in the fence next to the runway to be picked up. From there you take a cab to the docks where you take a water taxi (basically a small speed boat) for a 10 minute ride to Harbour Island. After our water ride we took yet another taxi to the Coral Sands Hotel.
Old Jul 12th, 2001, 06:19 PM
Ron Chan
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Part 2

The Coral Sands is really a lovely property. It sits next door to the Pink Sands which is an outrageously priced hotel where Oprah and Michael Jackson like to stay. Though I’m sure it’s not as fancy, they share the same beach and as far as I could tell the rooms at the Coral Sands were actually closer to the beach than the Pink Sands. There is a very nice (though small) pool on the property which we only used once because we spent all our time on the beach. The accommodations at the Coral Sands are broken up into three buildings. There is the main building where the restaurant, bar, front desk, and entertainment room (TV and pool table) are located; then there is another 2 story building which was where we stayed; and finally there is a brand new 2 story building which I believe had 1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments as well as “Deluxe Ocean Front Rooms”. Guests we talked to who stayed at the newer building thought they very nice though the views weren’t as nice as the older building we stayed in due to the fact that the newer building was set much further back. They also mentioned that they wished that they had a second story room because the first story opened out to a large grass area where kids of the families from the apartments played, and though the kids were well behaved, they wanted more privacy.

I’m not sure what type of accommodations were in the main building but I believe most were “garden view” rooms. If I had a choice, I would stay in the other two buildings.

Our accommodations was the “family suite” ($260 / nt), which consisted of a front living / sleeping area with a coffee table and two sleeping futons and a separate main bedroom with a king-sized bed. The main bedroom had a medium sized walk-out balcony (fairly private) with great a view of the ocean with two outdoor chaise lounge chairs and a small dining table with chairs. The bathroom was connected to the main bedroom and had a standard tub/shower. Furnishings were nothing fancy, but somewhat tasteful. The living areas were very spacious. Air-conditioning worked incredibly well if a bit noisily. All in all very livable and comfy.
Old Jul 12th, 2001, 06:20 PM
Ron Chan
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Part 3

But enough about rooms and such, what about Harbour Island? In a word “incredible”! By far the beaches are much nicer than anything in Hawaii (or Nassau). The sand is not as pink as they would have you believe unless you are wearing tinted sunglasses or look really, really close. But, it definitely has a pinkish hue. The texture of the sand is silky smooth and for some reason I never quite understood, never gets hot! Great sand-castle building material ;-) The waves are gentle and the water warm and crystal clear. Most people just stood out in the ocean as you can go out about 100 feet and still stand on the bottom. Also, the nice thing about the Coral Sands is that they provide (for free) kayaks, sail boats, boogie boards, snorkeling equipment and even sand toys! The beaches themselves weren’t crowded at all and had about 50 people on them (this is spread among 4-5 resorts!).

Getting around the island is not a big deal. You can walk and get to everywhere but the main mode of transportation is golf cart! I’m not sure what the kids liked more, the beach or tooling around the island on the golf cart. If you ever rode the Autopia ride in Disneyland, then imagine that times 100 and without the guide rail! The carts rent for about $45 per day and we were only planning to use it for one day, but once we started going around the island we kept it for our entire stay.

The most painful part about our entire stay in the Bahamas was the food. There is no such thing as a cheap restaurant on Harbour Island. Coming from the Bay Area, fine restaurants and gourmet food are not that big a deal, but paying $65 for the local food (the order your food at the window-type) hurts when you know you can get a 3-star meal at home for the same price. What cracked me up was seeing a disclaimer on a menu of not at all fancy restaurant which read “minimum credit card order $65”!!!! That said, we ate at many of the local hangouts and the food was pretty good. If you get a chance, order the curry chicken (especially if you like hot food) dish at Ma Ruby’s, though you may have to order ahead for it. Also, the grouper fingers that my 4 year old had were outstanding and almost made me wish I hadn’t ordered the “grown up” food. We also ate at Anglea’s Starfish Restaurant a couple of times, no atmosphere but killer conch salad and very good chicken and pork chops. For breakfast we usually took pastries and meat pies (excellent and relatively cheap) out from Authur’s.

Harbour Island was definitely very relaxing and we hit the weather just right (mid-June). Thunderstorms at night but sunny and warm during the days. But after 4 nights, it was time for totally different type of experience . . . Atlantis.
Old Jul 12th, 2001, 06:20 PM
Ron Chan
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Part 4

What a switch! From super laid back to super amped up mega resort. I’m not going to write much about Atlantis because so much has already been said. My standard for a place like this is Disney World. Whatever else you might think of Disney, they have the super resort / theme park down to a science. If Disney World is a 10 and Las Vegas is a 7, then Atlantis is a 8.5. Architecturally much nicer than what I expected, you can tell that no expense was spared. However, it’s the little things that prevents Atlantis from reaching Disney-like heights. Service ranged excellent to horrible. “Nice” and “cashier” were two words that never went together. Signage on the property is laughable. Half our time there was spent trying to find places (which also seemed to stump the people who worked there). On the other hand, Atlantis does have some of the most amazing sea life I’ve ever seen. Make sure you find out when the large manta ray is feeding because that is really a sight of behold. But, then again we get to the “not quite there” thing about Atlantis. We stayed for 4 days and saw some really incredible sea creatures, but never saw a single sign telling us what they were or anything about them!

We stayed in the Coral Towers which I thought was very nice and centrally located. A couple of steps up from a standard Marriott. Very spacious. However, if you are staying at the Coral Towers and care about your room view, be very careful where your room is located. Due to a very questionable design decision, over half the rooms look out over the immense, and very ugly, roofs of the resort. My advice is to try and get a room in the Reef Wing or the East side of the Ocean Wing. My only minor gripe about the accommodations (besides the view) is the ridiculous hairdryer of all things. Basically you are holding onto (no handle) a hot vacuum cleaner that blows in reverse! I can’t imagine what people with long hair would do without scalding their hands.

As for the food, the best thing I can say is that it was cheaper than Harbour Island. Ate at Seagrapes, Atlas, Anthony’s Caribbean (outside Atlantis) and Murray’s (couldn’t stomach paying $200 for a 3-star dinner when I could have a 5-star dinner at home) and except for Murray’s (which was nothing to write home about), the food was very mediocre.

To sum it up . . . would we go back to Harbour Island? We are already planning our next trip there. Would we go back to Atlantis? Atlantis is sort of like Vegas, you do it once and you don’t have to do it again. Although the sea life is really something, I think we’ll stop off in Orlando for Disney World instead.

Hope this helps someone out there!

– Ron
Old Jul 12th, 2001, 07:29 PM
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What a great trip report, one of the best I have read in a long time. You really gave us a great feel for the flavor of Harbour Island, and thanks for sparing me the trip to Atlantis!
Old Jul 14th, 2001, 11:24 AM
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Hi Ron,

I enjoyed your in depth trip report! I also love the out islands of the Bahamas, as well as spending time in Nassau.

Since I just moved to the SF area, out of curiosity, how much did you pay for your flights to the Bahamas from SF? (I have been worried that my move to the west coast might inhibit my playing time in the Caribbean...since Hawaii now looks alot closer).

Old Jul 14th, 2001, 01:05 PM
Daniel Williams
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What a great trip report! Makes me want to go back to the Bahamas tout de suite! To avoid going broke in Nassau, we ate at the smaller family-run places like you did in Harbour Island. (Some of which were super, what with grouper fingers, conch soup & salad, conch fritters (sinful)...).

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! DAN
Old Jul 14th, 2001, 10:18 PM
Ron Chan
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Thanks all for the positive comments to my report.


Welcome to the Bay Area! This last trip to the Bahamas was done with American Airlines mileage (who by the way were incredibly accomodating and nice - even got us biz class seats that happened to be converted to Coach on the Miami-SF route!). The Nassau to Eleuthera flight cost $96/Adults and 48/Children under 12.

However, I was looking into booking another Habour Island trip next year and found that flying out Oakland might be a cheaper way to go. Oakland-Orlando @ $387 RT then Orlando to Eleuthera @ $338 RT. Didn't really look for any deals so your mileage might vary ;-) BTW, flying out of Oakland (we are in Mill Valley) is a pretty good option - especially if flying down to LA.

Hawaii is definitely a much cheaper option, but the beaches aren't as nice (relatively) and it is lot more developed (except for Nassau of course). But don't get me wrong, Hawaii is really great (my relatives are there), but it's just apples and oranges.

– Ron
Old Jul 16th, 2001, 12:29 PM
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What a great report....

We were also in Harbour Island 2 months ago...we did stay on the second floor of the newer
building at the Coral Sands....you are
right...the view isn't as nice...but
you could still hear the waves at night
and we loved the room huge....staff
very very nice...

I don't understand how one could say
Harbour Island is nicer than Hawaii..
there is no comparison...beach beautiful
but not a pretty island once away from
the beach....food...yes..very good..but
not worth the price..

Would only return for the beach and if
I lived in florida because it's a hop
skip and a jump...would I tell someone to travel all the way from California.
don't think so....I would go to Cabo
San Lucas instead..or Hawaii or if you want gorgeous beaches and a beautiful island...St. John, USVI.....way better than Harbour Island... .....

Just my opinion!!!!!!

Nancy Jane
Old Jul 16th, 2001, 09:32 PM
Ron Chan
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Hi Nancy,

You are definitely right about the Hawaii as a whole being prettier than Harbour Island. But, the beaches on Harbour Island are exceptional. Once away from the beaches, the island itself is A LOT less developed, which is both good and bad. The food in Hawaii in much better (and cheaper) because of it, but then I never had to deal with traffic (at least on Oahu) either.

This might sound pretty spoiled, but being born and raised in California with relatives in Hawaii, means more trips to Hawaii than I can count . . . it's nice to have a totally different experience. I'm sure people on the East Coast say the same thing only in reverse.

I'll definitely check into those islands you suggested. Thanks.

– Ron
Old Jul 17th, 2001, 06:26 AM
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Hi Ron,
I lived in California for 4 years (my ex
is from Manhattan Beach). California
has some of the most beautiful beaches
and towns I've seen especially northern

I would check out Cabo San Lucas. I
think everyplace has it's own unique
quality and beauty. I think I was
disappointed in Harbour Island because
everyone said it compared to Martha's
Vineyard or Nantucket. I was born in
New England and know the area quite
well. Harbour Island does not resemble
Nantucket in my opinion at all. Again,
it's the beach that brings people to
Harbour Island.

I think if they cleaned up the center
of the town...added some nice shops it would be much more picturesque. However,
Nantucket it can't come close.

Read more about St. John, USVI. It's
where we plan to go next year on our
honeymoon. Another island that is very
clean and beautiful and picturesque and
pink sand "azure" beaches is Bermuda.
(the sand is a little more pink than
Harbour Island). Very British..People
are wonderful..The island looks like
a post card.

I have been to Hawaii (the Big Island)
20 years ago...beautiful...I didn't like
Oahu..too commercialed..but I hear the
Maui and Kuai (sp?) are more beautiful.

Being from the east coast..it's the long
flight out there that keeps us away.
That's why we chose St. John for our
honeymoon. Very quiet and if one wants
shopping and nightlife...they can take
the ferry (approx. 20 min) to St. Thomas and shop til you drop...smile..

Also there are boat excursions to the
British Virgin Islands...and the prices
are the same as Harbour Island as far
as food goes...but St. John is 75%
national park..so it's not built up
with resorts and no cruise ships are
allowed in...

Anyway....good luck in your search and keep us informed....if we had the time
we would love to go to Fiji ...looks
amazing....talk about beaches.....


Old Jul 17th, 2001, 11:44 PM
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Ron thank's so much for your great report. Paul and I just read about your time on Harbour Island and think that if you didn't get a burger at Ma Ruby's you missed out on alot.

Next trip down have dinner at Runaway Hill and Romora Bay, they will both be worth a post card home. The food there is the best on island.

Thanks again for your honest report and hope to run into you on island sometime, and the "Kalik" is on me.

Take care.

Old Jul 22nd, 2001, 08:43 PM
Ron Chan
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Hi Tweedy,

Ahhh, I forgot to mention the "Kalik". I liked the beer so much I even included it in my home video!! See you at Ma Ruby's!

– Ron

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