Just back from 10 days at Grand Isle Resort in the Exumas over the holidays…
We did a ski/snowboard trip to Jackson Hole last Christmas and wanted to do a warm weather vacation this year. We travel a great deal to Caribbean and elsewhere, so our review may be a little picky, but it will also be straightforward and sincere. Also, I grew up in many remote countries, so please no second-guessing about how difficult it is to do things in more distant locations.
Property – The resort is about 15 minutes north of the airport, next to the old Four Seasons and incoming Sandals (1/22/10). Emerald Bay is gorgeous, but there was a lot of debris on the beach from prevailing east and northeast winds during the winter. They should definitely obtain a tractor with one of those pull behind sand filters you see at many resorts – they need it. The resort is well laid out and the grounds are incredibly well maintained. The views are great from most any room. Golf carts are a great convenience and fun to drive around. Be careful of the very young (under 12) drivers though. Pool is very nice with many lounging areas. Jacuzzi is actually is hot and the jets, though underpowered, work. No towels or bar service down on the beach, although it is very close. Kayaks are free and worth doing. Snorkeling is unfortunately not good (nor is scuba – more on this later). There is a Hobie Wave on the beach, but it is not free, one of the bartenders rents it out in his spare time. It is beat up and has a lot of cracks in it. For a resort of this caliber, it should be included and there should be more than one.
Villa Rooms – The rooms are extremely nice and no expense has been spared. They provide everything you might need and it is all top quality. The kitchen was beautiful (Sub Zero frig, Dacor stove/microwave, Fisher Paykel DW, etc. appliances) with its granite countertops and impeccable attention to detail. They even had the little things covered like very nice, large wineglasses and brand new, expensive storage containers for food. I could really go on and on about the room, but to summarize it quickly, the furniture and interior design is perfect, one 52” plasma in the LR and another 32” in the BR, exquisite bathroom with Jacuzzi tub/separate shower and toilet. Bosch washer & dryer. Great artwork and amenities. Construction is very high quality and very well maintained. Very impressed.
Food – The food is not bad, but really not great. It is also, as can be expected, expensive. Breakfasts are pretty weak. Lunch is just about right. The dinner menu is not too different than the lunch menu and is pretty limited. They have a few good dishes, but if you’re there for more than a few nights, the food gets mundane. Oh yeah, the service is very slow. One evening we waited an hour and 45 minutes for food and it never came. We went home and ate sandwiches. As I saw in previous posts, the manager is very apologetic, but it doesn’t seem to improve things. So, we stopped eating dinner there. The nearby grocery store has a very, very limited selection and quantity. Liquor store is quite good and prices aren’t bad. Everyone says that once the large resort next door is back in operation the food will improve since they will have more food shipments coming in and there will also be several restaurants at the resort that will provide more selection for GIR guests. Oh yeah, at least 5 ferrell cats hanging around the tables at dinner.
Spa – My wife and daughter did numerous treatments at the spa and said they were pretty average. It is small, but very nice. Once again, also expensive.
Staff – The staff was really one of the highlights. They were without exception all very gracious and helpful.
Location – Grand Isle’s location has some advantages, but for many it may be too far off the beaten path. It is about 35 minutes to Georgetown. G’town doesn’t have a lot going on, but you can at least rent boats down there and you’re closer to other things like the Chat & Chill at Stocking Island, etc. Sunday at Chat & Chill was worthwhile. Interestingly enough, we ended up driving down to Georgetown and further south on several days since the weather was better around G’town and south. My wife mentioned this early on in the trip and I laughed at her, but she was right. Many locals confirmed that this was often the case, and it is sometimes the opposite. We were only there for 10 days, but that’s what we noticed.
Car – If you’re up at Grand Isle you’ll need a car if you want to explore. Round trip taxi to Georgetown is about $100 min. The resort recommended Thompson’s and we specifically requested and confirmed a 4 x 4 Toyota Surf, so we wouldn’t get stuck in the sand going to some of the beaches. I kiteboard, so there were several beaches that we wanted to visit. Thompson’s left a much smaller Honda CRV for us with no notice. It also had a bad battery and kept dying. The resort staff scrubbed the cables for us and that really helped. The car was also is bad shape with 100K+ miles. I wouldn’t rent from them again.
Activities – The resort does not provide a great deal to do. Other than sunbathing, kayaking, the pool, the Hobie, the beach, and that’s about it. The workout was good and has everything you’ll need and we never saw another person there the whole time. Beach walks were okay, but the beach was somewhat littered with trash and debris and the new (yet to be opened) Sandals looked like a run down ghost town. As mentioned the snorkeling is not great. The golf course was very pretty, but won’t be open until Sandals opens. We drove 40 minutes one day to February Point to go diving with Dive Exuma. We were very disappointed in the diving. The prevailing NE winds didn’t help (although it had calmed down), but the site had several lion fish (not good) and very little other indigenous species. Visibility was bad. The crew was nice. I am ex NAUI dive instructor, and am pretty familiar with many Bahamian dive spots. The Land & Sea Park about 30 miles north of here is fabulous. This was not.
In conclusion, we unfortunately did not have the best weather on our trip. It rained or was cloudy for much of the trip. This was our first Caribbean Christmas with children and even though we tried hard it wasn’t very Christmassy. The staff and management tried a few things, but IMO didn’t try too hard since there weren’t that many guests at the property. We booked our trip in August when they were running some specials and I would advise against that in the future since the specials got better as the holidays approached and the management would not allow us improve our deal, nor cancel. They did provide us with a small credit since we mentioned it, but not nearly enough to make up the difference.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Located on Emerald Bay in Great Exuma, The Bahamas, Grand Isle Resort & Spa is a stunning ocean front resort. The exclusive gated community comprises 78 luxuriously appointed 1- to 4-bedroom villas that range from 1,250 sq. ft. to 5,200 sq. ft. and offer a fully equipped kitchen, spacious living area, high-end amenities, and extraordinary views. Getting around the resort is quick and convenient, as every villa is equipped with a personal golf cart. Grand Isle is one of the finest resorts in the Caribbean and is ideally suited for family holidays, romantic getaways, destination weddings and honeymoons, or for simply enjoying the beach. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Grand Isle Resort And Spa
- Grand Isle Hotel Great Exuma
- Grand Isle Resort & Spa Great Exuma, Bahamas