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“Exuma Christmas”

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Grand Isle Resort & Spa
Ranked #1 of 6 Hotels in Great Exuma
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed January 10, 2010

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.

  • Stayed: December 2009, traveled with family
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5  Thank liquidbreeze
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed January 9, 2010

I travelled to Grand Isle Resort with my husband and 15 month old child. We arrived at the resort and were shown to our room which was absolutely fantastic. There was everything that you could possibly need in the kitchen which was great with having our son with us. The rooms were spacious as was the bathroom and the linens and towels were of excellent quality.

The breakfast on the first day was a disappointment, very little selection and not what we would have expected from such a resort. We did bring this to the attention of the Manager who took everything on board and the next day they did manage to add some of our requests to the buffet - but still it was not brilliant. As the days went on and the resort got busier, the breakfast selection was much better, but as the resort quietened down, again the breakfast suffered.

I did bring all of this to the attention of the Resort Manager who was extremely receptive and disappointed for us.

The pool area was lovely, not quite appropriate for little ones but still our son had a great time and as the beach was so close (literally a minute walk from the poolside) it was easy to go down there with him.

The staff here are absolutely lovely and they make up for the small problems that this resort has. They are a little slow to follow up on requests but that is the Bahamian way and if you can see past that then you will have a great stay.

You will definately need to have a car for this resort as if the weather isn't great then there really is nothing to do.

There is a supermarket very close to the resort that pretty much sells most things that you would need for a dinner, although all the meat is frozen - we did try it and it was fine.

  • Stayed: December 2009, traveled with family
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2  Thank UkSpanner
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 4, 2009

We spent 8 of the most relaxing days ever at the Grand Isle. We are picky travelers, especially when it comes to accommodations and Grand Isle did not disappoint! The villas are luxurious and beautifully appointed, equal to or better than a Ritz Carlton or Four Seasons. Pictures do not do it justice. We chose an ocean-view villa for $100 less per night than the ocean-front villa and would definitely do this again as the view was expansive and lovely. The furniture is comfy, nice big-screen TV's, very large and bright bathroom. Lots of windows and high ceilings throughout. There was also a small washer and dryer which, for me, was a really nice perk. There is free wi-fi in the rooms and it's reliable and fast. My husband loved having our own golf cart which is available to use not only on the resort grounds, but also for jaunts to the market or the marina restaurant. The staff was great--welcoming, warm, and professional. The grounds of the Grand Isle are gorgeous. The pool area is very nice and overlooks the beach and ocean which is just a short walk down. It's important to note that if you sit near the foliage you'll need to bring your bug spray! The beach is beautiful and very private, with cushy cabana-style lounge chairs. You can use the resort kayaks at no charge. There are some high quality snorkeling spots right there. We rented a car for our entire stay and were glad we did. The Grand Isle is at northern part of the island, about a 20 minute drive from Georgetown, so you'll need a car to get around if you stay there.
About Exuma: We got exactly what we were looking for in a vacation--beautiful water, great snorkeling, and a non-touristy laid back atmosphere. If you are looking for activities, shopping, and restaurants--go to Nassau, not Exuma. There is a reason they call it 'The Real Bahamas'--it's all about the beauty of the island and water. If you are planning on bringing your teenagers, they'll be bored. We rented a boat from Minn's Marina in Georgetown and spent two full days on the water in Elizabeth's Harbour. Next time, we plan to spend even more time boating, as we barely scratched the surface of snorkeling spots. We saw a huge variety of beautiful fish including a 4 ft. stingray, lobster, lion fish, parrot fish, queen angels, french angels, squirrel fish, blue tangs, barracuda, needle fish, and too many more to mention! You can also have a tour-guide take you out on the water for the day, but we were glad we rented our own boat, so we could explore the harbour on our own. We had lunch at Chat 'n Chills both days we spent boating. GO THERE. It's just down-right fun. Chat 'n Chill is also the only restaurant on Exuma that doesn't charge a 'mandatory gratuity'.
I can't say enough good things about the local people of Exuma. They are kind, friendly and welcome you to their island. We went to the 'fish fry' one Friday night which is a group of hut-like bars grouped together near Georgetown. Funny thing is, there is no fish frying! But if you want to meet and mingle with the locals definitely check it out!
Okay, so now for a few things you need to know about Exuma--first, it's an out island and there is minimal medical care. If something other than a minor cut were to happen to you, you would need to get a flight to Nassau. There is no hospital on Exuma. There is also no fire department. The food at the restaurants is limited and expensive. We spent an average of $60 on lunch and $120 for dinner which included the 'mandatory gratuity' (this was with 1-2 cocktails at $10-$15 each) and the food is so-so at best. We definitely did not gain weight on this vacation (which is not a bad thing!). We discovered a great market, Smitty's, located about 5 minutes north of Georgetown and they have a good variety of food and munchies. When we go back, we plan to pre-ship food down and have more meals in our villa.

  • Stayed: November 2009, traveled as a couple
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4  Thank kittyMN
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 29, 2009

My husband and I rented a 1 bedroom unit which came with its own golf cart. We aren't golfers but our unit overlooked a beautiful white sand beach with turquoise waters. There is also a large infinity pool with a restaurant/bar adjacent to it. The resort provided kayaks, outfitted them with pads and lifejackets and we had a great afternoon paddling around the crystal clear waters of Emerald Beach. There is also an area where you can snorkel just in front of the resort. The units are very spacious and well maintained, nicely furnished and are either privately owned and rented out via the resort or the resort owns and rent out the units. You need a car if you want to get around the island and the resort is about 25 minutes from the airport and 30 minutes from Georgetown but there is a grocery store directly across the road from the resort. We loved Grand Isle and were sorry that we had paid to go to another part of the island for our second week. Exuma is a quiet island with not much night life but if you can make your own fun, this place is wonderful. It would be really great for families, since you can cook your own food if you wish. There is also a restaurant at the Marina nearby. When Sandals opens next door (January 22, 2010 supposedly),(previously the Four Seasons) perhaps their restaurants and nightly entertainment will be available to Grand Isle visitors since they previously had an arrangement to share the golf and tennis with the Four Seasons. We were very pleasantly surprised that the resort exceeded our expectations. The staff were very amiable and competent.

  • Stayed: November 2009, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank hectorp
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 5, 2009

The Exuma Islands are simply magnificent. The people are friendly and the service was fantastic at Grande Isle Resort. The accomodations are first rate, truly above and beyond my expectations. We stayed in an oceanfront one bedroom villa for one week and did not want to leave. I would not hesitate to recommend this resort to anyone.

  • Stayed: October 2009, traveled as a couple
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Thank belle97
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 30, 2009

We felt like we were in our own private island which was perfect for our long awaited honeymoon : ). The staff was fantastic, from Sherwin to Frankisha to Angelique who made the best barely alcoholic mango daquiries. The island's beauty is breathtaking. There are no words to describe the colors of the water, the blues and greens and aquas and the clarity of it. The sand was like flour, so unbelievably soft. The rooms and villas were absolutely the best. The decorations and appointments far surpass any luxury accomodation we have ever been to or seen. Grand Isle is the type of place where the time passes slow and calmy, where the sound of the breaking waves lull you to sleep and where life reasserts itself into what it should be, not what it is. If you have a chance to go, don't miss it.

  • Stayed: October 2009, traveled as a couple
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Thank lily1120
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 27, 2009

this place is heaven. perfect accomadations to meet all our needs.
Cici at the pool is one of the nicest ladies on the planet and was so helpful that she really made the trip perfect.

on a side note,
tropic of cancer beach is the nicest beach on the island... find it !!!

  • Stayed: October 2009, traveled with family
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1  Thank psgreendog
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Grand Isle Resort & Spa

Address: Emerald Bay | PO Box EX-29253, Great Exuma
Location: Caribbean > Bahamas > Out Islands > Great Exuma
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Beverage Selection Business Center with Internet Access Fitness Center with Gym / Workout Room Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Kitchenette Restaurant Room Service Spa Suites Swimming Pool Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 6 Hotels in Great Exuma
Price Range: $349 - $1,061 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:4 star — Grand Isle Resort & Spa 4*
Number of rooms: 78
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

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