Family vacations are very important to me. Some of my most treasured memories took place on cruise ships and Caribbean islands with my family. For the past 6+ years, we’ve taken one big trip a year as a family—that is, until COVID and its variant cousins took the world by storm. #annoyed
My niece and nephew are older, and I don’t have kids myself yet. Given this and the fact that we haven’t travel together in a long time, we decided our money would be best spent on something we all desperately needed: Christmas vacation.
Chicago gets COLD AF in December, so naturally, we looked toward the tropics. Although cruises are our usual thing, we thought a resort would be a good change of pace.
And so, we began our search. We weighed the pros and cons of an all-inclusive resort vs. non-all-inclusive, and scoured online reviews. After pouring hours into our research, the executive council (AKA my sister & I) decided to book a stay at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar in Nassau, Bahamas.
Was it worth it? Just keep reading…
Arrival & Transportation
The resort is conveniently located about 10 minutes away from the airport. We booked a private transfer to stay together, but to be honest, it was unnecessarily expensive. Instead, I’d recommend grabbing a simple Uber or taxi.
When arriving at the hotel, you’ll immediately feel like you’ve arrived at paradise. The resort grounds are huge and have beautifully manicured greenery, as well as a waterfall entrance. Depending on the time of day you arrive (we got there in late evening due to flight delays—ugh!), you’ll be greeted with complimentary rum punch and a friendly staff eager to help with your luggage. Check-in was easy and fast. Like many hotels and resorts, keycards have been replaced with hotel wristbands instead, which was both cool and convenient.
For my stay, I booked a fountain view queen with balcony room. The view from the 11th floor was beautiful and amazing to wake up to every day! The bathroom was stocked with Balmain toiletries and the bed was soft yet firm. Housekeeping still operated as normal; this was interesting, given that some hotels have opted into a request-only approach. But it was reassuring to come back to a room with freshly-mopped floors.
The Grand Hyatt Baha Mar has over 40 dining options ranging from Italian to sushi, seafood and pizza. They also have various beachside food trucks and a cute boardwalk where you can grab ice cream or your drink of choice in a pineapple.
Here’s my quick take on the spots we dined at:
Pizza Lab – Great!
We ended up dining here 2x during our stay: once for breakfast and once for lunch. This seemed to be the most affordable option, and my niece was obsessed with the spinach dip. They offer pizza made to order by the slice as well. Oh, please order the Peach Spritz if you go!
The Swimming Pig – Pretty Good!
My sister and I ordered the French dip and garlic truffle fries. It was very good, and the au jus was not too salty! My sister said it was the best she had ever had. My parents got the ribs and were also really pleased with those. In addition to the meals we chose, this place has other bar/pub type options like wings, burgers, and sandwiches.
Marcus Fish + Chop House – Good!
This is the spot we chose for Christmas dinner. The atmosphere and ambiance lend itself to a dressier vibe, which is exactly what we wanted. The table cornbread was delicious. The fried chicken with sour orange hot honey had a nice Caribbean flare, and my dad loved the creamed kale. The only thing I didn’t like so much was the baked mac and cheese.
Café Madeline – Great!
I went to this spot to grab a caramel latte (delicious!) and a croque monsieur (AKA a French) ham and cheese breakfast croissant. As soon as I stepped foot in the door, I felt like I was whisked away to a Parisian café. They have the complete collection of artisanal desserts, fresh pastries, French teas and espresso.
Stix Noodle Bar – Meh!
I ordered the basic ramen. It wasn’t that hot, and the flavor of the broth left something to be desired. My family all felt the same about this spot as we were all underwhelmed, despite each of us ordering a different thing.
Overall Tip: Make reservations! Don’t wait until the last minute, either!
Activities & Things to Do
The resort is huge, boasting 6 private outdoor pools, a casino, tennis courts and wildlife experiences. We stayed for 4 nights and 5 days but still didn't tackle half of the.premises. It also overlooks Cable Beach and Goodman’s Bay; so needless to say, we did a lot of walking. One of my favorite spots was near a place called the Sanctuary. It’s an Instagrammer’s dream—I mean, just look at the waterfall!
It’s a popular pool, so in order to actually grab lounge chairs, you need to arrive early. Don’t get stuck looking around like a kid trying to find a place to sit in the school cafeteria. A family highlight was definitely the Baha Bay Waterpark. It’s adjacent to the resort and just a short walk from the Sanctuary pool area. Guests have exclusive and unlimited access to the park, which was great. 95% of the time I don’t do water rides (long story), but I did try out the lazy river with the fam. Somehow, I ended up getting separated from the group; so I ended up moseying along the river solo as my family drifted out of sight. And just my luck, I couldn’t avoid the surprise waterfall and went right through it. #salty
Hands down, let me make one thing clear: this resort is expensive, and everything is heavily taxed. Believe the hype. However, since we knew this going into it, we were able to properly budget and wrap our minds around the cost. One of the convenience stores was selling a bottle of Fiji Water for $15, and a cheaper alternative was still $9. Also, not all places were on one accord in terms of payment, which was a bit annoying. Some accept cash or card while others only apply the fee to your room.
So with all this said, we had a blast! Overall, the quality of the food seemed to be better than the all inclusive resorts I've been to so far and the service was great. Plus, we were able to get this awesome family photo.
Do you have a favorite resort? Let me know in the comments or on IG!