Sandals Emerald Bay

Everybody loves a little luxury. That’s been Sandals’ motto for the past five years, as the company has striven to redefine the all-inclusive experience with upscale rooms, amenities and services. So it’s no surprise that its newest property, Sandals Emerald Bay in Great Exuma, The Bahamas, offers clients its most high-end vacation experience yet.

home sweet home Classic Sandals rules still apply, of course; guests check in inside a greathouse-style lobby with a view straight through to the water, glasses of champagne fizzing in their hands. The new standards of Sandals luxury first come into effect in its guestrooms—spacious rooms and suites lit mainly by the Exumas’ tropical sunshine and kissed by its ocean breezes. Nearly every guestroom here has a view of the ocean, from the “bay houses” that rise above the resort grounds with sea-facing balconies, to the villa suites, set as close to the beach as you can get on the property. Only a grassy sand dune separates clients’ spacious balconies from the clear, turquoise water of The Bahamas. That’s a perfect place to enjoy private, pre-dinner drinks from the minibar, stocked with premium brand liquors, or indulge in a meal for two ordered from the resort’s 24-hour room service.

Sandals resorts are about intimacy, first and foremost, and this one is no exception. But if you’re booking a group that’s larger than two—say, for instance, a wedding party—they have you covered, too. The Royal Villa, a 3-bedroom home that hosted “The Big Break” reality TV show, gives couples traveling together enough space to enjoy each other’s company in its expansive living room, dining room and outdoor pool area. And there’s also enough space for individual couples to enjoy their privacy. The master bathroom is large enough to live in, with second-story views of the ocean from its bathtub, while the bedroom sports walk-in closets and two separate balconies. For wedding parties prepping for the big day, or just a few couples vacationing together, the Royal Villa is a perfect fit.

the swing of it The par 72, 7,200-yard, Greg Norman-designed golf course Sandals inherited from Four Seasons when it took over the property, lies innocently along the sea, luring golfers in with picturesque and relaxing views of a blue horizon. Then they try to golf, and all that relaxation goes right out the window. Players here battle prevailing trade winds, blowing right off the water. At its most breezy, the resort’s golf pros have reported seeing golfers hit their balls directly out to sea, only to have those balls sail back at them and land just a few feet from where they started.

Of course, that’s not to say the course is impossible, just challenging (especially on low-breeze days). Clients can adjust their play with sets of five tee-off spots at each hole. But the resort pros do recommend that players bring a good amount of extra balls, regardless of their experience on the greens.

There’s one other thing that sets golf at Sandals Emerald Bay apart from Sandals’ other golf properties: the cost. Golf is not included at Emerald Bay; $175 gets clients a cart, yardage book and three golf balls, while club rental costs $60. No caddies are available.

Adjacent to the golf course, Sandals’ marina and clubhouse give both boaters and golfers a place to relax after a day on the water or a day on the course. The 151 slips here have been a temporary home to boats owned by the likes of Tiger Woods and Greg Norman. Inside the clubhouse, guests have access to WiFi Internet access, TVs, a library and a bar, all in contemporary, Tommy Bahama-esque decor.

Back on property, the Red Lane Spa takes up a full two stories, plus a series of lush, inviting outdoor areas. With 22 indoor treatment rooms and another six locations outside, the facility ranks among Sandals’ biggest spas. Relaxation areas on both floors offer ocean views, while locker rooms include hot and cold plunge pools, steam rooms and even a small swimming pool outside. With three couples’ suites, two hydrotherapy rooms, four Vichy rooms and VIP rooms with a toilet and complimentary champagne and fruit, the spa offers an expansive list of state-of-the-art treatments. After their service, clients can take a bit of the spa home with them, with Red Lane-branded spa products on offer in the spa lobby.