Room Key: Four Seasons Resort Great Exuma
Address: Queen's Highway, Great Exuma, Bahamas
Phone: (242) 336-6800; (800) 819-5053
Rooms: 140 rooms, 43 suites and 18 multibedroom residences
Rates: From $295 to $6,800 per room, per night, double, depending on season.
Thanks to a last-minute flight
cancellation, which resulted in a six-hour layover in Fort
Lauderdale, my family and I were all cranky when we boarded the
tiny, 19-seater to Great Exuma in the Bahamas. "We spent a whole
day traveling," groused my usually easy-going teenage son. "All I
can say is, it'd better be good."
aerial views of some eye-popping scenery of the Exuma cays -- there
are 365 of them spread over 120 miles -- our good humor was
restored by the time we arrived at the diminutive airport in George
We breezed through
immigration and climbed into a van for the 15-minute drive to the
Four Seasons Resort Great Exuma at Emerald Bay.
The reason for the
bay's name didn't hit us until the next day when we looked beyond
white-sand beaches to the teal-green water. Not wanting to waste any time
getting into that water, we signed up for a catamaran excursion
aboard the 63-foot Emerald Lady, which took off from Elizabeth
Harbor for an hour or so of snorkeling among colorful fish at a
After a few turns
on the boat's water slide, we set sail again for Stocking Island,
where we ate lunch and logged some serious time in hammocks and
beach chairs. After lunch, we waded into
the crystal clear water to cool off.
My daughter nudged
me. "Look, a trumpet fish," she said, pointing to one and then
several nearly translucent, slender fish swimming within a foot of
where we were standing.
"Never mind them,"
said my son, looking over his shoulder.
stingrays were swimming nearby, their wings furling as they skimmed
the sandy ocean bottom. We stood still as the rays swam toward us,
but they veered away and headed for shore.
The rays seemed
intent on positioning themselves near the grill. Sure enough, the
cook tossed a few pieces of fish toward the rays, which explained
the reason for their visit.
The only thing that
would have made the day any more perfect would have been a spa
treatment. With this in mind, I abandoned the kids, ages 14, 15 and
17, to my husband's care and made my way to the Four Seasons spa
for a 50-minute Balinese massage.
Meanwhile, the kids
found the teen center in a building just behind the casino. The
center had a flat-screen TV, pool tables, air hockey tables, a
dance arcade game, video games and several computers. A room key is
necessary for entry.
younger children can take advantage of the Kids for All Seasons
program, which includes a playroom decked out with pint-size
furnishings and a pool.
A golf course and
tennis courts round out the offerings for guests who want
diversions beyond the beach and pool.
There are three
pools in all: the kids' pool, a central activity pool and a pool
set apart from the main action for adults looking for peace and
quiet. There also are several outdoor hot tubs.
The property has
three restaurants, and during our stay we hit them all. Il Cielo is
the gourmet eatery, complete with fresh seafood and Italian fare.
An extra touch: pashmina shawls on loan for women shivering at
The Sea Breeze
Grill offers buffet breakfasts and casual sit-down lunches and
dinners. Ting'm serves small plates and drinks by the
Guest rooms have
one king-size bed or two double beds. The two-story Royal Villa has
a private plunge pool.
Our family of five
was comfortably housed in a two-bedroom junior suite connected by a
living room with a pull-out couch. The suite had a private balcony
and three bathrooms.
As we had during
our stingray experience, we were struck by the lack of crowds
everywhere we went, which lent a private island sense to the
experience. Part of the reason for that: Our visit took place at
the end of June, considered low season. The hotel was at 40%
But even with a
full house, the island is uncrowded, with only about 6,000
inhabitants and a smattering of hotels.
When we made a trip
into George Town to see the sights, we discovered the island's
infrastructure was not designed to handle mass movement. A
scaled-down straw market lines the main street. While we saw a few
small stores along the main street, this is not an island for the
likely won't be hosting cruise passengers anytime soon, partly
because of the shallow water along the coast and the lack of
suitable cruise ship facilities, according to Jim Kostecky, general
manager of the Four Seasons.
What growth there
is on Great Exuma is taking place along Emerald Bay in the form of
townhouses and upscale homes. Kostecky noted that the quiet
atmosphere is one of the main draws for resort guests.
families make up the bulk of business at the property. "We have
seen an increase in destination weddings, which is a market we've
gone after, as well as multigenerational family groups in the last
few years," Kostecky said.
The resort works
with local vendors to supply activities. One of the most popular
excursions for couples, said Kostecky, is the Castaway Getaway. Two
guests are transported to an uninhabited island for the day with a
gourmet picnic lunch, drinks, chairs, umbrella, snorkel gear and a
radio or cell phone.
deep-sea fishing outings with local guides are available, as are
multiple scuba diving adventures through Dive Exuma. Other
favorites are glass-bottom boat tours and sea kayaking excursions
in Moriah Harbour Cay National Park.
contact reporter Felicity Long, send e-mail to [email protected].