MARSH HARBOUR, Bahamas -- With a location on the Sea of Abaco, the Abaco Beach Resort & Boat Harbour is well known in boating circles.

What its owners, Manny Alexiou and Peter Sweetling, want known is that the 52-acre property has a "first-rate hotel," according to Alexiou.

"We are more than just a boat harbor," he said.

Although most of the resort's revenues have come from its 180-slip marina, Alexiou is now focusing on the hotel.

The resort has completed a $5 million renovation and expansion project, due in part to damage caused by Hurricane Floyd last fall.

Abaco Beach Resort officially reopened in March with new boat docks, 20 new oceanfront rooms and four one-bedroom suites.

A third floor with 10 deluxe oceanfront rooms will open in December.

The hotel now has 76 rooms, four one-bedroom suites and six two-bedroom cottages.

Improvements include new tile flooring, bathroom fixtures and bedroom soft goods.

Amenities include air conditioning, satellite television, minirefrigerators, coffeemakers and hair dryers.

The decor is fresh with splashes of color and wicker and oak furniture.

Also updated was Angler's Restaurant, which serves three meals a day.

The restaurant's decor now features lighter wood, high ceilings and large windows on three walls, with views of the marina, the Sea of Abaco and sunsets.

The menu offers Caribbean-style seafood and meat dishes at dinner; light fare at lunch, and traditional items, such as cinnamon raisin French toast, at breakfast.

The 180-slip marina is fully operational, according to Nick Watson, general manager of the resort.

The marina can accommodate vessels up to 200 feet long and is equipped with water, cable television and telephone hookups.

Watson said the resort's busiest period is from April though June, due to the five fishing tournaments it hosts during that period.

Nothing goes to waste in the tournaments, according to Adrian Knowles, concierge.

"Whatever fish the tournament participants do not want to keep is given to the locals and workers," he said.

The final tournament of this season is the Boat Harbour Family Tournament, set for July 30 to Aug. 3.

Many of the resort's activities center on the water.

"Guests don't need experience to take out a boat," said Alexiou.

"With a little instruction, radio contact and land in sight, they can explore and have a great time on their own."

Abaco Beach Resort Dive Center, on the hotel's grounds, offers snorkeling and dive excursions, scuba courses and equipment rentals. The center is certified to handle handicapped divers, as well.

Rates range from $35 to $75 per person for dives.

Seahorse Rentals has hourly and daily rentals of small boats designed for touring the outer cays.

Water-sports equipment includes windsurf boards, Hobie Cat sailboats and paddle boats.

Bonefishing, deep-sea fishing, shoal and reef fishing can be arranged.

Landlubbers can opt for beach volleyball, tennis or the swim-up bar at one of the two freshwater pools.

Guests with a hankering to spend money can head for nearby T-Zer's gift shop and Little Switzerland.

Also within walking distance is Marsh Harbour, which has a variety of shops, restaurants and a four-screen movie theater.

Additional features planned at the resort are a dock promenade along the waterfront; boat hookups; outdoor seating at Angler's restaurant, and Internet connections for guest rooms.

The resort also is adding a direct path from the main road to the hotel rooms for guests arriving with a rental car.

The new road will run adjacent to the current path to hotel rooms and will be wider to accommodate full-size cars.

With its own marina as well as proximity to the ferry docks, Abaco Beach Resort is an ideal starting point for island-hopping excursions.

Taxi fare from the airport to the resort is approximately $10 for two people. Additional passengers are charged an extra fee.

From the resort to the ferry dock, the fare is about $2.

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI