The iconic Atlantis resort seemingly rises up out of the ocean, and absolutely sprawls out across Paradise Island in the Bahamas. This resort has a colorful Disney-like vibe, with themed hotels, attractions, endless activities and crowds. Visiting (and surviving) your stay at Atlantis takes a little bit of planning, budgeting and a whole lot of patience. Don’t expect to do everything in one visit; you’ll be overwhelmed. Instead, do a little research and decide what appeals to you most, including activities and accommodations.
1. Where to Stay
Atlantis offers the gamut of choices when it comes to accommodations to cater to space needs, budget and desired amenities . The Beach and Coral Towers (the original two, built about 20 years ago) offer the most affordable accommodations. Rooms are a bit smaller, the lobbies are a little more spartan and amenities are a little more budget basic. The Royal Towers (which is the large building at the center of the resort, which you’ve likely seen in ads) offers more posh accommodations, and is located right at the Aquaventure park. The Cove and the Reef are at the top end of the budget, with more space and luxurious accommodations. The Cove offers adult-only perks (a nice touch with this family-friendly resort), including an adult -only beach section and pool. Located in the Marina area, is Harborside, which has one and two bedroom condominiums, including full kitchens and laundry facilities. Included with all accommodations is access to the Aquaventure and beaches, shuttle buses and admission to the aquariums and the library.
One thing’s for sure: at Atlantis you won’t go hungry! Guests can choose from snack shacks populating the beaches and waterparks, featuring standard snack foods along with Bahamian specialties, to family-style restaurants that are big on flavor and on portion size to gourmet options, including club dining, interactive dining and signature restaurants from acclaimed chefs. One word to the wise- if a particular restaurant appeals to you, make reservations right away. Many restaurants fill up quickly- even days in advance. Also, there is a 15 per cent gratuity automatically added to all bills (even at the snack shacks), so read your bill carefully.
Do you like your waterparks super-sized? Then you’ll love this one that spreads out over a staggering 141 acres. There are your standard water slides- raft rides that twist and turn and thrill, along with some crazy body slides. The Abyss features a 50 ft near vertical drop plunging you into the dark. Regular water slides too tame for you? The Leap of Faith is aptly named, with a near 60 ft vertical drop out of a replica Mayan Temple that lets you accumulate some serious speed- to flow your way right through shark-filled lagoon (you are encased within the waterslide, of course). Aquaventure’s lazy river is far from lazy. Think whitecaps and waves, tossing you about on the River Rapids. Crowds are large around this park, and inner tubes for the raft rides are a hot commodity. A tip: Enter the River Rapids at one of it’s many small entry points along the way, where there are far less people (and more tubes), rather than the main beach/entry point for the ride.
Atlantis has a massive marine environment, with some 11 million gallons of saltwater, 50,000 sea creatures and over 200 species represented. The Dig, located in the Royal Towers, replicates the lost city of Atlantis, and guests wander through tunnels filled with artifacts and a wide variety of marine life to observe. If snorkeling out in the open water isn’t your thing, you can snorkel through the aquariums at the Dig. Located in the Coral Towers is Predators Lagoon, filled with sharks, barracudas and other toothy marine animals. A highlight- a clear tunnel running through the aquarium allows you to observe the fish and marine animals from below, and you can also take some really cool “underwater” pictures of the Royal Towers above.
5. The Beach
If you are a beach lover, than you’ll love the miles of beaches available along Atlantis’s shoreline. Each one of their beaches has a distinct vibe all its own. The largest, Atlantis Beach, offers the most space, but is also public, meaning that you’ll encounter a number of vendors and expect to pay for things like umbrellas. Paradise Beach, located between the Reef and the Cove hotels is serene, with cushy chairs and shade covers. The Cove Beach has awesome snorkeling and tends to be slightly less crowded than the others. A tip: Can’t find a beach chair? Ask one of the attendants to help seat you. They don’t permit “saving” of chairs, and if people have left only towels behind, they will be happy to remove them to find you a seat.
Don’t be deceived. This resort is huge, and expect to walk a lot. The resort does provide shuttle buses that run between the different hotels very regularly, starting for the most part around 8am in the morning until midnight (although some do run later). A word of warning: for those who plan to hike it, expect that you are going to be walking an awful lot even after the bus drops you off. You many want to save some of those steps by hopping on one of those buses.
When you’re not sunning on the beach or whirling your way down the water slides, there is no shortage of entertainment options. Atlantis is home to the largest casino in the Caribbean, expanding over 60,000 square feet. There is also an on-site comedy club, and magic shows. There is a full-sized movie theater showing recently released movies, as well as a full library from which to borrow your beach read. Kids (up to age 12) will enjoy Atlantis Kids Adventures and their ongoing roster of kids activities. Tweens and teens have their own spot to go at night time, with age appropriate nightclubs (complete with ID and cover charge).
8. Dolphin Cay
If taking a waterslide through a shark tank isn’t enough of a marine encounter for you, visit the expansive Dolphin Cay, where guests can swim with dolphins (either underwater or have a shallow water encounter) or have an experience with sea lions. For the really enthusiastic, you can be a trainer for a day. Like with the restaurants at Atlantis, you are advised to reserve well in advance, as spots are limited and fill up quickly.