Lovely Grand Bahama! A review of Coral Beach Hotel and Condos

Christmas 2003, I decided to use my annual bonus to give my husband a gift (and of course, myself) -- a trip to Grand Bahama for our 9th anniversary in April -- a honeymoon we never had. AirTran had a great deal on tickets - $99/one way (and taxes were all included) - I couldn't resist! Grand Bahama was not quite what we expected but it really grew on us. Immediately upon entering the airport you begin to miss the "spoils" of modern technology that we have in the United States. Modern technology is what keeps us independent, but providing services is how Bahamians make their money, so please remember to tip. The people were very cordial, but it seemed that whenever we asked for directions, no one knew how to get anywhere - the Island residents, I mean, so that's frustrating. It was like being in NYC or Atlanta again! People live there but never go out of their immediate circles. Only those who "drive" for a living know how to get from here to there. So my husband and I relied heavily on our navigational skills. We chose to stay in a studio condo, rented out by an owner of a couple of condos at the Coral Beach Hotel (on the internet). His offer was a rate of $85/night, $50 for cleaning fee (upon guest departure) and for an additional $150, use of a car, too. (Driving on the left was not as "scary" as I thought it would be) What a steal! We stayed 6 nights. Upon arrival at the hotel, our "tourist hospitality" stopped and demand of independence stepped in. When we checked in, we were given our room key and two extra large shopping carts to tote our luggage and coolers to our room. The front desk people were cordial, but strictly there for answering questions or attending to other matters in running the hotel. Guests are on their own. Though the hotel was a bit on the "old" side compared to the lavish Sheraton or Royal Oasis and the room was more like an apartment well lived-in by friends taking turns with it as their vacations rotated 'round the calendar year, it was suitable enough for the two of us, even kinda cute, first aparment-like. A nice, non-expensive place to stay, equipped with all the necessities of home. Everything from an iron with board to tissue boxes and all the utensils and potware needed for the kitchen. No matching towels or matching chinaware, but everything was clean and neat. Cute kitchenette with stove, full refrigerator and microwave, and we brought all of our food from the US. The stories we heard about paying $7 for a box of Raisin Bran in the Bahamas absolutely horrified us. We really wanted this trip, but on a budget since we are the parents of three small children. Getting past the disappointment of no glitz and glamour at our residence for the week, we discovered the real treasure of our place of stay. We were literally on the beach. Less than 100 feet away! A quick little walk through the beautiful courtyard, filled with bright tropical flowers, fruit trees and well manicured lawns, past the pool, exercise room and food/bar stand and wella! The Beach! It was gorgeous and somewhat secluded. The blue water was so pretty and the warm sunshine was so tantalizing that you just want to lie down and just bask in it, which of course is what we did -- shocking everyone we know upon our return home with these 4 times darker than normal skin tone tans! Our room was equipped with both air conditioner and a ceiling fan, so in April with only 80-85 degree weather, the ceiling fan with the patio door open brought enough tropical breeze to cool the studio. Speaking of the patio, have no fear of the little curly-tailed lizards! They were a frequent visitor to the patio door! They do run from you when you approach them, but my husband had a different experience. While napping out on a lawn chair on the patio, a lizard jumped on him. Probably though he was a tree trunk, it was hilarious, but of course you had to be there! Our two disappointments were that 1) only basic cable was offered in our room - no HBO, Showtime or Cinemax, but all the better to get us out of that room and onto exploring the island! We did however bring our X-Box, so we had DVDs and game CDs to play when we were done exploring. And 2) Grand Bahama really does not offer "night life" in terms of dressing up in your Saturday night's best for a night out on the town. We did that and went to the casinos (only 2 there), and a couple of the "bar/clubs" that were open. Everyone there were still dressed in shorts and tank tops or maybe a nice pair of slacks and a cute little top, nothing fancy. We definitely stood out like tourists. We hurried back to our room and changed! People said that the "night life" was just gone from Grand Bahama. Given that, we took a step back and looked around. Almost half of the community consisted of senior citizens. Ah, yes, the retirement plan. Why deal with the craziness of Florida Spring Breakers? Own a piece of an island. What a beautiful idea! Funny we noticed also that our hotel was dark and quiet around 11:30pm, too. A quiet that we came to really appreciate given our normal household of consisted of extreme madness from our 3, 5, and 10 year olds! The peace also brought us a chance to be closer with no interruption. Our vacation really became a "Lovefest", if you will. We had not been this intimate with each other since before our firstborn. Long walks, long talks, etc. We just didn't realize how much we really missed being alone with each other. So if you're looking for a vacation that you can just grab a quick duffle bag and stuff it with enough shorts and underwear to last your stay, a vacation offering lots of water sports, a little gambling, quiet night strolls on the beach and excellent opportunity of intimacy with your loved one, Grand Bahama is what you're looking for. We've been back almost two weeks now and already planning our next trip there -- but better prepared with more precise expectations. A word of advice on your choice of accommodations. If your dream vacation consisting of an elaborate modern hotel with kitchen, bar, and hotel staff to service you and take you on tours or entertain your family, look into one of the commercial hotels. However, personally, we think we got the better end of the deal, staying in a condo and not being lead around by tourism -- not to mention the Attack of the Resort Salespeople and their 3 hour tours -- which you are more subject to when you stay in the "mainstream" of tourist hotels!. We're explorers, have always travelled to new places in the U.S., with a map and a cup of cappucino, only ever getting lost maybe a mile or two before we discovered our mistake. But it's an adventure! My husband, the pilot, and me, the navigator, our family has explored and visited many places that we've never been, chock full of adventure and excitement, and now we can put Grand Bahama on our "conquered" list. Beautiful Grand Bahama, wonderful place to visit, and possibly live there, too.

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