The Hotel That Exceeded My Expectations: A Review of the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar
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To The Point
I went to the Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar in the Bahamas with, admittedly, low expectations. I was wrong. The pros: excellent, friendly service and polished design. The cons: average food and an overwhelming layout.
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When the Baha Mar resort complex in the Bahamas finally opened its doors three years after filing for bankruptcy, buyouts and controversy, the Grand Hyatt was the first hotel on the half-mile beachfront development to accept reservations. (It opened April 2017.)
As I prefer small, boutique properties (or high-end luxury brands), I will be the first to admit that I had low expectations for the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar, especially when compared to the hotel’s sister properties, run by Rosewood and SLS.
But despite its sheer size — 1,800 rooms spread across two main towers and a separate building for elite guests — the Grand Hyatt managed an almost magical feat: I felt, upon entering my room, as though I had accidentally checked into a brand-new property from a lifestyle brand.
The Grand Hyatt Baha Mar is a World of Hyatt category 5 hotel, meaning free nights cost 20,000 points, and since Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer to Hyatt at a 1:1 ratio, it’s easy to acquire the points needed for award stays at this property.
However, the cash rates were very reasonable at this property during my stay. We paid a total of $563 (not including a $32 daily resort fee and $21 daily service charge) for my two-night stay, with a Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, which earns 10x miles per dollar spent on hotel reservations when booked through the special link at hotels.com through Jan. 31, 2020. You can also stack this return with hotels.com rewards which awards one free night per every 10 paid nights, effectively giving us a 20% return on this reservation — one of the very best credit card returns you can get when spending cash on hotels.
Since I don’t have status with Hyatt, it made sense for me to book through hotels.com because of the great return the Venture Rewards card provides, but if you have status with Hyatt, you’ll definitely want to book direct, considering the benefits you’ll receive as an elite member. Since my stay wasn’t booked directly, I only earned points on purchases that I made while on the property — in this case a paltry 673 points, worth only about $12 according to TPG’s latest valuations.
Set squarely between the Rosewood and the SLS, the Grand Hyatt’s two massive white towers are the centerpiece of the Baha Mar complex on Cable Beach. Fifteen minutes from Lynden Pindling International Airport (NAS), I was able to deplane, pass through customs, grab a cab and check in to the hotel in no more than 45 minutes.
Arriving by taxi from the airport, I was greeted by 40-foot waterfalls that framed the twin entrances to the Grand Hyatt. I was ushered into the East Tower, where I waited only a minute or two for a friendly front-desk agent.
At check-in, I was given a hotel map (a crucial and extremely informative document that not only detailed the Grand Hyatt’s amenities but also listed most of Baha Mar’s restaurants, bars and lounges) and a purple rubber wristband that identified me as a resort guest, not unlike those doled out on cruise ships.
The agent said all guests had access to Grand Hyatt amenities — the property’s six pools (seven, if you count the Cabana Club pool that’s only open to high-rollers) and 100,000-square-foot casino among them — because it was the “friendliest” of the three Baha Mar resorts. It was, to be sure, the least exclusive.
I was told that a room was ready for me in the West Tower, and was directed to exit the way I had come in order to enter the other tower — this struck me as a bit odd.
As I crossed through the massive revolving doors into the West Tower, I saw that the tower had what looked like its own reception desk, but that it was entirely unmanned. For my five-night stay at the resort complex, I never once saw anyone at that desk.
The West Tower’s elevator bay was decorated with blue, fan-shaped tiles, like gleaming fish scales. Even the elevators’ interiors evoked the ocean, with blue neon lighting, undulating sheets of silver and enlarged photographs of water.
When I arrived at my room, I found a beachy, wood-slatted door that opened into a light-filled room. I was immediately impressed with how the designers had elevated the interiors.
Large bathrooms with separate rainfall showers and partitioned toilets featured a large, glass wall adjacent to the bedroom. (A slatted, wooden pocket door made it easy to close off the shower for more privacy.)
The bathroom had all the essential amenities — green tea and cucumber-scented June Jacobs Spa Collection bath products, a hair dryer, a magnifying mirror, even a kit with Q-tips and an emery board.
My bed was fitted with crisp, white sheets, but I was disappointed with the pillows. They were just sort of… sad. I am an advocate of an excess of well-stuffed pillows on hotel beds, and this one didn’t quite win me over. When I lay down, the pillows gave a tremendous exhale and felt even more deflated than they looked.
Unfortunately, the bed itself — in my book, one of the single most important components of a hotel room — wasn’t particularly comfortable. And the comforter just didn’t seem long enough for it. Tug as I might throughout the night, I could never fully burrow in the blankets.
An upholstered chair with an ottoman sat in the corner, and a flat-screen TV occupied the wall across the bed, as did an illuminated vanity and a long white desk with an astonishing number of outlets and charging ports. I had a small unfurnished balcony — almost a French balcony — that overlooked the front entrance and the hotel’s Vegas-like fountains.
My room also had a locked door, an obvious sign that the Grand Hyatt’s rooms could easily be connected (ideal for families or groups traveling together). But I really dislike staying in rooms with this feature when I’m not taking advantage of it myself — call me paranoid, but a single deadbolt just doesn’t do enough for my peace of mind.
If you book a room at the Grand Hyatt, be aware that each tower sports a very different design. The East Tower, I would find out later, had an entirely different feel: dark blue walls, whimsical white molding and deep soaking bathtubs where I had only a shower. I happened to like my tower, but it seems to me travelers should be given some choice in the matter, especially when the room types are the same across the property.
Food and Beverage
With over 30 restaurants and lounges to choose from at the Baha Mar complex, the truly great dining experiences were offset by the misses. I ate my way through as many places as possible during my stay and never really felt like I was making any progress.
A highlight was breakfast at Café Madeleine, which served French pastries and casual, a la carte breakfast fare in a quiet corner of the resort. I had the namesake Oeufs de la Madeleine one morning: poached eggs on sourdough toast with caramelized onions, spinach, mushrooms and hollandaise sauce.
The eggs, though just slightly overcooked, were brilliant compared to the eggs I had at the Regatta Food Hall the day prior. For a $40 breakfast buffet, I found that the precooked egg dishes (a vegetable egg muffin and a cute single serving of shakshuka in a tiny cast-iron cocotte) were outright rubbery.
I probably would have had better luck at the omelet station, but I decided to cut my losses with miniature sweet-potato hash browns and fresh-cut fruit.
For dinner one evening, I followed a grand, curving staircase down to the resort’s fountain level, where the 3 Tides Fish House restaurant awaited me. There, I nibbled on complimentary cornbread with honey apple butter while waiting for my bouillabaisse with clams, mussels, salmon, sablefish, fennel and potato.
My waiter joked that I had a VIP seat, thanks to my view of the fountains, which, come evening, danced, twirled and glowed to contemporary pop songs. Having experienced the superior version in Dubai, though, I could have done without the loud interruptions.
Without a doubt, my favorite meal came in a plastic bowl. At the Conch Shack, hotel guests elbowed up to a U-shaped bar for a clear view of their conch salad being made to order. Conch, something you’ll probably eat a good deal of during your trip to the Bahamas, is a massive mollusk that is sometimes eaten raw, usually mixed with hot peppers, citrus juices, and julienned pepper, onion and tomato. (I’ve since regretted not returning to the Conch Shack during my stay, but alas, I felt it was my journalistic duty to take my appetite elsewhere.)
Other highlights from the overwhelming list of places to eat: the Jazz Bar, where musicians performed on an elevated bandstand behind the bar; the Drift Poolside Bar and Grill, which had excellent fried conch; and The Palms, another poolside bar where I enjoyed a much-needed salad at the end of my trip. Baha Mar also had a trio of colorful, converted Airstreams on the beach that served food to go (hot dogs, barbecue and casual Mexican with margaritas).
Though the casino, which sprawls across 100,000 square feet, is a focal point of the property, Grand Hyatt’s greatest strength is its six main pools. They all have a distinct vibe and are open to guests at all three Baha Mar hotels. (There is a seventh, but it’s only open to the casino’s high rollers.)
There’s the Fortune pool, with its swim-up bar, whirlpool alcove and a waterfall that spills over from the adjacent Reflections pool. This pool, however, is really not all that accessible to guests. I could only recall seeing someone swim there once, because in order to access the pool, you have to reserve one of its cabanas for $250, not including food or beverage purchases. (To put that in perspective, you can get a hotel room at the Grand Hyatt for that price.)
Families seemed to congregate around the cove-like Dean’s Blue Hole, with its sinkhole-inspired design that allows for a 15-foot jump. At this particular pool, there’s also a trio of waterfalls and underwater views from a grotto behind the waterfalls of the adjacent marine sanctuary’s sharks, rays and turtles.
Guests can also grab a partially submerged chaise lounge at the Out Island pool or the Drift pool, which also has white cabanas featuring curtains of water. Though not adults-only, that was definitely the vibe at the quieter, circular Elixir Pool, with its trio of plush, swim-up daybeds.
The pool grounds also have a handful of hot tubs, outdoor showers and well-maintained bathrooms that were pretty enough to photograph.
The Grand Hyatt Baha Mar is also home to the largest fitness center at the resort complex. I signed up for a decent $10 outdoor yoga class one morning, and the property also offers TRX classes and boot camps, among other lessons.
Then there was the ESPA spa, which, though I didn’t book any treatments, had lovely public spaces and relaxation rooms open to guests at any time. You can get one of the better views of Baha Mar from the spa balcony.
Great, friendly service was a highlight during my stay at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar. Though the resort had clearly gone to great lengths to keep people from getting lost (signs everywhere, mostly), I kept finding myself backtracking on footpaths and wandering around the casino floor, wondering if I’d ever find my way back to my room. It took me an entire day for me to locate the 3 Tides Fish House. Trying to get there only using the signs, I had almost moved on to a different restaurant when I realized it was downstairs. And so I found myself asking for directions, a lot. Yet I was never met with anything other than a smile, and maybe a chuckle — I suspect the staff members feel quite a lot like tour guides most days.
Otherwise, the experience was impressive for the most inexpensive room at the most inexpensive property at the resort. An excellent value and proof that even large resort hotels from major brands can execute stylish designs with a sense of place.
The Points Guy has comprehensive coverage of Baha Mar and the Bahamas — read all our stories here.