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  • Writer's picturethefamilyvacationenthusiast

Atlantis Paradise Island or Baha Mar? Which Resorts Comes Out on Top for Families


Planning a family vacation to the Bahamas? You're in for a treat! Pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and luxurious accommodations await. But with two major resorts vying for your attention, Atlantis Paradise Island and Baha Mar, choosing the perfect fit for your crew can be tricky. Both resorts offer a world of water adventures, delectable dining options, and exciting activities. However, when it comes to catering to families with varying ages and interests, one might stand out from the sandy shores. Let's dive in and explore the unique offerings of Atlantis and Baha Mar to help you decide which Bahamian paradise will be the perfect backdrop for your unforgettable family getaway!



Accommodations


When it comes to accommodations, both Atlantis and Baha Mar offer a range of options to suit different budgets. For those seeking top-tier luxury, Atlantis boasts The Cove, an exclusive enclave with butler service, private terraces, and unparalleled ocean views. Baha Mar counters with the opulent Rosewood Baha Mar, featuring stunning beachfront suites, infinity pools, and lavish in-room amenities.


For mid-tier options, Atlantis offers The Royal Towers and Coral Towers, providing spacious and well-appointed rooms with balconies overlooking the iconic Aquaventure waterpark. Baha Mar's Grand Hyatt Baha Mar delivers a similar experience, with luxurious rooms, multiple pools, and convenient access to the casino and Baha Mar's extensive dining scene.


Finally, budget-conscious travelers will find The Reef and Harbor View at Atlantis, offering comfortable accommodations at a more affordable price point. The offsite property, Comfort Suites Paradise Island also provides an option for budget-conscious families to stay nearby while still having full access to Atlantis facilities. Baha Mar doesn't have a designated budget option, but occasionally offers special deals on rooms at their various properties.


When it comes to hotel loyalty programs, Atlantis and Baha Mar cater to different reward program loyalists. For Marriott Bonvoy members, At Atlantis, stays at The Royal Towers, Coral Towers, Beach Tower, and Harbor View allow families to earn and redeem points within the Marriott Bonvoy program. This translates to potential free nights, room upgrades, and priority check-in based on your membership status. Baha Mar, however, embraces a multi-brand approach. The Grand Hyatt Baha Mar caters to World of Hyatt loyalists, allowing them to collect and redeem points and enjoy member benefits like upgrades. Similarly, the SLS Baha Mar welcomes ALL - Accor Live Limitless members, offering them the chance to leverage their existing points and potentially score exclusive perks like room upgrades or priority access.



Animal Encounters


Coming out on top in this category with its wide-array of animal encounters is Atlantis. The highlight of their program for most families is the dolphin experiences. These range from the dolphin encounter suitable for all ages (my 18 month old participated and enjoyed their brief program) to immersive experiences including swimming, snorkeling and junior trainer experiences. Complementing the dolphin experiences, there are also a wide variety of animal encounters with other species including snorkeling with stingrays, playing with sea lions and even an overnight camping experience on the beach.


Baha Mar has several wonderful experiences for families as well. While they don't have dolphins, they do have sharks, sting rays, and sea turtles. Programs range from paid touch tank experiences to free viewing through a swim up tank at the Blue Hole Pool. If your family prefers to stay on land, don't miss the flamingo parade each morning or extend your time with your new pink friends through an encounter experience or flamingo yoga session.



Waterpark


Now let's compare the main attraction at each resort - their waterparks.


Size and Inclusions:


Atlantis' waterpark, named Aquaventure, boasts an impressive size of 141 acres. This size accounts for their water play areas, slides and rides, and pools that are scattered across the resort. The entire resort can be enjoyed by both resort guests and by families that purchase day passes.


Baha Mar's waterpark, Baha Bay, is 15 acres. While this may seem likes it pales in comparison to Aquaventure, it is important to note that this size only includes the water play areas, slides, and lazy river in the dedicated waterpark space. The entire facility is also brand new in contrast to Atlantis whose waterpark is beginning to show its age. Families that purchase day passes will be limited to utilizing only the waterpark area for food and entertainment. For resort guests, there are an additional pools and dining areas scattered throughout the property to enjoy.


Water Attractions:


Toddlers and Preschoolers


Atlantis reserves a section of their waterpark for the use of the smallest guests. In one section, find water cannons, a shallow pool, and a small waterslide perfect for an adventurous kid to do solo or a nervous adventurer to go with a parent. Adjacent to this area is another zero entry pool area that leads to deeper waters or to a water play structure with a couple more slides for young kids to enjoy.



Baha Mar has a fun, and colorful, answer for families looking to satisfy the smallest members in their groups with its Turtle Beach area. This area contains a section of 5 brightly colored slides that kept my 18 month old and 3-year old busy every morning of our week-long trip. Both children were able to use the slides independently, but adults and older siblings are able to accompany children on the slides as well which was great to build up their confidence to attempt them solo. Located adjacent to the slides are some playful water squirters to run through and a shallow pool with small waterfall features to swim or practice retrieving underwater rings or other toys.



Children Ages 5-10


Baha Bay is a clear winner for this age-group with a dedicated water play structure named Stingray Cove for those ready to advance from the smaller waterslides but not yet ready, or tall enough, for the more extreme slides and water rides. The best part is there are no height requirements on these slides so siblings are free to play together in this area.


Image courtesy of Baha Mar Resort


Older Children and Adults


Both resorts showcase thrill rides for the adrenaline-seekers in the group. Perhaps the most well-known among the crowd is Leap of Faith at Atlantis. This waterslide takes thrill-seekers 60 feet through a clear tunnel filled with marine animals. The Abyss offers a similar experience through an underwater tunnel. Rounding out the thrill rides at Atlantis are three thrilling tube rides, a dual-racing slide all with a minimum rider height of 48".


Image courtesy of Atlantis Paradise Island Resort


Leading the thrills at Baha Bay is the Thunderball waterslide sending users down an almost completely vertical, 6 story freefall. If you find that one too intense (we won't tell if you turn around in line, we saw plenty of people that did), there are several other solo slides, dual racing slides, and tube rides to enjoy. Like Atlantis, all thrill rides have a height requirement of 48". Unique to Baha Mar is a surf simulator also located within Baha Bay and ready for your family to enjoy.


Image courtesy of Baha Mar Resort



Dining


High-End


Both resorts boast a number of fine dining restaurants for guests looking to celebrate a special occasion or just live it up on their family vacation. Atlantis has Nobu, known for its tapas size shareable plates as well as Cafe Martinique (French), Fish by Jose Andres (aptly focused on seafood specialties) and newcomer Paranza, for your Italian fix.


Baha Mar also has a wide variety of flavors with its high-end dining. Carna, the signature steakhouse had perhaps the most flavorful wagyu steak I've ever tasted, Costa (Mexican) has wonderful guacamole and ambiance, and Cleo is known for its Mediterranean fare.


Both resorts fine dining offerings have a predictably high price tag to match. My hands down pick to spend our hard-earned cash is Baha Mar. The food alone may be excuse enough to return to the resort, it is that delicious.


Budget Finds


While neither resort highlights cheap eats on their site, there are some relative deals to be had if you know where to look.


One of the most well-known spots at Atlantis for a relative bargain is Murray's Deli. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this casual eatery has delicious food for a relatively decent price. One of the best meals we had at Atlantis was actually one of the least expensive. The location? Bimini Road (formerly Johnny's Gone Bananas). I still think about the cheeseburger I had there in a completely unassuming atmosphere. Rounding out the list at Atlantis is the newly-constructed Shake Shack. With locations popping up in countries across the world, Shake Shack is consistently delicious with their signature burgers, fries, and shakes. It's a go-to for my family whether we're looking for a quick and easy meal on vacation or at home.


Walk around Baha Mar at any time of day and you will likely see families carrying around pizza boxes from Pizza Lab. While spending $30 for a large pizza at home may not be your idea of a bargain, it is a relatively good deal in the land of resort dining prices. It also allows you to eat at the restaurant or take your meal to enjoy outside or in the comfort of your room after a long day of excursions or running around the waterpark. There are also a number of food stands open until 5pm every day for an unfussy lunch or early dinner. Our favorites were El Jefe and Da Poke Bowl. If you intend on hitting these at lunchtime, our recommendation is to arrive early. Waits can be long as lines tend to build around noon. Rounding out our tips for budget-friendly eating is Baha Mar's kids eat free deal. This allows children under 5 to eat for free at a number of restaurants around property any saved our family of 4 a significant amount of money by the end of our vacation. Click here for the latest list of participating restaurants.


Dining Tips


The restaurants at both properties are popular and can fill up quickly. We recommend making reservations as soon as you are able to avoid disappointment and to be able to select the dining time you prefer. If you don't manage to snag a table at all of your preferred locations, check the reservations sites periodically as groups may cancel and open up space. We were able to snag several reservations at the last minute by being vigilant. If you are a cardmember of any cards with concierge services, agents may also be able to assist you in securing coveted dining slots - our Amex Platinum card came in handy for this.


Other Attractions


Boredom is not an option at either of these resorts. Let's take a lot at some of the other notable resort highlights to keep your family entertained:


Atlantis

Baha Mar

Beaches

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Scuba Diving

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Kids Club

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Casino

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Mini Golf


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Arcade


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Fitness Center

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Spa

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Cooking Classes


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Daily Resort Activities

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Our Pick


For most families, our recommendation would be Baha Mar. The brand new water park and additional amenities that adorn the property are a major selling point and the delicious food we found superior to Atlantis. However, if animal encounters are the number one item on your family's list, this might tip the scale to Atlantis.


Bottom line, your family is bound to enjoy a memorable time at either resort. You really can't go wrong.


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