by Steve Jermanok
With Paradise Island’s mega-resorts and the cruise ship hubs of Freeport and Nassau, you may be inclined to think that the Bahamas is merely a glitzy mix of casinos, floor shows, and duty-free shops. But there’s another side of the Bahamas, not well known, where you can relax in quiet settings imbued with an unvanquished simplicity that is, nowadays, something of a miracle. They are called the Out Islands. It takes far more effort than a chartered flight to reach these remote outposts, but you’ll earn your reward once you arrive.
Consider the journey to the Bahamian retreat called Harbour Island. To get there, you have to change planes in Nassau, Miami, or Fort Lauderdale, then fly to the North Eleuthera airport. Here, you take a cab to a dock where a water taxi awaits to motor you across the mile-wide channel. By the time you arrive, you probably won’t care about the 200-year-old Victorian homes painted kelly green, shocking pink, or rich mustard. Nor will you be very social with the locals who congregate under a large fig tree at the dock. Not to worry. Within moments, you’ll be whisked away by golf cart to the family-favorite Coral Sands Hotel, where a pina colada will be planted in your hand, the perfect remedy for any travel-weary body. If that doesn’t do the trick, a few minutes later your clan will be strolling on Harbour Island’s best-loved feature, a nearly deserted three-mile beach, that on closer inspection, really is flecked with pink-colored grains of sand. Aaaah, welcome to paradise.
Our Editor Loves
- Location overlooking a pink sand beach
- Intimate size: Just 39 rooms
- Up-to-date rooms and suites
- Horse Back Riding
- Water Sports
- Family Room 5+
- Game Room
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
Coral Sands has just finished a major renovation on all 39 rooms, which includes ten different styles to choose from. All of the rooms are homey, with natural light pouring in and more than enough L'Occitane products to moisturize your body after days out in the sun. Yet, some of the British colonial style lodging options are more suited for families than others. The Ocean View Junior Suite has a king-sized bed, a sleeper that pulls out to sleep two children, a large bathroom with shower and bath, and a wonderful balcony with unforgettable vistas of the sea and long stretch of beach. For more space, you have the choice of the One-Bedroom Ocean View Master Suite, with two rooms and two terraces, or the most luxurious accommodation on premises, the Beach House, with two master suites. Walk out the front door and you're stepping onto the sand.
Takeytia Hudson in Siren Song went above and beyond to help me! I bought a pair of earrings in this shop that I literally never took off. She was amazing!! The hotel is beautiful and the gift shop has lovely items! Do not miss lunch at Beach Bar either! Love it! Thank you Takeytia!
Spent a week here in august right before the place was closing for the season...in all honesty there is no hotel that is perfect however this hotel made for a perfect vacation..the rooms are comfortable they are not 5 star luxury but frankly who needs that when you are staying one of the nicest beaches in the world...
I found the service to be great from the top to the bottom..Pamela who runs the place is a great host without being to invasive..all the staff were super nice..loved all the girls at the front desk..the only area where they can need a little training is at the beach I would say the service is very limited in that area..but it was not a problem at all. Food was very good ..we ate at the Dunmore the last night and frankly I think the place is over hyped...food at Coral Sands is better sans the attitude. All in all a lovely time
Most guests spend their day under one of the palm thatched huts on the beach. Complimentary buckets and shovels are yours for the taking if you want to create that perfect pink sand castle. Or grab one of the boogie boards and sea kayaks and hit the turquoise waters. Be sure to bring a mask and snorkel because the clear waters and reefs are teeming with green coral, lavender sea fans, parrotfish, and the occasional sting ray. If kids prefer fresh water to salt water, there's a heated pool just off the beach that's surrounded by the manicured lawn and a ring of swaying palms.
Scuba divers will relish The Arch, a grotto where schools of grunts and barracudas hide behind a coral archway that slopes downward from 65 to 110 feet. The hotel will also arrange a charter for anglers who want to try their luck hooking the elusive bonefish. Harbour Island is one of the finest places in the world for this sport. Firm white sand flats and shallow water rings the island. On a clear day, when the visibility is excellent, you can easily spot the shimmering scales of the quick darting bone. The challenge is getting one of these suckers to take your bait.
Back on terra firma, horseback riding is available on the beach or you can play tennis on one of the courts that are lit at night. By all means, do whatever it takes to tear yourself away from Coral Sands and see the rest of Harbour Island. This three-mile-long, half-mile-wide island looks as if someone shrank Nantucket and plopped it down in the tropics. The lone hamlet of Dunmore Town is a cluster of narrow, twisting streets lined with 18th-century clapboard houses, many built by British loyalists who fled to the island after the Revolutionary War. Today, golf carts and bicycles have replaced carriages as the preferred means of transport, chugging down streets that overflow with blossoms. A stroll down a shady lane and you'll find women in flowered hats happy to say hello and roosters crowing in backyards.
Indeed, the island's greatness is the sum of all the amenities it lacks. No nightclubs or casinos. No buildings higher than the tree line. Almost nothing to buy. It's as if someone very powerful, several decades ago, saw the exponential commercial growth in Nassau and Freeport and decided that Harbour Island would remain status quo - that the sun and surf were sufficient.
At night, return to the hotel and head to the library, more a game room than stacks filled with dusty books. Play a game of pool, one of the many board games, or watch a flick with the family on the big television.
For lunch, everyone heads to the Beach Bar, overlooking the sand and water, for a plate of conch fritters, grilled pineapple and shrimp, or blackened grouper. For children, there's a black angus burger, a wide assortment of pizzas, and the requisite chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream for dessert.
Following a multi-million dollar renovation, the hotel added a fine dining restaurant for dinner: Latitude 25, which is French-inspired and local cuisine.
Dinner next door at the Terrace Restaurant features the best of gourmet Caribbean fare. Start with lobster summer rolls or crab cakes doused in a cucumber-peanut relish. Then move on to entrees of coconut-crusted mahi mahi in a slightly spicy red curry sauce, herb crusted rack of lamb, or the Caribbean bouillabaisse, chockfull of lobster, green mussels, clams, shrimp, and red snapper.
Off-property, The Harbour Lounge has a porch overlooking the ferry dock that's ideal for a sunset cocktail. They also feature a conch salad which they say is an aphrodisiac. Miss Mae's Tea Room is an antiques and linens store that doubles as a gourmet deli in the walled-in garden. It's a good stop for afternoon sandwiches and a pot of Earl Grey. For over 25 years, Angela's Starfish Restaurant has been a favorite spot for down-home cooking. Perched on a hill overlooking the water, you place your order inside, and then take dinner out to the garden, where lamps made from seashells rest on white tables. Their signature dish is conch salad, made with chunks of the shellfish, diced vegetables, tangy lime juice and hot peppers. Wash it down with sweet lemonade or a Kalik beer and then try the guava doff. Rich dough is wrapped around guava paste, steamed, and served with a sinful amount of rum, cream, and egg sauce.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
Since Coral Sands is a boutique resort with only 36 rooms, they can cater to your every whim, whether it's a need for babysitting or setting up excursions to go horseback riding, scuba diving, or bonefishing. They'll even go that extra mile to arrange a picnic on a deserted beach or take you to Sunday mass at one of the historic churches on the island. All you have to do is ask.
The Art of Smart Timing
Prime hurricane season is from August to November. Prices are reduced in mid-April, when it still might be cold in many parts of northern U.S. and Canada, but just right down in these parts. Visit between holidays and hurricane season for quiet beaches, when kids are still in school (except for yours, if you're able to travel with them for a bit during the year).
For Mom and Dad
As noted, babysitting is available, if you want to dine at the Terrace Restaurant all by your lonesome. Or wander over to the nearby Pink Sands hotel for another gourmet dining experience. Their main dining room features a fusion of international tastes, most notably Asian and Caribbean. Sit yourself down in the al fresco garden setting and get ready for a four-course feast. Appetizers include coconut curried grouper fingers marinated in Thai seasonings or lobster and pumpkin bisque. For entrees, try the teriyaki tuna or roast pinenut crusted rack of lamb. Save room for dessert, the rich pecan caramel pie a la mode.