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Sandals Emerald Bay

Queen's Hwy.
Great Exuma , Bahamas http://www.sandals.com/main/emerald/em-home.cfm
(888) 726-3257

Before this luxurious property arrived in the laid-back Exumas in 2004, the only lodging options were modest mom-and-pop operations. And yes, there were some concerns that a sprawling resort with a Greg Norman golf course, a 60-slip marina, a 17-room spa, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a 5,000-square-foot casino, and fine-dining restaurants would change the essential timbre of this necklace of tiny islands and cays. But even curmudgeonly old-schoolers may be swayed by the lovely island-style décor in the 183 rooms and suites (sophisticated antique repros, pineapple-and-palm-print fabrics, tile floors, rattan ceiling fans). And it's hard not to like the super-attentive staffers, who arrange everything from private snorkeling excursions to finding coloring books, bath toys, and baby shampoo for little ones.

Tip: To get a taste of real Exumas culture, visit during the last week of April, when the Family Island sailing regatta brings Bahamian boaters and their fans out to celebrate the races around Great Exuma’s Elizabeth Harbour.

Room to Book: A ground-floor, beachfront room (no-brainer) gives you direct access to the fluffy white sand.

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