For years, the Atlantis Bahamas advertising, which seems ubiquitous here in the Northeast in the winter months, enticed me to book a family vacation, but I always hesitated because of the price tag. Yet that marketing kept taunting me, so when my in-laws brought up taking the whole extended family on a Caribbean vacation, the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island near Nassua seemed like the perfect choice, offering something for everyone. I barely even glanced at the Atlantis Bahamas reviews before booking rooms for our extended family of fourteen.
Well, spoiler alert — we were really disappointed. The advertising and all those paid influencers do an amazing job selling this megaresort as the ultimate winter getaway destination with “great deals” that sound like a dream come true. The water slides, pools, dolphin encounters, casinos, restaurants — it had to be worth the price, right? Wrong.
Since I know so many people save for years to splurge on this “luxury” destination, I wanted to write an honest Atlantis Bahamas review about our experience so you can think twice before booking and consider some alternatives instead.
Atlantis Bahamas Review — No Holds Barred
Our multi-generational family vacation was made up of four families, with ages ranging from four to 70 years old. We stayed for four nights in February, during a school break, which probably made the resort a little extra crowded.
Since my in-laws were paying, it was up to them to choose which of the “hotels within a hotel” to stay in. We are all accustomed to staying at luxury or upscale properties on our family vacations — nothing over the top like overwater bungalows in the Maldives, but we have enjoyed the Four Seasons Costa Rica, the Grand Velas Riviera Maya, and the Ritz Carlton Aruba, for example.
Yet even my father-in-law, who would do anything to have the whole family gathered together, balked at the price of the Atlantis Bahamas. We ended up staying in the Coral Towers, which is part of the “cheaper” part of the resort.
Accommodations at the Atlantis Bahamas Resort
As I alluded to, there are actually six different places to stay within the Atlantis Bahamas resort:
- Harborside Resort – this waterfront property is outside of the actual Atlantis resort and offers villas for families and groups, with room to spread out and full kitchens if you want to be self-sufficient. One-bedroom villas start at around $500 per night and two-bedrooms start at over $1,000.
- The Beach – these are super basic rooms for the “budget conscious” traveler and often sell out.
- The Coral – the Coral Towers are just to one side of the central Royal Towers and are home to the CRUSH teen nightclub and the Sun & Ice ice cream shop. These rooms start around $500 per night in high season.
- The Royal – the iconic Royal Towers are what you see in all the Atlantis advertising. They are centrally located and are home to The Dig open-air marine habitat and the famous Atlantis Casino. Rooms start around $600 per night in the high season, but big spenders could always splurge for the “Michael Jackson” suite between the two towers which is rumored to go for $25,000 a night.
- The Cove – this is the upscale, luxury hotel within the resort and I swear this is where they must put all the influencers who rave about the hotel. Rooms start at $800 a night in high season and while families are welcome to stay there, you need to be 18+ to use the Cove Pool, which makes a big perk of staying there unavailable to you if traveling with kids.
- The Reef – these are residential-style suites and studios with access to a private pool and a private strip of Paradise Beach. Studios start around $600 per night.
Keep in mind that, at least during high season, the Atlantis Bahamas Resort requires a four-night minimum stay. Also, these rates are not all-inclusive. Food is a whole other ballgame. But I’ll get into that more later.
We stayed in rooms at the Coral Towers, and while the resort markets these as centrally-located, it is still at least a 10-minute walk to get to most things within the resort. This meant our in-laws with limited mobility hung out at the Coral Pool, while the rest of us shuttled the grandkids to and from the waterpark while stopping to check on the grandparents — not exactly the together time we had envisioned.
The rooms themselves were very basic and, at the time, in need of a refurb. I’ve heard these rooms have since been renovated but overall reports indicate that the resort continues to be poorly maintained. When we opened the door to our room, I expected luxury or at least upscale furnishings and decor, but I was quite disappointed.
The room looked similar to what you would find in a standard Marriott or Hilton in any old city. In fact, since we didn’t spring for the ocean view, when we looked out our window at night, it felt like we were in a city. Looking out at the other towers and lights of the resort, I felt like I was in Las Vegas. Far from the laid-back Bahamian vibe I had hoped for.
Is the Atlantis Bahamas Resort Worth It?
To be honest, my main complaint against the Atlantis Bahamas is the lack of character. Maybe this has to do with the size, but it feels like a giant resort, plopped on a random island because it is is easy to get there from the East Coast of the United States. Outside of a very performative show in the marina village, it didn’t seem to reflect the local culture at all.
I’m sure part of this was the size, but I’ve stayed at Beaches Resorts that are also huge, but still feel like a Caribbean island resort. I’ll lay out the good and the bad in this Atlantis Bahamas review below, and I’m not going to bash the property with an overly negative review, but the adults all agreed that we wished we spent our money elsewhere.
And we aren’t just being cheap, we have spent more at other resorts, but at least there we felt we received the value back in return. For us, the money we spent at the Atlantis Bahamas just wasn’t worth it.
Just because we didn’t fall in love with the Atlantis Bahamas doesn’t mean it isn’t the right choice for YOU. However, if you are looking for a relaxing, laid-back, authentic Caribbean experience, don’t go to the Atlantis. If you love cruises, mega-resorts, water parks, and gambling then MAYBE the Atlantis might be for you. Or, if you like all of that and have the budget to try The Cove, you might enjoy it more. Read on to find out.
Atlantis Bahamas Review: The Good
I have done my best in this review to lay out the good and the bad about the resort, at least from our collective perspective. Of course, these are our opinions and others may feel differently, so please take a look and make a choice for yourself. The comments below may also prove helpful in making your decision.
The Aquaventure Waterpark
Included in a stay at the Atlantis is admission to their massive Aquaventure waterpark, which covers 141-acres with Atlantean-themed towers, water slides, a mile-long rapid river ride, 20 swimming areas, a kids water-play fort, and 11 swimming pools. There is so much to do that you can stay busy all day for multiple days.
You can float down the less-than lazy river, shoot through tubes underwater surrounded by sharks, slide through the dark, or splash down the baby slides. There were quite a few little ones in our group so we staked out chairs near the splash area, but close enough to the more thrilling slides to satisfy the older kids (and adults).
Everyone loved the time we spent at the waterpark, especially the thrill-seekers. Although my daughter still holds a grudge about not getting to do Leap of Faith because she wasn’t tall enough (measured at home before we left she seemed to meet the height requirement.) The downside to the waterpark is the sheer size.
If you are traveling with younger kids, it is really hard to keep track of everyone. It is a lush environment, with pockets of chairs tucked into various areas around the different attractions. It makes for a much more pleasant environment than large rows of chairs, but it can make it more challenging for large groups to find chairs near each other (unless you get out there early or pay extra for reserved chairs with lock boxes).
It is very hard to keep eyes on multiple kids at once. It is even challenging to keep your eye on kids when you accompany them to various attractions. For example, I took my young nephew to a smaller waterslide and watched as he waited his turn on the slide, but then had to run around to find where the slide emptied out and tried to find him in the crowd.
Because of the layout, it can be very easy to get lost. This is something to be aware of to make a plan on where to meet, how to handle if kids can’t find you, and how they deal with strangers before you go.
Maybe sometime they will implement a location app like they have introduced at the H2O Live water park at the Margaritaville Orlando, but I will say I had some scary moments not being able to find all of the kids. And when this happens in a busy place around water, I get a little freaked out. This is another reason why I would also highly recommend life jackets for younger children.
I think one of the reasons why the Atlantis is so expensive is to pay for the upkeep of their marine habitat. The resort offers 14 lagoons, eight million gallons of saltwater, and more than 50,000 aquatic animals representing over 250 marine species.
These exhibits are spread throughout the grounds with displays like The Dig (a pseudo-underwater archeological discovery featuring giant manta rays and other sea life), the predator tunnel (where you walk surrounded by the sea’s scariest creatures), and a number of different lagoons offering stingray feedings and dolphin encounters.
It is like having an aquarium built into your hotel. The Atlantis Bahamas also offers many types of marine experiences from hands-on stingray encounters, snorkeling in the ruins lagoon, walking with the sharks, and touch encounters for little kids. These experiences are add-on premium experiences, but great for animal lovers and adventure seekers.
The Marine Habitat is definitely fascinating for young kids, but from an adult perspective, it also has some drawbacks. First, some of these animals, like the sharks, are swimming around in a very small area. Now I’m no lover of sharks, but I’m also not cool with putting a bunch of giant predators in a small confined area for our pleasure.
Second, I’m not sure how good of a job they do with the upkeep. Even my daughter would call the Predator Tunnel the “stinky tunnel.”
I have very mixed feelings about dolphin encounters. After all, it is a dream come true to get to interact with dolphins. However, many of these habitats cage in their animals and animal cruelty experts have brought attention to the ethics of these types of experiences.
Dolphin Cay (prounced key) at least is committed to conservation, rehabilitation, and education. Plus, the first residents of Dolphin Cay were 17 stranded dolphins and 10 sea lions whose home in Gulfport, Mississippi was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina and they focus on marine animal rehabilitation.
Visits support the Atlantis Blue Project Foundation, with a focus on coral reef and habitat conservation, and Atlantis tries to keep interactions educational.
So you need to be your own judge and think about the impacts before you book. If you do decide to book an experience, prepare to pay through the nose, have less time than you hope for, and be totally ripped off if you want to purchase the pictures…but…the smile on your and your child’s face is truly priceless.
There are a number of in-water experiences in both shallow and deeper water, as well as behind-the-scenes tours available. If you do want to swim with the dolphins, be sure to book early as this is a very popular cruise-line excursion and fills up early.
Something for everyone
The Atlantis is a lot like a cruise ship on land…just much bigger. You really can find something for everyone…teen dance clubs, cooking classes, swimming, waterpark, gambling, kids clubs, game room, water sports, spa, and more. There is even a pottery studio, theater, fitness center, tennis courts, and day trips and excursions.
In the evenings, guests can enjoy fine dining, laugh at a comedy club, dance at a nightclub, hit the casino, or take in one of the many live events. Just keep in mind that all this is spread out across multiple towers so it might feel like you have to walk a mile or more from your room to your selected activity.
But all of these activities and options really do make it great for a multigenerational trip, if you are the type of family to take advantage of all these resources. Just keep in mind that some of these involve extra fees and, do to COVID, some may not be available during your stay — this is something I’d be sure to look into in advance.
Atlantis Bahamas Review: The Bad
Food & Dining Options at the Atlantis Bahamas
Theoretically, the Atlantis offers great food options, including restaurants from celebrity chefs Jose Andres, Todd English, and Nobu Matsuhisa. However, since you will probably only splurge for one meal at these fine dining establishments (unless you win big at the casino), the rest of the food is overpriced and just mediocre. The Atlantis Bahamas is not an all-inclusive resort, however, you can purchase a dining meal plan in advance or when you arrive (before your first meal.)
Since we were going with a large group of 14, we opted to try the meal plan, since it seemed like it offered cost savings. What we weren’t told was that not all of the casual dining options were included and that room service also wasn’t included in the meal plan. Since sometimes those options are just easier when traveling with kids (especially when they get sick), we ended up double paying for certain meals.
The other options, like the Chinese restaurant and steakhouse, were just average and quite overpriced with mediocre service. The buffets were not really enjoyable. I admit that I’m not a big fan of buffets, but we have seen some good ones, but as they say “these were not them.”
The other downside about the food was the lack of Bahamian or Caribbean flair. Out by the waterpark, all the snack bars offered the same fare. It was very generic theme park food with hamburgers, hot dogs, veggie wraps, etc.
I left craving conch fritters or something authentic. I understand that now there is a Bahamian cuisine fine dining restaurant. However, I wish more Bahamian cuisine was wrapped into the other dining options instead of just creating familiar dining experiences that make U.S. guests comfortable.
I know when you go to a resort like the Atlantis, mosts guests tend to just stay on property, especially when you have a big group like we did. But if I did return, I’d opt to head into town for some more authentic and less over-priced meals.
The Atlantis is big, really big. Looking out my window at night was disconcerting. I was in the Caribbean right? Why was I looking out and seeing hotel towers lighting up the sky? Was this Las Vegas?
But while the Atlantis can hold thousands of people, what you don’t realize at first is that the Atlantis is packed not just with people staying there, but it is also filled with cruise ship passengers or those staying nearby that have bought a day pass to enjoy the Atlantis waterpark and facilities.
Scores of cruise ship passengers and visitors from neighboring hotels fill the Atlantis. This is something I really wish I knew ahead of time as it really would have made me think twice. I don’t know why I assumed those awesome water park rides would be just for guests of the hotel and therefore there wouldn’t be any lines or crowds.
Atlantis day passes range from $75 for kids under 13 to to $250 for a full-day adult Atlantis and water park pass.
Even with the amazing “deals” the Atlantis offers, the rooms were still over $500 per night in the non-centrally located Coral Towers. For that price, we expected something more. We knew we weren’t getting a beach view, but as I described above, I expected a much nicer room.
If you stay in the Cove or the Reef, at least your rooms are going to be nicer. The question would be, are they nice enough to make it worth it to you? Frankly if I was going to spend $800 a night, I can think of many nicer hotels I’d rather spend that on.
There are certainly more pools than you can swim in during your vacation but if you come to the Caribbean, you probably would also like to spend some time at the beach. There are three ocean beaches at the Atlantis — the Cove Beach, Atlantis Beach, and Paradise Beach. There is also a Lagoon beach on the manmade lagoon in the center of the property.
There are apparently five miles of beaches, but we found the Atlantis beach to be quite small and under-serviced at the time that we visited. However, I have heard that the Cove beach is very nice and that it is restricted to only hotel guests (no day guests), so that would be where to go if you decide to book an Atlantis vacation. But, if a gorgeous beach is your priority, I would pick Beaches Resort Turks & Caicos over Atlantis.
The Bottom Line about the Atlantis Bahamas
The kids absolutely loved the Atlantis — especially the water park — actually mostly because of the water park. Now that our group is made up of teens and tweens, I think they also would have been a bit more discerning about some of the other aspects of the resort. But in general, whenever the cousins have time to play and relax together they are happy.
The eight adults of the group all felt that the Atlantis Bahamas was overpriced for what you got, too big, and too commercial for our tastes. My in-laws have since returned to the Bahamas and they fell in love with the service and atmosphere at the Rosewood Baha Mar.
What about you? Have you been to the Atlantis? Did you love it, hate it, or in between?
Pro Money Savings Tip
Do all the activities and amenities of the Atlantis Bahamas appeal to you but you are still turned off by the price tag? There are other options. For example, you can stay nearby at the Comfort Suites and still get access to the Atlantis and waterpark, plus you can use your room key to pay at the restaurants and gift shops.
The Comfort Suites is one block away and all rooms are suites, which include a pull-out couch and small refrigerator — perfect for families. The hotel also includes free breakfast each morning and there is even a swim up pool bar.
Looking for other family-friendly resorts in the Caribbean?
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Tamara Gruber is the Founder and Publisher of We3Travel. A former marketing executive and travel advisor, Tamara is an award-winning travel writer and recognized expert in family travel. She is also the publisher of YourTimetoFly and the co-host of the Vacation Mavens travel podcast.