Hidden away on 35 lush, manicured acres on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, One&Only Ocean Club, perched on a pristine beach fringed by emerald green grounds dotted with fuschia hibiscus, bougainvillea and towering coconut palms, has long been a star attraction. . property of the venerable ultra-luxury brand. And thanks to a recent multi-million dollar overhaul, the storied resort has re-emerged as a top destination for discerning vacationers looking for some sun-kissed rest and rest.
At the heart of the renovation was the redesign of the Hartford wing of the property, which was once the private estate of A&P supermarket heir, Huntingdon Hartford II. Design consultants HKS Architects and Jeffrey Beers International — who also breathed new life into One&Only Palmilla in Los Cabos after it was decimated by Hurricane Odile in September 2014 — have expanded its 52 rooms and suites by 110 feet squares, equipping them with terraces or balconies that offer dazzling views of the azure Caribbean Sea or the exuberant gardens of the Ocean Club. (I visited in January as a guest of the resort.) Updated decor blends a modern sensibility with custom-designed furnishings and a distinct Bahamian-inspired palette of deep corals, bold blues, and whites. radiant, while the addition of Bianco Dolomiti marble tiles, double sinks and rain showers rejuvenate the bathrooms. Guests in the Hartford Wing (and other rooms and villas in the resort) enjoy One&Only’s world-class service, including a 24-hour butler who shows up at your door every day at happy hour, smiling and carrying complimentary champagne and chocolate covered strawberries.
The Hartford Wing overlooks the other crown jewel of the redesign: a new 125-foot oceanfront infinity pool (where the “pool concierge” team hands out treats like homemade lollipops and frozen spritzers) and the nearby Ocean Grill, where you can dine al fresco on fresh seafood specialties like herb-butter lobster and Florida stone crabs. Starting this week and running through April 7, the restaurant is hosting a “pop-up” version of New York-based Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s ABC Cocina, where chef Ian Coogan serves up zesty dishes inspired by Mexican like chipotle chicken tacos with grilled jalapeno salsa. and peekytoe crab and corn fritters with chipotle mayonnaise, served with a red hibiscus sangria or a basil-jalapeno margarita. Vongerichten is also the executive chef of Dune, the resort’s gastronomic mainstay, where mouth-watering dishes include Bahamian conch salad and local snapper with sweet and sour juice.
Besides lounging and snacking by the pool, the O&O Ocean Club offers plenty of other ways to spend those windy days. The 18-hole, par 72 golf course, designed by former professional golfer Tom Weiskopf, stretches 7,100 meters and offers panoramic views of the surrounding Atlantic Ocean, while six Har-Tru tennis courts, including four are illuminated for night play, allowing you to work your backhand in style. (To really elevate your game, book a lesson with resident pro Leo Rolle, who has worked at the resort for 39 years and continues to take guests from sideline to sideline.) For something more Zen , there’s free yoga on the beach every morning, while a Balinese-inspired spa has eight private treatment villas set amid serene tropical gardens.
You can drop off the little ones at the KidsOnly Club and relax at the adults-only Versailles Pool, a tranquil oasis surrounded by palm trees overlooking the property’s artful terraced gardens and 12 stunningand-century Augustinian cloister. A popular setting for weddings and other events, it was originally purchased and imported to the United States – one of only four ever removed (piece by piece) from French soil – by newspaper baron William Randolph Hearst and later purchased and brought to Paradise Island by Hartford.
The resort’s history is as vibrant as that of the Bahamas itself, which became a free country in 1973, after 325 years of British rule. It was in this nation of 700 islands that Christopher Columbus first landed in 1492 en route to the New World; while he claimed the islands for Spain, their lack of gold eventually led the Spanish to abandon them. King Charles I then staked England’s claim to the country in 1629, and the British colonized what is now Paradise Island in 1648. The Bahamas became a haven for pirates, including Blackbeard and Calico Jack, in the 1700s, thanks in part to their proximity to shipping. alleys frequented by merchant ships and their shallow waters perfect for hiding treasures. Nassau, established as a trading port in 1670, was soon overrun by lawless sailors who plundered cargo ships, and in 1718 the King of England appointed Woodes Rogers as the first royal governor of the islands to restore order. He offered amnesty to the 300 pirates who surrendered and the rest, including Blackbeard, fled.
Fast forward to 1939, when Swedish industrialist Axel Wenner-Gren stumbled upon Hog Island (as the locals then called it) while sailing around the world and, captivated by its untouched beauty, passed both following decades cultivating his private estate there, which he aptly called “Shangri-La”. In 1962 Wenner-Gren sold his beloved hideaway in Hartford; envisioning an exclusive resort destination, he quickly petitioned the Bahamian government to rename the island “Paradise”. He built the original Ocean Club, a 52-room luxury hotel with an 18-hole golf course, and christened it with a glittering “Bal du Paradis” unveiling celebration that drew William Randolph Hearst, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Benny Goodman, Burl Ives, and other names in bold at the rarefied enclave. (The station’s Hollywood ties endure: it featured prominently in the 2006 remake of the James Bond film, Casino Royale.) The estate became part of Kerzner International in 1994 and was renamed One&Only Ocean Club in 2002.
Although there really is no need to leave the resort, the friendly concierge team can happily organize a range of fun local excursions, including yacht or fishing charters and scuba diving excursions or snorkeling (Stuart Cove is a good option: make sure you buy the fish food on offer, and prepare to be swarmed by hungry hordes of tropical species in every color of the rainbow ). Guests also enjoy private transportation and free access to Atlantis facilities, a relatively short walk away on Paradise Island’s iconic white sand beach.