Now that our kids are older, my husband and I have been traveling more. I am not a seasoned traveler like my husband, and only have been out of the country to two different places. Recently we traveled to Exuma to stay at Sandals Emerald Bay. It was a wonderful trip, and I thought I would share a couple’s guide to experiencing Sandals Emerald Bay.
My husband and I started our love affair with Sandals Resorts back in 1997 when we went to Jamaica for the first time on our honeymoon. We always said we would go back for our 20th anniversary, which we did. We renewed our vows, and it was the most amazing time.
So, what did we do? While we were basking in the glow of our anniversary, we decided to book another trip while on resort. Which led us to our trip to Sandals Emerald Bay. I decided to share a comprehensive couple’s guide to experiencing Sandals Emerald Bay to help you plan a trip in the future.
Disclaimer: The experiences from this trip were from July 2019. What happened at Sandals Emerald Bay in early 2022 was a tragic event, and changes were made. Please use this guide as a starting point so you can make an informed decision about booking this resort. We would go back here without hesitation.
Where Is Sandals Emerald Bay Resort Located?
Set on a privileged enclave of The Bahama’s, Sandals Emerald Bay, Great Exuma, Bahamas offers supreme service and a wealth of activities, all with Bahamian flair. This mile-long private beach makes the perfect place to escape to.
What Airport Do You Fly Into For Sandals Emerald Bay?
When traveling to Exuma, the airport you fly into is in George Town Exuma International Bahamas. I have only been to the Montego Bay airport in Jamaica, which is fairly large. To be honest, the airport at George Town is more to my liking. Small, quaint, and really easy to navigate. Luggage retrieval is literally through a small, garage-door like portal. Don’t let it fool you, it was the most organized luggage pick-up I have witnessed to date.
How Far Is Sandals Emerald Bay From The Airport?
Located on the white sands of Emerald Bay in Great Exuma, this luxurious couples-only all-inclusive resort is 10 km from Exuma International Airport and 22 km from George Town, Queens Highway, Great Exuma, Bahamas.
Does Sandals Resorts Pick You Up From the Airport?
Yes! Transfers to and from the airport are always included as part of your resort stay.
After proceeding through customs, we exited and went to the right to the Sandals check-in desk and had our luggage tagged. We were then escorted to a car and shared a ride with another couple to the resort.
Once reaching the resort, we were given a cold towel and escorted to Club Sandals for our check-in. We had checked in online prior to coming, so it was just a short process to verify the information on the I-pad. While we were waiting our turn to put our credit card on file, we were served the signature drink the “Bahama Breeze”.
One of the Club Sandals staff escorted us to lunch and told us to check back later to see if our room was ready. One of the biggest distractions was looking at the blue of the water.
Pro tip: Check-in starts at 3pm. So if you don’t want to wait for your room to be ready to change your clothes, bring a suit and flip flops in your personal item. The staff takes your bags, and you don’t see them again until you are in your room.
At Sandals Emerald Bay, all guest rooms are either club level or butler level. Club Sandals is your hub for navigating your experience at the resort. From room check-in, to dining reservations, to booking excursions, Club Sandals makes it easy.
The staff member at Club Sandals escorted us to our room, noted our dining reservations, and introduced us to the amenities Club Sandals offers. I have to tell you that Club Sandals makes experiencing Sandals Emerald Bay so much easier.
Pro Tip: Before getting to the resort, have an idea when and where you want to eat, so that your concierge can get right to work on your reservations for dinner. Be flexible with your dining times, and you should have no problems landing the reservations you need.
For this trip, we stayed in the Beach House Honeymoon Oceanview Grande Luxe Club Level Room. Now, while we weren’t honeymooners, the room was perfect for a romantic vacation. Who says you can’t be honeymooning if you are already married for over 20 years? In any case, the room and the location cannot be beat.
June 2023 UPDATE: This room is just called Beach House Oceanview Grande Luxe club level room. They dropped the honeymoon portion in the room name, so if you are searching the website and just see OL, this is that room category.
How Many Rooms Does Sandals Emerald Bay Have?
There are 183 rooms at Sandals Emerald Bay Golf Tennis and Spa All Inclusive Resort – Couples Only, each offering all the essentials to ensure a comfortable stay.
Some say that the rooms were outdated, but we found them to be the true representation of Caribbean decor. The bed was soft, the bathroom was large and functional, and there was space for everything! And this view was too gorgeous for words!
Pro tip: Ask for a second-floor room. You still get a beautiful view AND you have a covered patio for the times you have “liquid sunshine”. Also, building 2 is the ideal location. If you head out the back exit, you are right by the path to the golf pro shop AND the shops. The front exit takes you right by the Drunken Duck, the main stage, and the fabulous pool.
Experiencing The Beach At Sandals Emerald Bay:
I just want to say that there are truly no words to describe the beauty that is the beach at the resort and experiencing it in person is the only way to fully appreciate it. The water is stunning and breathtaking, and the sand is soft & white.
The only downside to the beach is that it is fairly windy, which means there are a lot of red flag days (you can’t use the water toys or go in the water very far). And with wind, comes seaweed and other ocean foliage being washed up. The staff works hard to keep up with it, but Mother Nature generally wins.
Because of the wind and the choppy water conditions that accompany it, there were times that the included snorkeling trips were cancelled. It was a bit of a disappointment because I really wanted to experience the blue water.
Pro tip: the beach palapas can be snatched up quickly. Head to the beach early to grab one. You really don’t need to go anywhere else once you are there. Your spouse can grab lunch to bring back, and you can run the short distance to the pool bar for another beverage. Because of the size of the beach, beverage service on the beach can be few and far between.
But sitting under a palapa with a drink is fun enough. I did get up a few times to play in the ocean, but I was super content to just relax on the lounger and listen to the sound of the waves.
Shh, don’t tell anyone, but the pool was my favorite place to be. The beach is stunning, but I prefer a shaded spot by the pool. But that is just me. There is the main pool with the swim-up bar, and a quiet pool that is blender-free and no music playing.
There are playmakers that lead entertainment, music playing on speakers, and lots of opportunities for enjoying beverages and napping in the loungers. Just ask my husband, who rarely ever relaxes. He had no problem slowing down, closing his eyes, and enjoying his music.
The downside to the pool area was that some guests are not always considerate. Keeping pool floats on or under their chairs, taking many towels at a time, and reserving loungers and not using them for long periods of time, if at all. While it can be frustrating, a conversation initiated on the LOOP seemed to alleviate many of those issues.
Pro tip: there tends to be A LOT of floatie hoarding. Bring your own so you can spend the day floating around with a drink in your hand. And be considerate of those around you. If you aren’t going to use your lounger or float, set it free for another guest to enjoy.
The grounds were beautiful and meticulously maintained. There was always someone keeping things clean, taking care of the beautiful flowers, picking up fallen leaves and branches. In the morning, seaweed was cleaned up as best as possible (it is the ocean, so there will be ocean debris).
The cat house is a cute addition to the resort. We saw a few cats around as well, and they don’t bother you if you don’t want them near you.
The fire pits were a great place to sit and cuddle by, as was the seating area in the tower. Lots of nooks and crannies to sit and be together.
The grounds are just another reason why this guide to experiencing Sandals Emerald Bay is something that will make your trip amazing.
One of the things I have heard people say is that the staff was standoffish and not as friendly. We found it to be opposite of that. Each and every staff member (from the restaurants to the guard to the groundskeepers to Loyalty & Travel) always said hello and asked how we were or if we needed something. I firmly believe you get what you give, and if you take the time to be kind and grateful and pleasant to them, they return your kindness tenfold.
I saw several reviews that stated that the food was sub-par here. We couldn’t disagree more. All the meals were delicious, the service from the staff was amazing, as well. Bombay turned out to be my favorite restaurant during our trip.
We had no problem getting the reservations to the restaurants we wanted eat at. The key is to be flexible with your time. If that particular restaurant is really where you want to eat, then take an early or late seating.
The Jerk Shack was my go-to lunch, and I miss it! In any case, there is a meal for every possible taste bud.
I also have seen a lot of complaints about service being slow. Keep in mind, it is island time and that you aren’t the only people that are dining and using the resort. We enjoyed the slower pace and loved that we weren’t rushed to get through dinner so that they could shuffle in the next set of guests.
Sandals Emerald Bay Restaurants:
Here are some of the restaurants you can enjoy at the resort.
- Il Cielo. This is the Italian restaurant. Sit down menu for breakfast, and an amazing dinner menu for the evening hours.
- Barefoot By The Sea. Delicious choices for lunch, and seafood selections for dinner.
- La Parisienne. A French restaurant for dinner choices. It is a wonderful atmosphere to enjoy a romantic dinner with your significant other.
- Bombay Club. Let me preface by saying this was my favorite restaurant at SEB. Featuring an Indian cuisine, this will an experience your tastebuds will enjoy. I have to highly recommend the rice pudding for dessert.
Other restaurants include a pizza place, Jerk Shack, Bahama Bay, and many more. And Sandals Resorts works closely with you if you have allergies or dietary restrictions. Make an appointment with culinary services when you arrive to make a plan. Servers will also ask about allergies & dietary restrictions.
Entertainment & Nightlife:
I have read that the nightlife here is lacking. We personally found it to be a perfect mix. Because we are up early, we tend to head back to the room early as well. The fact that it was lower key suited us perfectly.
Some of my favorites were the sax player at the pool, Heston at the piano bar, and the Junkanoo festival on Friday night. I know a lot of guests talked about Karaoke at the Drunken Duck, but we were never up that late.
We also made friends with several guests we saw over the course of the week. I tend to be fairly shy, so this resort was perfect for meeting new friends in a low-pressure setting.
Sandals Emerald Bay Golf Course:
I was so excited that my husband had the opportunity to golf on this amazing course. I was just an observer, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching him relax and have fun. The back 9 is something that absolutely cannot be missed. The beauty of the ocean, the homes you see, and the challenge of the course made it the perfect addition to our trip to paradise.
Tours & Excursions:
Experiencing Sandals Emerald Bay includes leaving the resort and exploring the island. We did the historical tour through Island Routes, and another tour through an outside vendor.
Both of them allowed us to see all parts of this beautiful island and were well worth it. During the tours, you never felt unsafe or pressured, and it gave you an opportunity to truly live the island life.
We did the famous “Swimming with The Pigs” tour through Robert’s Island Adventures. It was definitely one of my favorite tours!
Loyalty & Travel:
This is my favorite place to visit, as you can book your next trip before you leave the resort. You get discounts and perks, and you can even earn a FREE week! Just another reason for experiencing Sandals Emerald Bay! Because of the great discounts, we are able to travel to other Sandals Resorts on different Caribbean Islands.
Make sure you attend the returning guest dinner. It is so much fun to meet other guests, see them awarded their milestones, and have a delicious meal on top of it!
Pro tip: Even if you *think* you aren’t going to rebook, being on resort tends to change your mind. Have a few options in the back of your head, just in case. Also, you get a spa or excursion credit for your current trip if you book the Wednesday after the Returning Guest Dinner. We used it towards our Historical Tour excursion.
We did the twilight photo shoot through EPIX. It is free to get your pictures taken and we got some great pictures that will forever remind us of the trip and our love. The girls in EPIX also helped us get our photo and frame from the Returning Guest Dinner. You can either buy a package or buy individual prints like we did.
On the night before you are set to leave, they leave you this nasty letter. I call it the “envelope of doom”. It contains your bill (if you have room charges), as well as your luggage pick-up and resort departure times. It is the cruelest piece of mail you will ever receive.
Keep in mind, airlines generally want you there 3 hours ahead of time. I wish we would have signed the waiver, because it is way too much time to be sitting in the lounge. We did get a private transport from Mr. Mutton himself, so it was worth it.
As you can see, the departure lounge is very small! You can go to Kermit’s Airport Lounge if you like, which is just across the street.
Real Things You Need To Know About Experiencing Sandals Emerald Bay:
- Don’t live your vacation through someone else’s experience. Reviews and opinions are helpful, when they are realistic. But one person’s experience and expectations are not yours. If I would have listened to complaints on FB groups and TripAdvisor, I may have missed out on the best vacation to date. If you go in looking for and expecting the negatives that others may have had, then you have ruined your vacation before you ever step foot on the resort. Some travelers will never be happy, and those are the ones you will hear complaining the loudest on the internet.
- There is no Home Depot or major repair or HVAC store on the island. If things break, EVERYTHING must be flown in. So, if the elevator breaks, it will take a while to fix because staff can’t just drive down the road to get the parts. Be understanding. We learned all this important information from JJ on the historical tour. In fact, the tour is very eye-opening about how different island life is and you absolutely cannot compare repairs to the timetables of the States.
- Sandals brochures are NOT reality. They are marketing and should be taken in that manner. If you are looking for flashy, chromy, super-updated accommodations, then this resort is not for you. Know ahead of time that this an older resort. But that is what makes it quaint and the perfect place to be.
- Sandals takes food allergies very seriously. Most servers ask if you have food allergies or dietary restrictions. But you need to be proactive as well. Ask your Club Sandals concierge to see the culinary team and plan accordingly. This works for special diets as well as food allergies.
- If you need to constantly be moving from sun-up to sun-down with activities and entertainment and excitement, then this resort is not for you. The activities here are low-key, and they are geared more towards relaxation than excitement.
- Bahamians, by nature, are more reserved and may appear to be less friendly. So, take the time to smile and engage with them, and you will have a most amazing time. All the staff we encountered were absolutely lovely. Don’t compare the staff to any other resort, because each island is different. That is NOT fair to the staff on this resort.
- There tends to be a musty smell to the rooms. It is the Caribbean, and it is humid. So, unless you want to sleep on a slab of concrete, it is something that will always be around. Ask for a Damp Rid instead, and it solves a problem that will never go away in the Caribbean.
- Wi-Fi is spotty, despite many birdhouses. It is windy, which does affect wireless signals. If you can’t be without Wi-Fi, you can upgrade to a premium plan or upgrade your personal cellular plan.
The above items are just little things, and those little things aren’t going to ruin your vacation. After all, you ARE in paradise. I realize that this is a very lengthy post, but I wanted to give you a true and accurate tour for experiencing Sandals Emerald Bay. In our opinion, it is a true slice of paradise.
When I wrote this post about Sandals Emerald Bay, I couldn’t help but wish we were still there. It has been my favorite trip to Sandals to date, other than to Sandals Royal Caribbean, which will always be first in my heart!