Something I’ve learned over the past year: I’m not a fan of overly curated places and experiences, unless they’re curated exactly to my taste. Go figure, right? This was the overwhelming feeling I had when I set foot in the SLS Baha Mar, a resort in the Bahamas that I visited this past summer. From the tropical cool meets vintage luxury vibe of the lobby to the intimacy of the curated gallery wall of modern Bahamian art work behind the front desk, this hotel made me feel giddy from the moment I checked in.
When I came downstairs for dinner that night, Little Dragon’s Best Friends was playing. The next morning my new journo friends and I brunched while Anthony Hamilton’s Lucille played softly in the background. All I could think was, yes I am home.
The only other property that made me feel this way recently was the Rockhouse Hotel in Jamaica. While I’ve written about both of these hotels for World Bride Magazine, I wanted to share a few details about why I love the SLS Baha Mar that didn’t necessarily make it into the article (like, the fact that this hotel smells really good, and all the monkeys and black stripes make me feel like the space was made just for me. That kind of stuff.)
1. The lobby looks like my dream living room…and it’s full of books.
I love it when hotels go the extra mile to ensure that their lobby doesn’t look cookie cutter. If the property actually gives me design inspiration that I want to apply to my own home — even better. When it comes to unique design touches, the SLS Baha Mar is no exception. The vibe in the lobby is part vintage Palm Springs, part Miami cool with a Bahamian twist.
And there’s books everywhere…annnd they’re not randomly selected books chosen for their spines (like my weird uncle has in his “study” that looks like the gloomy home library backdrop of a Sears portrait) but books I actually want to read — like that copy of Ibiza Bohemia that I was so tempted to swipe right off the table but didn’t because I’m an upstanding citizen.
2. Two separate pool options.
While I love a good pool party moment, I’m old and can’t party all day. I loved that the SLS had two separate pool areas: “Privilege” — an upscale, adults only all day pool party with international DJs that played a lot of Drake (I’m pretty sure I heard the entire Scorpion album one afternoon) and “Bungalow” a more chill, “grown folks” pool atmosphere that (much to my delight) played exclusively old-school 90’s R&B and Hip Hop.
3. Taco trucks on the beach.
El Jefe is a Mexican eatery housed in a pink retro Airstream trailer. When I saw it lining the boardwalk, I almost dropped down to my knees on the sand and praised Jesus. While the tacos didn’t quite live up to my overly high standards, the food was tasty and I appreciated the effort to move away from your typical resort nosh.
4. The food & drinks.
I already covered the food in my piece for WBM, but it needs to be said that this is the best food I’ve ever had at a resort. I was a big fan of Cleo Mediterráneo, which serves a delicious brunch spread and an amazing lamb dish that I’m still thinking about. Between Katsuya, Cleo Mediterráneo, the food trucks and a 24 hour Chinese noodle house which is located inside the adjacent casino, every one of my food cravings is covered under one roof.
PS. The drinks are creative, delicious and strong.
5. The guest rooms look like an upgraded version of my bedroom.
Actual conversation that I had with my friend:
Me: I’m in love with the guest rooms at SLS Baha Mar.
Him: That’s because they look like a slightly upgraded version of your actual bedroom.
It’s true. The rooms are airy and bright with some quirky touches. I want to move in, or at the very least use this hotel as major home design inspiration.
6. Stripes! Everywhere!
If you know me, you’re probably aware of my undying love for black and white stripes. I get it from my Mom who is rarely seen without one of her signature Breton striped shirts. Needless to say, the striped cabanas at the Bungalow make me very happy. See: the photo at the top of this post.
7. Monkeys! Everywhere!
Another fun fact: I love monkeys. I was born the year of the monkey and have always felt an affinity towards them. The SLS Baha Mar is sprinkled with playful monkey touches (the logo for SLS hotels is a playful crest that includes two monkeys). From the card holders at Cleo to the aptly named Monkey Bar, which features large scale irreverent portraits of monkeys dressed to the nines, there’s no shortage of cheekiness at the SLS Baha Mar.
However, it was the monkey bust that I nicknamed Paco Banane that really won me over. I was so smitten with Paco that the kind folks at the SLS managed to find me my very own monkey statue and shipped it to my home.
8. The people watching is golden.
The vibe at the Monkey Bar on a Saturday night is laid-back, hip and includes lots of local Bahamians. Along with plenty of attractive, stylish folks from around the island (so. many. good. looking. gentleman), expect to see professional sports players and the odd hip hop star thrown in for good measure. While our group was having pre-dinner drinks at The Monkey Bar, we noticed Killer Mike checking in. Later, someone spotted rapper N.O.R.E (Noreaga) hanging out by the pool. That evening, Nas was rumored to be on property having dinner. Hey, if it’s good enough for the locals and hip-hop royalty, it’s good enough for me!
9. The ocean.
I’ve traveled a lot over the past year, but the ocean here was something else. Perfectly calm and turquoise. It was a sight to behold.
10. It’s a balanced experience.
If I’m ever lucky enough to have a Bachelorette party, the SLS Baha Mar would be the kind of place I’d want to go. There’s nightlife but it’s not in your face and all the pastel colors create a vibe that is feminine without being prissy. Like Vegas, there’s a high concentration of world class restaurants and a casino, but without any of the things that make Vegas terrible. Instead, there’s a gorgeous beach. Oh, and the monkeys. We can’t forget the monkeys.