Atlantis Paradise Island: Top 20 Things to Do

The best things to do at this beach resort in the Bahamas

December 12, 2012

For one of the best quick getaways you can do to an island, here are our top 20 favorite family must-do’s at the Atlantis Paradise Island, Bahamas, mega resort next to Nassau, as ranked by the Islands dad-and-son reviewers.

atlantis the cove view bridge

No. 20 – Easy to get to

Because my family is always looking for a quick family vacation with that worry-free island vibe, one of my sons and I recently stayed at Atlantis, Paradise Island, for a long weekend. ISLANDS’ world headquarters is in Florida, so the flight to Nassau was just over 1 hour. The new Nassau terminal is now open, so customs and immigration were a breeze — barely a line. With a 30-minute shuttle ride from the airport to Atlantis — crossing the bridge to Paradise Island — we were relaxing fast. Courtesy Atlantis
atlantis zeus mural

No. 19 – The Atlantis mythology

The myths of Atlantis are infused throughout the mega resort, not tacked on as a gimmick. Well, fine, it is a gimmick, but it’s executed at the absolute highest level. Take the rotunda of the Royal Towers. Eight murals show the “history” of Atlantis — the rise of its technological mastery, Atlanteans’ pride at being among the gods, and then the lightning smackdown from an angry Zeus to flood the place. My son asked, “Did that really happen?!” He really, really wanted to believe it. While you’re here, just go with it. Chris Tauber
atlantis paradise island bahamas the reef pool view

No. 18 – Living here

Granted, ISLANDS celebrates authentic experiences on our Best Islands to Live On list, but I caught myself imagining this as my front yard. The Reef tower on the far end of the Atlantis complex still has a few units not marked with a “sold” sign. At the Atlantis kids club, my son actually met a little girl who lived at The Reef. Have you seen “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody”? This would be 100 times better. Chris Tauber
atlantis cove beach cabana

No. 17 – Private cabanas

The attendant quoted a price of $750 when I asked how much it would cost to rent this beach cabana for the day. Not a bad deal. They’re perched on the quietest end of the resort, just under The Cove tower and next to the adult pool, where an attendant politely shoos away interloping children. This is where ISLANDS editors have stayed in the past — sans kids. Definitely a good adults-only escape. Lori Barbely
atlantis the cove tower

No. 16 – The Cove

This luxury resort within the mega resort is worthy of its own list. A genius design to have a high-end modern escape rest alongside the ultra fun water park. The pathways make it a little difficult to get over here, the masses stay at the pools and the jet-setters enjoy the quiet here. The Cove still welcomes families, but they’re the exception here rather than the rule. Chris Tauber
atlantis paradise island bahamas the cove reception

No. 16 – The Cove

From the time you get on the bridge to Paradise Island until you arrive at The Cove’s reception area, you cross over from the real scenes of Nassau to the perfect vacation land. Everything you see is designed to calm you down. It worked for me. Plus, there are bright blue fish in these Zen pools alongside this reception corridor. Chris Tauber
atlantis the cove king room

No. 16 – The Cove

If all you know about the Atlantis is the iconic Royal Towers and the cruise ships that stop by, The Cove is a real discovery. Our king room here had the feel of a trendy Upper West Side Manhattan apartment but with a view just a little more scenic than looking out on Jersey. The step-down sitting room was sweet. Even better — we couldn’t hear a single sound from our neighbors above or on the sides. For me, nothing is more relaxing than that. Is this room worth $998 a night in peak season? Let me put it another way: How much would you pay for pure joy? Chris Tauber
atlantis paradise island bahamas the cove bathroom

No. 16 – The Cove

The bathroom is massive, by the way. One night, my son took a bath in the giant tub, then put on the fluffy robe and slippers laid out in the turn-down service. He looked like he was a mini contestant on The Bachelor. This is the life. Chris Tauber
atlantis paradise island bahamas cove view

No. 16 – The Aquaventure view from the Cove

Our room at The Cove opened out on this view from the balcony. The Aquaventure water park is the ultimate island playground. For kids, of course. I totally did not get goosebumps looking out at this heaven of eight water slides, 12 pools, a lazy river and more. Really, I was only here for my precious child. Chris Tauber
atlantis aquaventure kids area

No. 15 – The pools

Seeing this perfect Splashers little kids’ water park within the big Aquaventure park (and yes, that’s The Cove tower in the background), I actually had a bittersweet experience. It looks super fun, especially when we walked by here at 8 a.m. so kids were still having breakfast. We think of our kids as younger than they are sometimes. I pictured my son scampering around on Splashers — until I realized he’s grown up so much, he’d actually look like King Kong climbing the Empire State Building if he climbed on Splashers. Luckily we have a couple littler kids at home. Next time, Splashers. Next time. Chris Tauber
atlantis predator lagoon

No. 14 – Predator Lagoon

OK, this was an awesome surprise. Staying at The Cove, we naturally spent most of our time on the west side of Atlantis. But on our last day, we strolled over to the far eastern side — and discovered a whole new world. This is where the less-expensive Coral Towers and Beach Tower accommodations are. It’s the older part of Atlantis, yet it’s still loaded with surprises, like this tunnel under the Predator Lagoon. Lori Barbely
atlantis kids club game room

No. 13 – Atlantis Kids Adventures

So the kids club at Atlantis, Atlantis Kids Adventures, is as over-the-top as the resort itself. Do you want to hang out in the room loaded with video games, the one loaded with iMacs or the one loaded with mermaids? (OK, there aren’t any merpeople — yet.) My son went here one night, at the main Royal Towers, when I was heading out to a fancy dinner in Marina Village. And because we were having so much fun together, he didn’t want to leave me to go play with a bunch of kids he didn’t know. So yeah, he was scared. I gave him my iPhone so he could call me and call home. He did — multiple times. I eventually left dinner before dessert was served and raced back to the club. He sheepishly came out and said, “I actually had a great time, I guess. I had cotton candy after the pizza. And I won this yo-yo with my tickets. Oh, and you gotta try this sour jawbreaker!” Whew. Courtesy Atlantis
atlantis marina village

No. 12 – Marina Village

Again, because ISLANDS’ HQ is just down the road from Disney World, I equate the Atlantis experience more with that type of ideal resort world than with, say, an expedition trip to Papua New Guinea or other immersive cultural experiences we cover in ISLANDS magazine. So the Marina Village at Atlantis doesn’t date back 300 years like the Graycliff Hotel over in Nassau. It’s loaded with new restaurants and reportedly the Bahamas’ first Starbucks. It’s a different type of trip; it’s a true vacation. Lori Barbely
atlantis cafe martinique

No. 12 – Marina Village

In Marina Village, I had a spectacular dinner at Cafe Martinique, the upscale French restaurant by Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. The decor is inspired by the Bahamas-filmed James Bond movie Thunderball, and the menu is dotted with local flavors. I highly recommend the Cracked Conch to start (yes, high-end conch with chili-citrus emulsion may be even better than the low-end conch with beach sand), then the Crunchy Roasted Grouper as the entree. And for dessert — oh man, that’s when my son called from the kids club. Next time. Courtesy Atlantis
atlantis junkanoo parade marina village

No. 12 – Marina Village

Another excellent appetizer is the Junkanoo parade that goes through the Marina Village on select nights. As a local Bahamian said, “This is just the pinkie finger tip of Junkanoo.” Chris Tauber
atlantis paradise island bahamas the cove beach view

No. 11 – Cove Beach

The Cove beach, as seen from our 17th-floor balcony, is reserved for Cove guests and is super quiet in the mornings. That’s one of the good things about Atlantis having such great nightlife — everybody stays out late and sleeps in late. I took this photo of the beach on a Sunday morning. We spent an hour out there with only two other people in sight. Chris Tauber
atlantis challenger water slide

No. 10 – Challenger Slide

And now we come to the water slide portion of our rankings. Yes, Aquaventure is super spectacular. No, we aren’t ranking the kiddie slides, just the big kahunas. Here we’ve got the Challenger slide — a side-by-side plunge with a time clock flipping through the hundredths of seconds. My son always helped himself to a head start so none of our races were fair. I’ve lodged a complaint with the Atlantis Water Slide Racing Federation. Courtesy Atlantis
atlantis the falls water slide

No. 9 – The Falls and The Drop water slides

While we did spend about 67% of our time at Atlantis just on the water slides, I’m still not quite a water slide conoisseur. My son and I couldn’t quite decide which slide was better: The Falls or The Drop, both of which launch out of the Power Tower while you cling to life on an inner tube. Courtesy Atlantis
atlantis surge water slide

No. 8 – The Surge water slide

To me, this was the most roller-coastery of all the slides, a wild “Am I going up or down or sideways or — AAAHHHH!!!!” experience from which I may never recover or forget. Courtesy Atlantis
atlantis aquaventure leap of faith water slide

No. 7 – Leap of Faith water slide

If you know anything about Atlantis — or if you’ve been here — you know the fear that alights in people’s eyes when you say “Leap of Faith.” This is the already legendary water slide that plunges your fear-tightened body essentially straight down into a pool of sharks. And even that description doesn’t do it justice. I had no idea that at the top of the plunge, my body would leave the slide — the safe embrace of Earth — for what seemed like a terrifyingly long second. Or that I would clench my eyes so tightly through the hour-long freefall (wait, that was only three seconds?!) that I wouldn’t even see the sharks passing over head. In fact, all I saw was a flash of light at the end of this dark tunnel. That’s usually a very bad sign. Or maybe I’m just a wuss. My son wanted to go again and again and again. Chris Tauber
atlantis paradise island bahamas leap of faith water slide 2

No. 7 – Leap of Faith water slide

This was the best part of Leap of Faith for me — the end. And yet, I can’t stop thinking about it. Chris Tauber
atlantis the current lazy river route

No. 6 – The Current river ride

I could have done The Current river ride all day. As a parent, it’s the perfect blend of keeping your kids totally entertained — and contained — for an extended period of time while you have to do nothing. Absolutely nothing except just lay there. Heaven. Even better, The Current is the best lazy river I’ve ever experienced. The quiet lulls are punctuated by crazy rapids, a temple that spouts mini-tsunamis at you and a route that takes you right into the Power Tower for your choice of water slides. The river is a mile long so you can jump in and out at lots of places. We were having so much fun that we almost missed dinner one night. I want to install one of these at my house. Courtesy Atlantis
atlantis current lazy river waves

No. 6 – The Current river ride

Kudos to the ancient Atlanteans for mastering the art of water waves. As The Current takes you through underground caverns, it seems like your tube will crash into the cave walls. But at just the last minute, a wave buffets you away — and toward the opposite wall. Rinse and repeat. Courtesy Atlantis
atlantis abyss water slide

No. 5 – The Abyss water slide

When you’re on a water slide and you feel your life flash before your eyes, it doesn’t matter if the slide’s incline is near 90 degrees or just 80 degrees. That’s how I felt on the Leap of Faith vs. The Abyss. At least on the Abyss I had the (false) safety of a tube to cushion my blow as I plunged into total darkness. We’re ranking the Abyss over Leap of Faith because the “OMG OMG OMG OMG” thrill lasts longer and because … Courtesy Atlantis
atlantis abyss cenote water slide

No. 5 – The Abyss water slide

… of this cenote grotto at the bottom of the Abyss. The first time we did the Abyss, I did my splash down, my “where am I?” head shake, then opened my eyes and really did a “Seriously, where am I?!” cry. (I told you, I’m a wuss.) It’s totally unexpected. And then you walk up the stairs and see that you’re emerging about a block away from the Power Tower, which is a true “what the heck just happened?” mind bender. Sorry I didn’t put “Spoiler” before that last sentence. Courtesy Atlantis
atlantis serpent slide

No. 4 – Serpent Slide

OK, so we had a lot of debate about which water slide was our favorite, but I’m claiming dad privilege and voting twice for the Serpent Slide. Like the Leap of Faith but wish you could actually see the sharks? Hey, me too! The Serpent Slide encompasses everything we love about the Atlantis slides: a protective inner tube, mini-tsunamis that push you along, and sharks behind very strong glass. Courtesy Atlantis
atlantis the dig aquarium

No. 3 – The Dig

For me, this is what makes Atlantis Atlantis. This is The Dig — but don’t call it an aquarium. At first, I was thrown off by the fact that there are none of the usual placards explaining the sea creatures and the scenes you’re looking at. It forces you to talk to Atlantis attendants stationed around or ask other visitors — or make up your own explanations for a tank full of glowing jellyfish. The concept is that the sea is brought into the world under the Royal Towers, and that the new Atlantis is built upon the ruins of the old. I’ll buy that. Chris Tauber
atlantis paradise island bahamas the dig piranhas

No. 3 – The Dig

This ark in The Dig holds the source of the ancient Atlanteans’ power, which is why it’s guarded by piranhas. That is infinitely cooler than a sign saying “The piranha is a member of the characidae family.” Chris Tauber
atlantis paradise island bahamas the dig green moray eel

No. 3 – The Dig

So our colleagues over at Scuba Diving magazine may scoff at seeing a green moray eel — “We see those all the time just off the Florida coast.” But seeing these disturbing brethren deep in The Dig, I was afraid, perfect for building the fascinating yet unsettling atmosphere of a city lost in the sea. Chris Tauber
atlantis the dig artifacts

No. 3 – The Dig

I’m not the best photographer — as ISLANDS’ real photographers constantly remind me, God bless ’em — but I love this shot in The Dig. To me, this symbolizes everything cool about Atlantis. In The Dig, we get just enough clues to start to put together a story of what happened to these people and we’re told all of this dates back 11,000 years. But where does this bubbling, steamy well lead to? How deep could the Atlanteans go in those awesome scuba suits? When did I forget that this isn’t real? Chris Tauber
atlantis dolphin interaction

No. 2 – Dolphin Cay

OK, that’s not my son, but we have an almost identical picture of him with a smile bigger than the dolphin’s. That’s the promise of Dolphin Cay — getting to hug, kiss and splash real live dolphins. And this is the price: $150. Photo not included. Is it worth it? Again, how much would you pay for pure joy? Courtesy Atlantis
atlantis sea lion interaction

No. 1 – Sea lion interaction

If you thought Leap of Faith or even the dolphins would be No. 1 on our list, you’re probably surprised to see a sea lion and some dudes in wetsuits. We debated long and hard about what was No. 1, but a few days removed from the trip, this is the experience that edges out all the others, albeit barely because there ain’t a bum entry on this list. The sea lion interaction, also available at Dolphin Cay for $150, starts with a behind-the-scenes tour. Then you go to the sea lion pens and an attendant opens the door. You don’t realize how big a 550-pound sea lion is until a 550-pound sea lion starts barreling toward you. For the next 20 minutes, we really just hung out with Freebie the sea lion, seeing all his tricks, including crazy smiling, crazy talking, crazy kissing and the most hilarious moment: a sea lion doing an awkward-seal-on-land impression. In a mega resort, the intimacy of just a few of us and one life-of-the-party sea lion really was priceless. Courtesy Atlantis
atlantis paradise island bahamas royal towers

Next – The Bridge Suite

Yes, that’s our list for this trip, but in some ways, we still only saw the pinkie finger tip of Atlantis. I mean, getting a peak at the $25,000-a-night bridge suite, seeing if we really would get a complimentary night there if we lost $1 million in the casino, eating at Nobu (or Mesa Grill or the Bahamian Club or …), snorkeling with stingrays, letting our oldest hang out in the Crush teen club — the list goes on. Sure, I still love those authentic ISLANDS magazine experiences where I can find my soul, but sometimes, I just want to get on an hour plane ride so I can spend the rest of the day on a lazy river. Chris Tauber

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