Are you longing to escape from a fast-paced world? To find a slice of paradise and relax? Caerula Mar Club is the luxury boutique resort for you. Located on South Andros Island in the Bahamas, it is an easy trip from Chicago. We boarded a flight to Fort Lauderdale and a few hours later we popped over to Makers Air, a private charter airline company with the tagline— “connecting passengers to paradise.” The scenic flight to South Andros was just over an hour and proved the perfect vantage point to view many of the famous Bahamian “blue holes” —underwater cave systems famed for their azure centers and turquoise rims. After arriving at the quaint Congo Town-Queen international airport, it was a four-minute drive to the resort. Once past the Club’s gate, we meandered down a curving white gravel drive hugged on either side by dense, glossy hedges. Around a final curve, Caerula Mar emerged like a mirage. General managers and hospitality industry veterans, Ron and Margaret Gratzinger, greeted us like old friends. The resort’s emphasis on sustainable and natural materials evokes a “barefoot breezy” feel with a luxurious vibe—we couldn’t wait to kick off our shoes.
Our refreshing welcome mocktails—bearing hints of grapefruit and pear—in hand, we headed to our beachfront villa. Soaring ceilings, pristine contemporary décor, soft white oak floors, and sumptuous linens welcomed us into the open-plan living area. Beyond the main bedroom was an immense marble bathroom with a shower sporting three showerheads and a bench—an indulgent way to wash away the sea’s salt and sand. The expansive villa featured two bedrooms, a sitting area, and a large veranda. In the evenings, we often spent time on the latter listening to the ocean’s orchestra while engaged in games of Rummikub borrowed from the resort’s game room.
Caerula Mar Club features three dining concepts. Switcha, the whimsical café and smoothie bar located just off the lobby, became our go-to for coffee and breakfast (the Acai bowls are a must). We selected poolside/oceanfront open-air Driffs as our daily lunch spot. Here we savored delicious salads topped with fresh catches of the day cooked Bahamian-style or, my husband’s favorite, a spicy fried chicken sandwich with sweet potato fries. According to both my husband and daughter, the fries are reason enough to return to this idyllic setting. Evenings were spent savoring Lusca’s curated daily menu featuring a fish, meat, and vegetarian entrée option. A favorite dish was the ginger and citrus-marinated ahi tuna, crusted with sesame seeds, served over rice noodles, with carrots, zucchini, onions, garlic, green onions, and a hoisin sauce-sesame ponzu dressing—absolutely divine. Luckily, the dessert menu remained constant as we would have sorely missed our nightly selection of the chocolate pecan tart served with caramel, Chantilly cream, raspberry puree, and fresh berries. We did mix it up a bit one evening and ordered the peanut butter mousse served with grilled pineapple salsa and goat cheese with lavender ice cream; a dish that gave us a true appreciation for the chef ’s gift for perfectly pairing ingredients.
Each day began on the beautiful Bahamian white sand beach. The long stretch of sand suited my husband’s extended runs and my daughter and my morning walks. The shade of the towering palms encouraged me to finish several books that had occupied my nightstand for weeks. The poolside hammocks offered a breezy alternate location for reading or just daydreaming. I spent hours in my suspended paradise swayed by the ocean breeze.
On days we felt adventurous, we used the complimentary water sports equipment to test our balance on the stand-up paddleboards or take a spin in the kayaks. One afternoon, the three of us set off to explore the island on the resort bicycles and hiked four of the island’s blue holes. It was a lovely way to explore the island’s rocky terrain and become acquainted with the island’s friendly residents. When we passed a bus full of school children wearing bright blue uniforms and waving enthusiastically, it seemed they couldn’t have been happier to see us.
We also ventured off the resort grounds for a day of snorkeling. Our guides picked us up for a quick ride in an open-air Jeep to the dock where we made a stop at a local conch establishment to meet our restaurant proprietor/captain. Once on the water, we headed to a lagoon. Hopping into the pristine waters, we swam through a sea of tiny jellyfish – lucky for us, not of the stinging variety. We encountered an assortment of conch, lobster, and fish – favorites were the Queen Triggerfish and the Lionfish – both appearing as if dressed for some type of aquatic ball. The Queen looked as if she had spent hours perfecting her elaborately patterned eye makeup, and the Lionfish’s frilly fins resembled a glamorous “gown.” We also met up with turtles, and I was surprised to learn that the Bahamian turtles are quite speedy – very different from their leisurely brethren familiar to us from other locales. Several rays and starfish made an appearance in the shallower waters. In deeper areas, we visited the blue holes – these water-filled cave systems attract divers from all over the world. We did not get a chance to scuba dive, but diving is quite popular as the Andros Reef is one of the largest in the world and offers the purest Bahamian diving experience. According to island lore, these holes are home to the mythical sea monster known as Lusca. We were unable to test the veracity of this tale as Lusca chose not to greet us.
Returning to the resort via boat, we had the privilege to be the very first guests to step onto the resort’s newly renovated dock. The dock is just one of many projects highlighted in HGTV’s Island Renovation. This hit show documents the owners of Caerula Mar and renovation professionals Bryan and Sarah Baeumler’s purchase and restoration of this once-abandoned property. Spoiler alert … the end result is pretty extraordinary, and you might even catch a glimpse of our family as the show was filming during our visit. So, put down the remote control and seize an opportunity to relax, refresh, and renew on one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful, untouched, and bio-diverse destinations.