I've never been a fan of mega beachfront resorts, which line former pristine swaths of sand. To me they represent development gone awry. So when I was planning my trip to the Bahamas, I wanted to steer clear of any chain properties as well as those that featured gambling, water parks and the like. So, I focused my attention on the Out Islands of the Bahamas, which are particularly popular with fishermen and boaters. I finally decided on Long Island because it offered a nice mix of low key activities with plenty of authenticity. (My article and accompanying video slide show on pristine Long Island recently appeared in the Huffington Post.) But I realized that I'd have to overnight in Nassau because of flight scheduling issues. And this is where I was in a predicament, wanting an economical hotel that wasn't far from the airport and yet was laid back and charming.
It looked like these were tough criteria to meet and yet I thought I read about the Orange Hill Beach Inn. Then I started reading TripAdvisor and, curiously, the reviews were more all over the place than usual, with some saying they couldn't wait to return, that the staff couldn't have been friendlier and that it was a true hidden treasure, while others said it was filthy, the staff was rude and that the rooms were overprices. Wow, what a disparity. But, after looking at the expensive, glitzy alternatives, I decided to take the chance and I'm so glad I did.
I stayed two nights, one on each end of my trip to Long Island and I so wish that I had a week, that's how much I adored the Orange Hill Beach Inn. Yes, it's got a rough-around-the-edges feel. But it's also homey, and the staff was warm and welcoming. Yes, it's very low key but the setting, a lush garden expanse with all manner of blooming foliage, can't be beat. It's located literally across the street from a long sandy beach that I found perfect for walking or sunning with little in the way of crowds. My accommodation, which was one of two private cottages, was spacious with a wee kitchen and a small balcony where I sat and enjoyed the view from my mini-hilltop retreat. There's even a tiny man-made waterfall outside my door!
They have a small pool but my favorite activity was sitting in one of several wooden swing chairs amidst the palms, frangipani and other colorful and fragrant foliage. Among the other tropical plants on the property, we found bougainvillea, banana trees, sea grapes and dozens of other with blossoms in myriad hues. In the early morning, it was a delight to get a cup of coffee and sit amongst the foliage listening to the twittering birds, which were in abundance.
At first I thought that the location -- literally a five-minute cab ride from the airport -- would be noise (Not) and that it would be isolated (Not). In fact, the hotel does a daily grocery run giving you the opportunity to buy dinner fixings that you can cook if you're staying in one of the cottages. They can, sometimes, drop you off at a nearby restaurant that's also within walking distance. But, if none of that works for you, there's also a mini bus that runs along the coast that goes to and from downtown.
One of the best things about this inn is the food. They serve three meals but dinner is the real treat. The short menu changes nightly and during my two-night stay, they served chicken or shrimp fajitas, jerk chicken or tuna, grilled grouper, cracked conch, shrimp with pasta, and Bahamian lobster tail. My favorite was the Bahamian combo of chicken, ribs, and grouper fingers.
This is a family-owned business -- Judy, the owner, has had the place for 31 years. And they have a real following with guests returning year after year. In fact, it's not unusual to hang out in the bar, dining room or outside the reception area and find people you met on your previous visit.
So, where did all those bad reviews on TripAdvisor come from? Maybe some guests couldn't deal with some peeling paint, a faucet fixture that wasn't working properly or the shower that didn't heat up very fast. Remember, I said it was rough around the edges. Don't go expecting a palatial retreat. Go expecting to relax and enjoy the low-key Bahamian vibe, eat some tasty food, and maybe make some friends. That's what I did and I can't wait to return next year.