Hilly property with lots of stairs and no elevators
Room decor is dated (though renovations are planned for late 2016)
Bathrooms are tiny
We can definitively say that Grotto Bay Beach Resort is Bermuda’s best bang-for-your-buck hotel. It has consistently cheaper rates than most of its competitors, and a host of on-site amenities, including three restaurants and an incredibly special spa built within a natural grotto. Because of this, the 210-room upper-middle-range hotel attracts all kinds of guests, including families, couples, business travelers, and even Bermudians on staycations. Although rooms aren’t the prettiest or the most modern on the island, they’re spacious, and most have ocean views. Like many of its neighbors, Grotto Bay is also quite hilly, and requires a lot of stair climbing. The Fairmont Southampton has nicer rooms and offers comparable amenities, but is farther from the airport and consistently pricier.
An upper-middle-range resort that attracts a wide array of travelers
After a three-minute drive from the airport (we’re not kidding, it’s actually three minutes), guests are greeted by tangerine colored buildings with white shutters and traditional Bermudian roofs. Inside, the warm lobby, with its clubby Ralph Lauren on vacation decor, features rattan furniture, woven rugs, and wide plank wood floors. Depending on the time of year, guests run the gamut from families and couples, to business travelers and airline crews. This is even a popular spot for Bermudians to take “staycations.” During the summer months, the hotel becomes crowded with families, and the elated shrieks of children on vacation fill the air. During the winter, older couples come to enjoy the quiet atmosphere and pleasant temperatures, while springtime brings golfers, tennis enthusiasts, and east coast couples looking for a quick getaway.
Three minutes from the airport, in Hamilton Parish
As we mentioned, Grotto Bay is a quick three-minute drive from L.F. Wade International Airport. Some travelers are wary of staying too close to the airport, fearing that the sound of landing airplanes will ruin their relaxing vacation. However, Bermuda’s airport isn’t exactly JFK, and there are only a few scheduled flights each day — so overheard aviation noise shouldn’t be too much of a concern.
Grotto Bay is within walking distance of one of Bermuda’s most famous restaurants, The Swizzle Inn — which is home to Bermuda’s iconic national drink, The Rum Swizzle. Besides The Swizzle Inn, there isn’t much else to see or do in Grotto Bay’s immediate neighborhood. The historic town of St. George’s is about a 10-minute drive from the hotel, while downtown Hamilton and the island’s popular south shore beaches are about a 25-minute drive. Foreigners are not allowed to rent cars in Bermuda, but can rent mopeds. Other transportation options include taxis and the public bus. Despite being expensive, taxis are the most reliable form of transportation. The public bus doesn’t always run as scheduled, and renting a moped can be dangerous for travelers who aren’t accustomed to left-side driving laws or Bermuda’s insanely winding roads.
Unfortunately, the warm tones and preppy decor found in the lobby don't continue into the guest rooms, which are fairly bland and somewhat dated. Instead, rooms have tile floors, purple accent walls, and nondescript purple and white bedding. The dark oak furniture and woven rugs are tasteful additions, but don’t do enough to completely pull the room together. In-room amenities include flat-screen TVs, mini-fridges, coffeemakers, electronic safes, and ironing materials, but don’t expect iHomes or portable charging systems. All rooms have large balconies with small table and chair sets. Most rooms also have ocean views. There are two room types at Grotto Bay, one with a king-size bed, and one with two queens. Besides this distinction, all rooms are nearly identical and equally spacious.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t first mention Grotto Bay’s (and perhaps Bermuda’s) most special hotel amenity — the cave spa. Though its actual name is Natura Spa, the spa located inside the hotel’s naturally occurring grotto is more commonly referred to as the “cave spa” by guests and hotel staff members, for good reason. Spa-goers enter the cave through a nondescript wooden door and walk down a long “corridor” to reach the treatment room. Here, two curtained pontoons, with two massage tables each, float above the cave’s green waters. Further into the cave is a small changing room and a relaxation area. Though the majority of guests come for massages, other treatment options — like facials, body scrubs, and manicures — are also available.
Take it from us, a massage in the cave spa is definitely an indulgence worth booking, but if spa treatments aren’t your thing, the hotel has another grotto that’s open for guests to explore and swim in. Descending the stairs into the cave has an Indiana Jones feeling to it, and once inside, the world of sandy beaches and swim-up bars feels far away. The bright blue water inside is a little chilly, but braving the temperature is worth it when you get to go home and tell all of your friends that you went cave swimming.
Besides the amazing caves, Grotto Bay also has the standard list of beach resort amenities — including a beautiful beachfront, a mid-size pool and a hot tub, a dive shop, tennis courts, and three on-site restaurants. The crescent-shaped beach is lined with lounge chairs and has calm waters with excellent conditions for swimming, kayaking, and snorkeling. The dive shop is a few steps from the sand, and has kayak, snorkel, and boat rentals available. During the summer months, the hotel sets up a playground a few feet from the shore, which tends to be popular with kids (and even a few adults).
Free Wi-Fi is available for all guests throughout the hotel and in each guest room. It’s fast, reliable, and works well across the property.
The freeform pool overlooks the beach and has a swim-up bar. It’s surrounded by lounge chairs, which fill up with families during the warmer months. There’s also a small hot tub in a secluded area a few feet from the pool. For guests who prefer something a bit more active, Grotto Bay also has four on-site tennis courts, which are free for guests to use.
Three restaurants, including a seasonal poolside option
The hotel’s three on-site restaurants serve breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even an afternoon tea service. The poolside restaurant and bar serves casual food and drinks during the day. Unfortunately, it was closed for the season during our visit. The remaining two restaurants, The Palm Court Dining Room and the Hibiscus Dining Room, are located in the main lobby building and are open year-round. The Palm Court Dining Room serves afternoon tea and dinner. It also has a small bar, where local singers perform a few nights per week. The Palm Court’s dinner menu features a wide array of international specialities, including pizzas, pasta, fish and chips, and barbecue ribs. Each morning, The Palm Court also has an assortment of grab-n-go continental breakfast items for guests who’d prefer to skip the buffet.
The Hibiscus Dining Room is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The gorgeous dining room has the same upscale clubby atmosphere as the lobby, with dark wood detailing and white coffered ceilings. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet style, but there’s also a small a la carte menu at lunchtime. Dinner brings an a la carte menu focused on fresh local seafood and upscale offerings like filet mignon and lamb shank.
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