Last Updated on May 31, 2024

In early 2024, I had the pleasure of experiencing the grandeur of the British Colonial Hotel in Nassau, Bahamas. Sitting on the only private beach in Nassau, it was nothing short of a tropical fairy tale steeped in history – with a modern twist that whispers luxury at every turn.

The British Colonial Hotel is not just a place to lay your head or a tropical resort. It’s a living museum, bathed in the golden hues of a bygone era when the British Empire stretched its arms to the soft, sandy shores of the Bahamas. Constructed on the site of Old Fort Nassau, the hotel’s foundations are rich with tales of the past. Historical accounts state that the fort signaled the dawn of British influence in the 18th century, marking Nassau as a bastion of colonial charm.

The British Colonial Hotel in Nassau

The British Colonial Hotel Lobby, Nassau  Bahamas.
The British Colonial Hotel Lobby, Nassau Bahamas. Photo by Tina Walsh.

Walking into the lobby, I immediately sensed echoes of the illustrious guests who had walked these halls. Built originally in 1900 by Henry Flagler, the then-called Colonial Hotel was a glamorous beacon attracting celebrities, royals and jet setters from around the globe, especially the United States where prohibition had taken a stronghold.

The hotel burned down in 1922 and was rebuilt in six months by a Bahamian shipping company. It reopened on January 7, 1923, as the New Colonial Hotel.

In 1932, the hotel was purchased by Sir Harry Oakes. Oakes was one of the colony’s wealthiest and most powerful citizens as well as a close friend to the Bahamas’ governor, the Duke of Windsor (formerly King Edward VIII of England). Rumor has it that Oakes bought the hotel on a whim after experiencing bad service there.

Throughout the 1900s and early 2000s, the hotel changed hands multiple times, being operated as a Hilton property for many years. The hotel struggled during the post-COVID years and closed in 2022. It then ended its association with Hilton and underwent a $50 million renovation.

It reopened on December 19, 2023, under the name of the British Colonial Hotel.

The hotel has had its moments of Hollywood fame, appearing in the James Bond classics “Thunderball” and “Never Say Never Again.”

As I sat at the huge, mahogany bar in the Woodes Rogers Tavern sipping on a Vesper Martini, I could feel the 1960s glamour depicted in these James Bond movies. This place doesn’t just have stories, it holds legends.

A Luxurious Renovation

The British Colonial Nassau isn’t living in the past. Fast-forward to today, the British Colonial Hotel has unveiled its extensive renovation that masterfully balances its historic character with state-of-the-art amenities.

The revamp has invigorated this classic gem with a fresh, modern energy while paying homage to its rich heritage. The result is timeless elegance that feels both respectful of its storied background and perfectly suited for today’s discerning traveler. Think of it as history reimagined.

British Colonial Nassau Accommodations

Private Beach and Pool Area, British Colonial Hotel, Nassau, Bahamas.
Private Beach and Pool Area, British Colonial Hotel, Nassau, Bahamas. Photo by Tina Walsh.

My room was a bright, sunny, sanctuary, mixing contemporary comforts with touches of colonial style. The hotel has seven floors with 288 recently refurbished rooms, including 25 distinctive suites, perfect for wedding parties.

Rooms vary in size, offering the perfect amount of space for all types of travelers. Each room sports either a king, queen or two double beds. All include spacious bathrooms with a bathtub and shower, a 50-inch flatscreen TV, and a good-sized workspace for remote workers. Guests can choose between garden, city or ocean views.

Each morning, I awoke to colorful city views. A short walk to the private beach allowed me to see the sun casting its golden, welcoming glow over the white sands and crystal waters. The days started slow, with coffee in hand, watching the giant cruise ships dock in the Nassau harbor.

Book your stay at the British Colonial Nassau

Surrounded by History

It’s the fusion of the glorious past and the inviting present that sets the British Colonial Hotel apart. Strolling through the hotel’s halls, I stumbled upon black and white photos that whispered a century’s worth of secrets and contemporary Bahamian art that brought a burst of the archipelago’s soul into the building. It’s like walking through time with one foot in the roaring 20s and the other firmly in the present.

For history buffs like me, the hotel’s storied walls are as compelling as its luxurious offerings. The recent renovation has not erased any of this history. It has preserved and polished it, ensuring that the beauty and tales of yesteryear are not forgotten but rather celebrated.

A vibrant display greets you as you enter the main lobby of the hotel.  A large mural presides over this entrance hall, depicting the country’s history through words and images. The mural highlights the hotel’s history since 1901, as well as Bahamian history from Christopher Columbus’ arrival in 1492, to the country’s independence from Britain. It also mentions the hotel’s connection to the James Bond films. 

Whether you are lounging by the two redesigned swimming pools, sipping on a Bahama Mama cocktail at the outdoor Red Pearl Grill, or wandering the same waterfront where pirates once moored their ships, the British Colonial Hotel is a blending of history and contemporary luxury in every sense.

Dining at the British Colonial Hotel

The culinary experience was equally delightful, with an array of dining options that took my taste buds on a journey through the vibrant flavors of the islands. The renovation paid special consideration to food and beverage outlets, ensuring each meal was not only a feast for the palate but also for the eyes, with gorgeous settings to match the atmosphere.

I was absolutely blown away by the dining options at the British Colonial Hotel. While I did not have time to enjoy them all, I do have plans to return and enjoy the Caribbean lobster tail and supper club ambiance of Mahogany Club.

Guests can taste more Caribbean seafood with an Asian flair at Sakana Noodle & Sushi Bar or enjoy a hearty breakfast buffet at Tamarind Market Place. The relaxed atmosphere and friendly service make dining here a true pleasure.

I can’t say enough about the variety and quality of the dishes at the hotel. Each meal is a culinary adventure!

Before bidding adieu to this enchanting hotel, I made sure to enjoy a sunrise cappuccino from the newly revamped lobby coffee bar. As the sky painted itself with the most extraordinary shades of orange and pink, I couldn’t help but reflect on the seamless blend of history and modernity that defined my stay.

If you’re craving a luxurious escape in Nassau that promises a dive into history with all the contemporary trimmings, the British Colonial Hotel should be at the top of your list. Whether it’s the allure of its bygone era or the comforts of its present-day sophistication, this is a place where every corner tells a story, and every moment feels like a step through time.

What do you think?

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1 Comment
  • Kirsten
    May 31, 2024

    Such a beautiful property! I’m happy that I had the chance to visit it with you. What an asset to historic Nassau.