Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn  

Who says time flies when you're having fun? Here at this cozy Bahamian hideaway, the pace slows to a sea turtle's saunter.

would-be passengers scurry to Marsh Harbour's dock as the 1:15ferry pulls away. Staring helplessly out to sea, they watch theboat point its bow toward tiny Great Guana Cay 30 minutes away.With an hour to kill until the next ferry, the left-behind touristshuddle to discuss options. Should they catch a cab into town ortake a quick boat trip to a nearby island?

Having witnessed this scene countless times, a clerk at theharborside dive shop shakes her head and volunteers advice: "Dating ta do is chill," she says in her beguiling accent. "Chill atda bar 'til da ferry comes." Her suggestion could very well be themotto of the Abacos, a cluster of islands at the northern tip ofthe Bahamas.

Interactive Color: Caribbean Hues
Play with the bright Caribbean hues found on the walls of this Bahamian hidaway.

Tropical breezes and welcoming locals make relaxing a likelyproposition here. But never more so than at Great Guana, a slender7-mile-long cay sandwiched between the Sea of Abaco and theAtlantic.qWith fewer than 100 full-time residents, the island hasno bank, no post office, and no police station. It does have 5miles of downy-soft beach, a stunning marine playground for divers,and exceptional lodging in its Dolphin Beach Resort.

Fanned out over 10 acres, the oceanside inn mingles a laid-backBahamian attitude with upscale Caribbean ambience. Managingpartners Nancy and Bruce McDaniel anticipate every need, but alsoarm folks with enough knowledge to explore Guana on their own-thatis, if they ever leave the resort.

Here, lush vegetation lends a feeling of seclusion. A labyrinthof boardwalks and sandy paths links seven handcrafted cottages withthe main lodge and common areas, including a freshwater pool, gameroom, and gift shop. Cottages are sited for easy access to thedeserted beach, one of the Bahamas' best.

Nancy's obsession with detail legitimizes Dolphin Beach's"resort" status. Fresh-cut flowers and a bottle of Chardonnay awaitguests upon arrival. Beach chairs and umbrellas mysteriously appearin front of the cottages each morning. Under the McDaniels' gentleguidance, the 25 staff members provide personal attention withbroad smiles. "They appear to be part of one big family," saysfirst-time visitor Art Garrett, "from the managers on across."

The cottages combine the rusticity of summer camp with thecasual charm of a Ralph Lauren retreat. Vibrant furniture sits atopstriped rag rugs and painted floors. As befitting a true hideaway,Dolphin Beach conspicuouslypomits in-room phones, alarm clocks, andcable TV (though cottages come equipped with VCRs and CD players).And there are no black-out shades. "After a while, everyoneswitches to island time," Nancy says. "Like farmers, they wake upwith the sun and go to bed with the sun."

s enchanting as the cottages are, guests spend little time inthem. They're lured outside by the sun and sea-and the activitiesaround them. A low-impact option includes beachcombing. For themore adventurous, on-site Dive Guana offers scuba and snorkelingexcursions to the area's majestic coral reefs. Dolphin Beach alsoprovides complimentary bikes, surfboards, sea kayaks, andkiteboards.

Guests who eventually do leave the resort rent golf carts, theisland's main form of transportation, and explore the Settlementskirting Kidd's Cove (named for the infamous pirate, who-accordingto local lore-frequented the isle). Rugged roads lead to thecolorful clapboard homes of locals, mainly descendants of BritishLoyalists who fled Virginia and the Carolinas during theRevolutionary War. Sitting on their front porches, hospitablenatives often wave tourists in for a snack or beverage.

Those in need of the latter will find no shortage of places toget one. Nippers Beach Bar & Grill, a short walk from DolphinBeach, is wildly popular (emphasis on "wild"), attractingday-trippers from nearby islands.

Around 5 p.m., Dolphin Beach guests trickle down the sandy paththat leads to the resort's Landing Bar & Grill. Here, under asweeping buttonwood tree, patrons chat as the sun slips behind thehorizon. One visitor couldn't find her husband on their first day."Two and a half hours later, I went looking for him," she says. Hewas there under the tree, "kicked back with a Kalik [Bahamianbeer], talking it up with the locals. You'd have thought they'dknown him all his life."

Offering an equally authentic yet more upscale experience, theresort's brand-new Blue Water Grill and Red Sky Lounge servesdelicious Bahamian fare with breathtaking bay views. Executive chefDietmar "Didi" Uiberreiter, who hails from Austria, runs thekitchen alongside Abaconian chef Debbie MacIntosh. Together theycreate diverse menus featuring the freshest seafood.

Sated and sleepy, many people head back to their cottages afterdinner. Others linger a while, heeding the words of the dive-shopclerk: Da ting ta do is chill.

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