Five days of food and fun at Sandals Emerald Bay
After our busy first day, we spent the rest of our vacation relaxing, playing in the surf, and eating amazing food. Our daily itinerary looked something like this:
- Walk the beach and watch the sunrise
- Enjoy a tasty plant-based breakfast
- Lounge by the quiet pool and read
- Eat lunch, custom-designed by a resort chef
- Hit the beach for water sports, swimming, and relaxing with a cold drink
- Savor a four-course dinner
Restaurants at Sandals Emerald Bay
Sandals Emerald Bay includes 6 restaurants and a cafe:
- Il Cielo (Italian). Requires reservations and has a dress code.
- Barefoot By the Sea (Seafood). Al fresco dining by the ocean; where we had our lunch served nearly every day. Minus the seafood, of course.
- Drunken Duck: Pub food and late night. Needless to say, we never ate here!
- La Parisienne (French). Requires reservations and has a dress code.
- Bahama Bay (Bahamian/Caribbean): Has a lovely breakfast buffet where we ate most mornings, although lunch and dinner was also served.
- Dino’s (Pizza): Makes delicious gluten-free, no-oil, no-cheese pizza. This was our go-to place for a snack.
- Cafe de Paris (Coffee and pastries): Super friendly staff, great coffee, opens early (6:30am)
If you have dietary restrictions, you can eat at any restaurant. However, generally, you won’t order off the menu; you’ll have your special meal served to you there. That said, the chefs go out of their way to keep the food in theme with the type of restaurant you choose.
Breakfasts: “buffet creative” or by the sea
Unless we ordered room service, I didn’t make any special requests for breakfast. Instead, I preferred to concoct my own breakfasts from the buffet at Bahama Bay: typically fresh fruit and Rice Krispies. Soy milk was on offer, but I can’t have it, so I ate my cereal with blueberry topping stirred in. (Sounds weird, tastes great!) Interestingly, I found out partway through our stay that the resort had almond milk available, but I was already so enamored with my “blueberry pie Krispies” that I declined.
We ordered room service twice (although it’s included in the price of butler rooms, so we could have done it every day). Both times we had gluten-free pancakes cooked without oil, along with syrup and a beautiful assortment of melon, berries, guava, and pineapple. All served on our balcony overlooking the ocean. (Thank you, butlers!) Sorry I didn’t snap any pancake pics, but you get the idea.
Lunches: fresh and inventive
Our lunches were reliably delicious. They inevitably began with a generous and incredibly fresh green salad (no yucky wilted leaves!) along with a slice of fresh lemon or tropical fruit vinaigrette. Then came a delicious entree, often incorporating brown rice (which the resort special-ordered for me—warm fuzzies)! For example:
- Bell peppers stuffed with tomatoes, vegetables, sweet potato, and corn with a spicy red sauce
- Baked stuffed cabbage leaves with brown rice and fresh herb filling, over an amazingly creamy, yet oil-free sauce made from cauliflower, celery root (celeriac), and apple. Never would have thought of this, but can’t wait to recreate it!
Dinners: four-course feasts
Since dinner each night was especially created for us by one of the head chefs (or the executive chef himself), we never knew what we were going to have. Half the fun was speculating, though!
Here’s our dinner from the Italian restaurant, Il Cielo:
Although I didn’t get pictures of everything else, other favorites included:
- Perfectly roasted oil-free fries at Bahama Bay (per our request)
- Almond milk rice pudding with fresh mango and candied guava at Bahama Bay
- Carrot-apple soup with onions, cinnamon, and fresh mint at La Parisienne
- Delectable low-fat, gluten-free apple crisp with homemade almond milk ice cream
As you can tell by the preponderance of desserts, the pastry chefs were fantastic.
To Sandals or not to Sandals?
The resort itself, like every place, it had its upsides (gorgeous landscaping, incredible beach, water sports, comfy beds!) and downsides (while most of the staff were friendly, some were not).
The same was true for the food. Most of it was delicious and customized to my restrictions. However, if you have celiac disease or severe food allergies, as always, you will need to be vigilant. For example, beyond the first-day pizza incident, the vegetable platter I was served at La Parisienne had tofu on it. Not a big deal for me, since I can handle small amounts of soy and could just pick it off—but it would have been a problem if I were allergic.
Luckily mishaps were the exception, and I was relieved and delighted to vacation in paradise and enjoy gorgeous, ultra-customized plant-based cuisine.
What’s more, one of the head chefs—often Chef Josef himself—checked in with us daily (and sometimes multiple times a day!) to ensure that we were enjoying our meals and see if there was anything else they could do to accommodate us. The extra effort made us feel special and cared for, which is impressive given the many other guests they had to attend to.
Better still, instead of seeing dietary limitations as a burden, the chefs seemed to find creating meals customized to our needs and tastes a pleasant challenge. I’m still impressed at the low-fat, plant-based, gluten-free meals they managed to turn out, given that most culinary schools don’t exactly specialize in healthful cooking.
In fact, multiple times throughout our stay, other guests approached our table to ask what we were having—with a hint of envy in their voices. Let’s hear it for low-fat, vegan cuisine…and resort chefs who rise to the culinary challenge!
So if you’re looking for a Caribbean couples’ resort that can make you gluten free, vegan food tailored specifically to your dietary restrictions, Sandals Emerald Bay is a good bet. Have kids? The Beaches resorts (part of the same group as Sandals) may be more your style. However, if you’re thinking of taking the plunge, be sure to read my TripAdvisor review, Gluten Free and Vegan at Sandals Emerald Bay – Tips for Travelers with Food Restrictions.