The Caribbean’s Most Sustainable Hotel Is In The Bahamas
From the moment you walk into the lobby, The Retreat seems just like a typical tropical hotel you might find anywhere in the Caribbean.
The 15 guest rooms are modern and clean; the restaurant has blackened mahi-mahi and flatbreads and herbal teas on the menu. The gleaming pool is lined with towering palm trees.
But The Retreat isn’t like any hotel you’ve ever been to in the Caribbean.
And what’s happening here in Rock Sound, Eleuthera, is a model for the entire region.
The Retreat is the home of the One Eleuthera Foundation’s Centre for Training and Innovation’s training campus — a headquarters for training and skills development in southern Eleuthera – and a training hotel that is the only one of its kind in The Bahamas.
The property, a re-imagining of Arthur Vining Davis’ 1950s-era Rock Sound Club resort, is one of the best places to stay in southern Eleuthera — but at every level, what you see is a hospitality and training school in action, from the solar-powered hydroponic farm powering the restaurant to the bed frames built by on-site-trained carpenters.
“This is a hands-on learning experience,” says Keyron Smith, president and CEO of the One Eleuthera Foundation. “They learn the theory at school and come here and do the practice — this is our showpiece, our lab.”
And the education is vast, training Eleutherans in everything from culinary arts to carpentry to hospitality to food security. The latter includes a first-of-its-kind for The Bahamas, a state-of-the-art hydroponic cooling house that has in less than a year become a significant provider of produce to hotels, restaurants and grocery stores across Eleuthera and Harbour Island.
The 23-acre farm grows peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, leafy greens and broccoli, among other vegetables, powered by an adjacent solar photovoltaic plant, is accompanied by a apiary center that trains local people in beekeeping and provides services to facilitate honey production.
There are 44 full-time students at the Center in a competitive curriculum, one that also offers a “learn-to-earn” program that provides working opportunities and compensation for students. All of the students study on full scholarships, whether in 12-week modules or full-year courses.
Many of the employees at The Retreat are actually former students here, Smith says.
And the students themselves are a true cross-section of the island, from as young as 16 to as senior as 64, all drawn here by a unified purpose and a desire for personal development.
At the Farmer’s Table restaurant at the hotel, for example, the produce is all sourced at the farm, and students go from the culinary program into an apprenticeship in the kitchen.
In other words, the hotel is as sustainable as it gets – not just providing lip service to sustainability with things like LED lighting or expensive green certification programs — but real sustainability — training, teaching, developing and ensuring a lasting, residual, transformational impact in lives and communities.
Farmers at the center will one day go on to cultivate their own farms; employees at the hotels will continue their careers at hotels and resorts; culinary students will develop their own kitchens and food and beverage programs; and carpenters will help build out the next generation of living spaces.
The Retreat just launched its first-ever, full-fledged booking engine, making it easier than ever to stay here, whether you’re in search of Eleuthera’s particular brand of quiet and serenity, seek out the 300 species of birds that call the island home — or get a closer look into the Caribbean’s “hotel lab.”
You can enjoy what is a remarkable reimagining of what was, more than a half century ago, one of The Bahamas’ first jet-set hotels.
Today, it’s something else — a beacon for the region, and, truly, the most sustainable hotel in the Caribbean.
For more, visit The Retreat.