Experience a Hamptons-Maldives fusion on an island just 30 minutes from Miami



Florida’s affluent Wall Street South crowd is set to experience a new upscale retreat — and they can spare themselves a trip to the Palm Beaches to do so.

Developer Rafael Reyes, owner of Rockwell Island Development Group, is transforming Bimini, a Bahamian island just 48 nautical miles from the Florida coast, into a luxurious escape for Miami’s elite, Bloomberg reports.

Miami, now ranked 33rd globally for its millionaire residents, is becoming home to an increasing number of wealthy professionals.

For the approximately 4 million Miamians with boats, according to Reyes, the journey to Bimini can be as short as 40 minutes.

A high-speed ferry matches this time, while standard ferries take about 90 minutes. A helicopter ride with a local charter like HeliFlite shortens the trip to 25 minutes.

Currently, Bimini lacks 5-star amenities, but Reyes is rapidly changing that. His ambitious plans include a series of dining and beach clubs, such as an outpost of Bonito from St. Barts and Aspen’s Betula.

Following this, 54 waterfront mansions have a starting price of $3.5 million — each featuring a pool, a 90-foot dock and custom garages for Moke Jeeps.

The residences will be built in phases with the first few delivered in early 2025

A beach club by Sir Richard Branson to cater to Virgin cruise guests has joined the lineup.

The centerpiece is slated for 2026: a Banyan Tree resort featuring the country’s first overwater villas — an aesthetic very reminiscent of the Maldives — priced from $3,000 per night, spread across four man-made islands facing a vast lagoon.

This will be part of the new master-planned community, Rockwell Island, with an overall cost of approximately $245 million, in addition to $80 million in public-private funding for airport expansion to accommodate direct flights from major US airlines.

“Bimini used to be a very popular place in the old days,” Reyes told the outlet, referring to its heyday during Prohibition when it was the closest escape from alcohol restrictions for Americans. “Those were the glory days of Bimini … I’m trying to reestablish that now.”

Spanning 5 square miles, Bimini is surrounded by shallow, clear waters. Reyes’ company, a subsidiary of RAV Bahamas Ltd., has acquired over half the island since the 1990s, developing infrastructure including a seaplane port, helipads and a ferry terminal.

His efforts also brought in the largest marina in the Bahamian “Family Islands,” with 242 slips.

“You have all these people bringing their ships and mega yachts from the Med each year,” Reyes added. “So how do we attract them? You attract them by creating an extravagant food and beverage experience — and then sending a tender to pick them up from wherever they dock offshore.”

Bonito, opening this summer, will be followed by two or three more high-profile restaurants. Plans include a toes-in-the-sand beach bar with high-end Italian cuisine. Although Banyan Tree won’t be fully operational for a few years, its overwater spa and restaurants will open in phases to serve residents and yachters.

The Banyan Tree resort will feature 50 rooms and villas, designed as floating ivory jewel boxes with outdoor living areas and private plunge pools. The main pool and restaurant will extend over the sea on stilts.

Gabriel Gn, head of business development at Banyan Group, calls the Bimini resort a flagship property, pivotal to the brand’s expansion into the Americas.

“Bimini is going to be one of the most beautiful properties in our entire portfolio — a mini Maldives,” said Gn, noting that this is Banyan Tree’s first resort with overwater bungalows.

Building overwater accommodations in the Caribbean is challenging. Only a few resorts, like Sandals in Jamaica and St. Vincent, have succeeded due to stringent government regulations protecting coastlines.

Reyes emphasizes that their construction methods are environmentally conscious, transplanting coral and designing lighting to minimize wildlife disruption. A portion of the land remains undeveloped to preserve a mangrove forest essential for marine life and fishing.

Reyes asserts that the infrastructure improvements, including water treatment and power plants, will benefit local communities, creating 200 jobs at the Banyan Tree resort and nearby restaurants. However, the high-end development is unlikely to cater to the average Bahamian resident.

“When New Yorkers take off in a seaplane or helicopter, they go to the Hamptons. I’m trying to create that same concept in a Caribbean fashion,” Reyes said.

Miami-based architectural firm Oppenheim Architecture is leading design efforts for the residences and the resort, and locally-based OFFICIAL, is overseeing the sales of the residences.

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