When Shawn-Marie Riley arrived at what’s believed to be the world’s only plus-size resort, the 375-pound Texan immediately felt right at home.
“Being able to feel ‘normal,’ even for a little while, was beyond a gift,” says the 5-foot-8 benefits administrator of her visit to the Resort, on the Bahamian island of Eleuthera. Riley says she loved it so much, she plans to return next year.
The secret retreat, founded two years ago by entrepreneur James King, encourages fuller-figured tourists to let it all hang out while on vacation. They can loll on chaise lounges built to hold 560 pounds; sleep — or enjoy worry-free sex — on king-size, steel-reinforced beds; and stroll the private beach without what King calls “fear of judgment.”
“What’s so great is [the Resort’s] recognition that people of size have insecurities and challenges that the general public never considers,” Riley tells The Post of her visit in November 2015, soon after it opened. “Will they have chairs I can sit on? Will the bed hold my weight? Will I fit in the tub?
“Can you imagine how it feels to walk down a beach and hear people refer to you as a beached whale?” continues Riley, who lives in Arlington, Texas. “I wore a bikini and never felt uncomfortable, and I was noticed for my beauty, not my size. Living as a plus-size person in a judgmental world is stressful.”
King says around 60 percent of his clientele are American, and roughly 10 percent of them come from the New York metro area.
The rest travel from as far afield as the UK and Spain.
Activities include swimming and kayaking on a nearby lagoon. Other options are boating or fishing.
King — who was inspired to found the resort because previous hotels he worked at didn’t cater to obese people — books only small groups of up to 24 people at a time. The $16,400 rate for a six-day stay includes three buffets a day. Drinks and tips are on the honor system.
King says he used to take individual guests but insists on group bookings to preserve the homely atmosphere.
“For the first couple of months, we did single bookings, but the issue was a lot of people just started to relax and feel comfortable and then new people turned up,” he says.
King, who is of a normal weight himself, says he hopes to open a second resort on nearby Cat Island for plus-size couples and singles.
“Why should 40 percent of our population be subjected to being ignored by the hospitality industry?” he asks.
This article originally appeared on the New York Post.