Gorgeous island beach in under four hours (direct flight only)? Annie Fitzsimmons looks for answers in Turks & Caicos.
There are travelers who veer into the obsessive when it comes to planning, and this is where I unapologetically live, with color-coded maps and documents culled from years of research.
Suffice it to say, I am on the fast track upon arrival, with a plan in place. But the last fast-track moment you’ll want to have on Turks and Caicos is at the airport, where expedited service through passport control is an absolute must—you will (a bit too smugly) zoom past the long immigration line, which was three hours long when I arrived.
The concept of island time—when everything slows down to the speed of lapping waters and one hour is indiscernible from the next—is not new. Here, it’s not just the island time, but also the multiple daily inbound flights and copious resort options for the luxury traveler that has helped it evolve into one of the top places to fly and flop over the last two decades.
“When you come to Turks, it very often looks like: you get in, you sit at the beach, you eat conch and then you leave. And while Grace Bay is one of the most famous beaches in the world, it won’t register on the top 10 for most Turks,” says journalist Chadner Navarro, who has been to the islands three times this year.
Whether it’s a famous beach or a secret spot reachable only by boat, it quickly becomes clear that everything is about the water for a nation comprising 40 islands and cays—the hidden coves, beaches, views and water sports. While it may not rank as the highest for the locals, the white-sand Grace Bay is consistently voted one of the top beaches in the world; it has a long barrier reef located a mile offshore that protects it from the Atlantic’s mighty swells. (Yes, the islands are actually technically located in the Atlantic but firmly in the mindset, vibe and look of the searingly blue, bathwater Caribbean we all know.)
The hardest choices become where to stay and how to see and experience the water. We outline some updates and reviews of our favorite luxury options.
Indagare Tip: Providenciales airport is undergoing much-needed renovation and is currently under construction. The lounge, which must be booked before departure, leaves a lot to be desired at $87.50 per person—there were two buckets to catch dripping rain through the ceiling when I was there. It’s a glorified waiting room—but the only place where the WiFi worked for me at the airport.
To start a stay at any Beach Enclave location, guests receive a two-minute welcome video from their butler–a small but rarely seen touch. All luxury resorts promise personalized service, but Beach Enclave manages to go above and beyond—and could even be considered as a more affordable villa option alongside our other Caribbean favorites. The hotel concept was dreamed up by Vasco Borges (see Q&A) as a gathering place for friends and family to be together in paradise while still having the amenities of gyms, chefs and all of the services in stunning beachfront accommodations. There are three Beach Enclave locations—Long Bay, Grace Bay and North Shore—and each one has several villas, all with direct beach access and a private pool deck and amenities like a gym with yoga deck. Villas all come with a dedicated butler and range in size from two to seven bedrooms, each with its own en suite bathroom. They have kayaks and paddleboards on each property’s private beach, and the concierge team can assist with any other arrangements.
Good to know: The villas are virtually the same at each location and the main differences are in the beach choices. At Long Bay, you’re essentially at sea level so you can walk right out to the sand, while at Grace Bay and North Shore, you’re perched a bit higher up, so you walk down some private stairs to get there. For this reason, families with younger kids may prefer Long Bay, but otherwise the vibe of the villas feels similar.
“I absolutely loved Da Conch Shack, the iconic beach restaurant with live music on certain days of the week and some of the best food—carefully and locally sourced—that I had on the island. Think hot wings, conch fritters, fish tacos, curries, rum cake and more. Pick up a couple bottles of the local hot sauce, Peppajoy, for some heat at home.”
The Shore Club’s executive penthouse suite is the one of the best on the island, with beautiful views of Long Bay. The penthouse’s floor-to-ceiling windows open onto two massive terraces, one that seems to cantilever over the sea and another that boasts an elevated hot tub. The property houses two beachfront towers and large villas that have an elegance that would feel right at home in Beverly Hills. Rooms are light-filled and airy, with a color palette of white, sea green, coral and baby blue. The signature restaurant, Sui-Ren, is a highlight, serving Peruvian and Japanese cuisine in a stylish alfresco setting.
“The villas and beach houses are my favorite accommodations in the Atlantic/Caribbean,” Indagare COO Eliza Harris says. “They are located right on the beach with sugar-white sand and aqua-blue water, with great swimming. They offer an incredible sense of privacy, seclusion and natural beauty. And the setup is simultaneously impeccably elegant and barefoot-chic, with hardwood floors, white furniture, high ceilings and so much light and space.” To many, this property, part of Singapore-based hotel company COMO, epitomizes what drew people to Turks and Caicos in the first place. It has attracted a loyal following of high-profile guests since opening in 1998. There’s not much to do on Parrot Cay—and that’s the point. Guests, a stylish mix of couples and families (all with very well-behaved children), lounge by the cobalt-blue infinity pool, at the beach or on the covered double daybeds built into the vegetation overlooking the beach. It’s all about pampering, wellness and—to a large extent—staying put. The outstanding COMO Shambhala spa is so popular with guests that you’re encouraged to book treatments well in advance of arrival.
“One of my favorite moments of the trip was shelling at sunset and daybreak along the tranquil beaches of Amanyara,” says Indagare’s vice president of sales, Elise Bronzo. “We were blown away by the beautiful rock formations and were transported back to childhood, sifting through the sand for sand dollars, conches and other treasures.” After her visit, creative director Simone Girner wrote in our review that “Amanyara can feel like a dream, which is, of course, part of the genius of the brand, which has made an art of the fusion of haute design, a laissez-faire ambience and the illusion of a totally responsibility-free vacation.”
“The reason to come is the spectacular two-mile white-sand beach and the low-key, get-away-from-it-all vibe of this privately owned 800-acre isle,” says Indagare’s senior content & brand strategy director, Jen Barr. “Situated amid a string of small cays between Providenciales and North Caicos along the world’s third-largest barrier reef, Pine Cay was once a private club; it’s now part of Relais & Châteaux and got a recent refresh, room and spa upgrades, elevated food, a new GM and genuine service. The two freestanding cottages away from the pool and dining area are the place to be. (There are also nine island homes for rent, if you’re looking to be on your own.) While it still feels like the Caribbean of 25 years ago, that seems precisely the point. And unless you’re there during holidays, when the owners return, you will have the glorious beach and much of this rustic island mostly to yourself.”
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