Imagine your perfect vacation. I did exactly that when my husband said it was time to get away. It was time to replenish and relax after a long and somewhat taxing year. I knew what I didn’t want: I didn’t want to navigate a big city, or spend 6 – 7 hours on a plane going to an international destination. I didn’t want to drive to a place like Asheville, and the Gulf Coast was still too cold. Bottom line — I didn’t want to work too hard to find relaxation. What I really wanted was a quiet beach – perhaps, somewhere new to add a little adventure. I typed my list: easy travel connections, beach, interesting restaurants, reasonable costs, quiet, secluded and safe. Also, more importantly, we needed to book our stay on a short notice.
Here is what we came up with: Turks and Caicos.
Turks and Caicos is located at the Southern end of the Bahamas Island chain known as the British West Indies and is often overlooked as a vacation destination. If you say “Turks and Caicos,” most people acknowledge they’ve heard of it, but that’s about it. Interesting, because of all the vacation destinations in the Caribbean, Turks and Caicos has the best website. All the hotels, condominiums and all-inclusives are listed in alphabetical order, by island and by rating, with great photos of each locale. Most flights connect through Miami, however American Airlines offers direct flights from New York, US Air from Charlotte and Delta from Atlanta. All airlines fly into Providenciales, the main Island.
One benefit of selecting Turks and Caicos as a beach destination is that once you clear customs at Providenciales Airport, you can cab to your hotel, check in and be in your lounge chair, on the beach with a fancy umbrella cocktail, in less than 3o minutes.
Most of the big hotels are located on Grace Bay, one of the prettiest and most dramatic beaches I’ve ever seen. The water is so intensely blue it gives you pause, as you know you’ve never seen a color quite like it. I booked a room at Le Vele, a small Italian inspired boutique hotel and condominium located smack dab in the middle of Grace Bay. As we pulled up to the hotel, my husband asked me, “How did you hear about this place?” My reply, “I didn’t. I just liked the look of the place on the website.” Yikes. I can tell you from experience those gut decisions can either work for ya’ or against ya’. Thankfully, this time it was the former.
Le Vele was perfect for what we needed. It was small and intimate with only 22 rooms. The general manager, Clayton Thomas, and his staff were incredibly accommodating from greeting us upon our arrival with a rum punch to assisting my husband in finding his briefcase left in our cab from the airport.
In the morning, we awoke to a basket of croissants and fruit left by the staff, then wandered a short way over a dune to the beach with chair and umbrella awaiting us. After a couple of hours of swimming and sunning, we faced our toughest decision of the day: whether to head out to the right or left down the beach in search of a late lunch.
There are some great restaurants on Providenciales, we were told, but for us, the restaurants within walking distance on the beach were perfect. Grace Bay’s restaurants cater to all types of palates with conch being a staple in the Islands. Conch is considered a poor man’s lobster and is absolutely delicious. We ordered conch in all sorts of ways from fritters to chowder, but our absolute favorite were the award-winning conch wontons served at the Bay Bistro located in the Sibonne’ Beach Hotel.
Walking down a quiet beach on a starry night on our way to dinner was its own special treat. There’s nothing like looking up together and seeing the same falling star to make you feel good about where you are.
Turks and Caicos offers wonderful options for massage, facials and therapeutic treatments at several hotels. We booked a massage at Point Grace Hotel, which has a small spa cottage tucked away from everything which affords you an outdoor massage experience not to be missed. As you fade away under the masseuses’ hands, a gentle breeze from the ocean lulls you into an altered state. It’s a little bit of heaven.
Of course, Turks and Caicos offers every snorkeling and diving experience known to man, I just wasn’t up for moving off of my chaise lounge. The Islands are under British rule so driving can be somewhat precarious as you drive on the left side of the road. The shopping is fine, but not as sophisticated as St. Thomas or other destinations in the Caribbean. Turks and Caicos is about the beauty of the place… and it’s astounding.
For more information about Turks and Caicos, the New York Times featured the island in the travel section on Sunday November 15, or pick up last month’s Architectural Digest and read about Donna Karan’s oasis of a resort.
If you decide to book Le Vele, be sure to ask for Clayton. He’s the unofficial ambassador of the Island and rest assured, all your needs will be taken care of…
Turks and Caicos awaits your weary bones, ready to refresh and inspire!