A!list travel: discovering the wonders of Turks and Caicos
It’s no wonder the Kardashians and Drake have been spotted in Turks and Caicos recently… The archipelago of 40 islands in the Caribbean aren’t exactly designed for seclusion like the UAE’s very own World islands, but that’s exactly what it offers.
The British Overseas Territory is split into a set of small Turks islands and a larger Caicos group — hence the name — and they’re accessible in as little as 10 minutes by air, although most have boat connections. But one thing’s for sure, no matter where you go in the country, you’re guaranteed to be surrounded by astonishingly clear turquoise water that will instantly put you in relaxation mode. Plus ideal temperatures that rarely exceed 33 degrees Celsius might just make it number one on your travel bucket list.
Just a few hours on a flight from New York, visitors jet into Providenciales Airport on the island, which more often goes by the nickname Provo.
The famous Grace Bay Beach lines the north shore and is sprinkled with the biggest names in luxury resorts. By contrast, Long Bay Beach runs parallel and has a southern shoreline embellished with private villas - except for one resort. It is famed for its serenity and a very low tide unlikely to pass waist height. Most of the population (only approximately 33,000) lives on Provo and if that small figure is any indication compared to the 9.4 million in the UAE, it’s understandable why the islands are such an attractive holiday destination.
North Caicos has barely a few thousand residents as many of them relocate to the popular tourist area of Provo, as tourism is the main source of income. But its in the North you’ll find the perfectly Instagrammable Flamingo Pond that might even make you forget about taking advantage of the highly sought after horse-riding in the sea photo opportunity.
Reasons to check out Middle Caicos include the jaw-dropping Conch Bar Caves, the biggest cave network in the Caribbean, amidst the lush greenery the island is also known for.
South Caicos guarantees a chilled out time with only a couple of resorts. Its secluded beaches are also where fishermen reel in the fresh lobster and local conch delicacy, which is often enjoyed in fritters and salads once exported around the country.
Who needs a water park when nature’s very own playground is here in the form of The Boiling Hole? The phenomenon gets its name from the way the water bubbles during high tide when the main salina pond meets the point of underground connection to the Atlantic Ocean.
Visitors can walk out to see it, thanks to the white concrete walls built around it, and a similar ‘boiling point’ is located on the secluded West Turk’s Lake Catherine.
East Caicos is totally inhabited and all that’s left of the abandoned 18 square mile island is old cave artwork and railroad tracks. It’s covered in swampland and mangroves which is great news for the sea turtles that come here to lay eggs.
Much like any main capital, Grand Turk, is the place to brush up on your cultural knowledge. There’s the Turks and Caicos National Museum in capital Cockburn Town where visitors can learn about the indigenous Tainos people, the Age of Discovery and the Victorian era. It’s also the setting for some quaint British-Bermudan architecture, including Her Majesty’s Prison, the Victorian Library and the Post Office. Head up to see the Grand Turk Lighthouse, built in 1852, for a look out over the North Reef.
INFO: For more information about Turks and Caicos islands, visit visittci.com
Every cay seems to be famous for something in Turks and Caicos; Salt Cay is where a sixth of North America’s (you guessed it) salt production took place at one point. The many others have their own interesting origins before some were turned into privately owned luxury resorts and Parrot Cay is no different.
Although there are ample birdwatching opportunities in the country, this island doesn’t get it name from where you might think. It was originally called Pirate Cay before Como Hotels snapped it up some 20 years ago from previous Kuwaiti investors. But with Turks and Caicos’ pirate-heavy history, the current Singaporean owner decided to switch to a lighter name, although the old pirate house ruins still remain. It hasn’t put off the star pals of owner Christina Ong, the woman behind hip hotel hangouts from London to Perth. She has sold homes to her fashion designer acquaintance Donna Karan and actor Bruce Willis.
As soon as Ahlan! arrived at Como Parrot Cay we hopped on a golf buggy past the homes of Rolling Stones rocker Keith Richards and his neighbour, supermodel Christie Brinkley. Their properties are some of 12 homes on Ong’s island — the remainder of which are part of a rental pool managed by the global Como Hotels brand. So you can say you’ve stayed in DKNY’s guest villa!
But on Parrot Cay everyone is treated like a star. We checked into a one-bedroom beach house and were wowed by the backyard view. It included a glimpse of sea behind a raised sandbank, which offers plenty of privacy from beachgoers below.
Good luck trying to tear yourself away from the beach house; with a private cabana and a plunge pool that’s heated — so late night dips are all the more tempting — it’s easy to forget there’s a resort beyond.
However it’s worth pulling away from the Keith Hobbs-designed light and airy white furnishings paired with teak wood. Hop on a bicycle and explore the 1,000 acres underneath this no-fly zone that makes it uber appealing to its celebrity clientele. Whether pedalling through the banana and coconut plantations or down the winding paths that connect various buildings in the colonial-style resort, guests are guaranteed peace and most importantly, privacy.
Ayurvedic doctor Parth Mahan takes care of guests hoping to renew through healthy eating and a wellness mindset, using cuisine from the brand’s worldwide Shambhala offering. With many of the brand’s clients being successful business people, he helps to heal patients looking for a long-term approach to practicing self-care — whether through counselling, alternative healing or just good food (The freshly grilled meats at the poolside Lotus restaurant and breakfast spread at the main house’s terrace buffet was good enough for us). Inclusive for all guests is access to yoga, pilates, meditation and high intensity fitness sessions on a breezy pavilion overlooking the mangroves.
The nearby Spa Pavilion is also where to wind down with a jet-lag-busting rub following a long flight. Ahlan! enjoyed a signature massage to help release any cramps after making the most of the free non-motorised water sports for guests — stand-up paddle boarding is tougher than core-and-legs day! It’s also a smart option to prepare for a journey back to the airport.
But with a 35-minute boat ride to Providenciales giving us yet another opportunity to see the unbelievably beautiful north Caribbean island all over again, one could hardly complain.
INFO: For bookings and more information, visit comohotels.com/en/parrotcay