It doesn’t matter how old you are, what you do, where you are or what frame of mind you’re in – whenever idle daydreams turn to beach escapes, the cliché but classic imagery of palm trees waving in the breeze, white shores glimmering with light refracted from sunny skies above, and soft waves in various waves of that undefinable color that is neither green nor blue is universal. Sure, mountains may make it into the background and the strains of music playing in your subconscious may change, but the scent of the ocean air, sound of the surf, and feel of the sand beneath between your toes is the theme that never alters.
For an accessible, realistic getaway, the Caribbean is typically the go-to of Americans looking for a time-out. But just because it’s easy to get to and more affordable than, say, the South Pacific or French Polynesia doesn’t mean that the vacation chosen in this region isn’t posh.
Turks & Caicos is the perfect example of a destination that provides exotic luxury and convenience from the United States. These two island groups are so close, they’re technically in the Atlantic Ocean, just southeast of the Bahamas.
Yet it’s a world away.
While one of the world’s longest coral reefs can be accessed from here, aqueous pursuits are most often enjoyed from internationally renowned Grace Bay Beach, and it’s here that most travelers make a beeline to.
Various publications, websites and vacation experts have gone on record to call this one of, if not the, best beach in the world and visitors are hard-pressed to refute it. Located off the northeast coast of Providenciale, or Provo, as the capital is fondly called, this title is earned by its clean, see-through waters, sugary sand with nary a rock, and a wide selection of readily available watersports like parasailing. From this bird’s eye view, it’s easy to understand why Grace Bay’s three miles of uninterrupted coastline are often exaggerated in length; it’s joined by Leeward Beach and Bight Beach on both sides, and the line of division is nonexistent as they spread out around the island, increasing the impression of a magnificent, sprawling shorefront.
However, the best spot to post up is undoubtedly on Grace Bay Beach itself, where upscale, luxurious hotels offer manmade delights designed to complement the views. The bar is set high with those watercolor vistas, but many of the elegant properties built here provide stiff competition as to whether it’s life alfresco or indoors that give the greater draw.
The all-inclusive Blue Haven Resort, for instance, wows with a sense of home within its sherbet-hued stucco walls. One of the newer builds in this destination, the interiors here are contemporary, clean and simple, available in configurations that range from studios to two-bedroom penthouses and one- to three-bedroom suites — all of which are oceanfront. Within them all are luxury linens, marble bathrooms and conveniences like a stocked mini-fridge, microwaves and flat-screen TVs with United States and international channels.
Included with stays of four or more nights also are meals at any of the resort’s four restaurants, unlimited domestic and premium beverages at dining venues and three bars, a 24-hour snack station, bicycles to borrow and Wi-Fi — the same freedoms and conveniences you’ll find in your own house, but better. However, what you won’t find at home is what really impresses. Not only is there a 24-hour fitness room just steps away, but there’s also a water trampoline to crown the list of complimentary water activities, such as snorkeling, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding.
More value is added with all-inclusive access – including dinner – to two other sister resorts: Alexandra Resort and the adults-only Beach House Resort.
Family-friendly Alexandra Resort was actually the predecessor for Blue Haven and boasts the centrality of locale of having been developed sooner. Its accommodations surround a lagoon-style pool, with interiors that echo the colors of the sea beyond its balconies in the studios. On the other hand, for the one- and two-bedroom suites, as well as the four-bedroom Oceanfront Penthouse, coral pops on neutral palettes for added warmth.
Like Blue Haven, a fire lounge is featured by the beach, not far from free access to kayaks, paddleboards and its own water trampoline. Floating daybeds and an on-site spa and fitness room are other amenities offered at this property, along with five restaurants that make the most of the beachfront setting. An indoor/outdoor buffet, pizza station and jerk hut on the beach join two other open-air options, one of which specializes in fresh seafood. Three bars and a smoothie bar for all ages round out the food and beverage offerings at Alexandra Resort, but resort-hopping to Beach House Resort is what maximizes the choices. This adults-only waterfront hotel provides gourmet style at Kitchen 218, featuring farm-to-table dining with produce from its own hydroponic garden, and offers more decadence with a Champagne and caviar bar. On the casual end, Beach Deck provides casual à la carte fare and theme-night meals.
It’s not just the cuisine that’s elevated at Beach House, though. This all-suite member of the Turks & Caicos Collection is just as remarkable for its barefoot elegance as it is for its distinctively blue tiled-roof. Spacious rooms given names instead of numbers all have expansive private balconies and sitting areas equipped with queen sofa beds. A stocked kitchen area, daybeds for lounging and luxury bath amenities are merely the minimum of what’s offered in one- and two-bedroom layouts with pool or ocean views.
However, the crown of this family of resort brands is undoubtedly Ambergris Cay.
Yes, there are tremendous benefits to staying right on Grace Bay … but the idea of a private island escape, 20 minutes by complimentary private air transfer directly from the international airport, is one that’s hard to let go of once you latch on to it. Gourmet meals — including free 24-hour room service — and premium beverages are par for the course, but what puts this option over the top are extras like daily complimentary spa treatments; catered lunch on a nearby deserted island; access to the Club House Activities Center or Explorer’s Hut Arts & Crafts Room for kids; and use of the resort’s golf carts and powerboats … plus lessons on how to use them as well as how to hunt and catch bonefish and kite surf.
But the most valuable lesson guests to Turks & Caicos learn? That the paradise of your dreams is not quite as far or unreachable as you’d think.
Su-Jit Lin is a travel, food and lifestyle writer based in Long Island, New York.