Providenciales, Turks & Caicos
It's the first thing everyone who's been to Turks & Caicos says. Without fail, like clockwork. They look at you with giant eyes. They shake their head slowly. "But that water."
Yeah. That water. It's a thing. Because for all of the reasons to like Turks & Caicos — the pristine white sand, the surprisingly decent food scene, the blissed out island vibes — it’s the endless, crystal clear water that really gets you. It's the color of a robin's egg or a box from Tiffany. It looks rare. And expensive.
Which is funny. Because if there's another thing that everyone says about Turks & Caicos while slowly shaking their head, it's this: The place is expensive. Not St. Barth expensive but $12 for a toothbrush and $20 for fish tacos expensive. And the vibe matches. There are a lot of Calypso tunics and Missoni bikinis. You know, that sort of thing.
So, if you're looking for a Robinson Crusoe situation, you should probably go to Nicaragua instead.
But if you do end up in Turks & Caicos, everyone will understand.
Because... that water.
Usually the thought of a resort gives me hives but that's kind of the thing on T&C and, anyway, The Palms' is pretty charming. It has a thoughtful layout with winding pathways surrounded by lush landscaping, and it somehow feels a lot more intimate and low-key than I'd usually expect from a 72-suite hotels. The beachfront and location right on Grace Bay are among the island's best, and the spa, with its adorable treatment cabanas surrounding a tranquil reflecting pool, is one of the most tranquil I've ever experienced. (Get a thai massage and be sure to use the steam room and outdoor showers afterwards — heaven.) Though my suite was super comfy and huge with a balcony facing the ocean, I mostly spent my time lounging on the covered beach beds below, taking breaks only to pretend I was a mermaid in the water or practicing my stand up paddle board technique with one of the hotel's many free boards. The hotel also has an amazing infinity pool, too, but I liked the ocean so much I never used it.
On an island full of fancy places, Amanyara might be the fanciest of them all. But not in a stuffy way: The vibe is super modern and minimalist — all clean lines, warm wood, and airy spaces. It's the kind of place you'd want to hole up in with an illicit lover or maybe take a vow of silence and do a full-on detox. Either way, you'd be totally set: The beach is secluded, many of the villas have private pools, and the hotel offers an in-depth wellness program that includes pilates, yoga, treatments, and organic food from its on-site hydroponic farm.
Da Conch Shack
Da Conch Shack is my favorite restaurant in Providenciales because it's one of the few that feels really local and quintessentially Caribbean. As the name suggests, conch is the star of the show here and is offered in nearly every manner imaginable: battered and fried, raw in ceviche, or mashed into fritters. The brightly-painted restaurant is mostly open-air with most of the wooden picnic tables nestled into the sand and offering views of the water. Besides conch, rum punch is the thing to order and it's sneakily strong, so watch out. Or don't. You're on vacation.
Coco Bistro is an easy, no-fail go-to with lots of tiki torches flickering gently in a palm-filled garden and a menu of tasty, locally-tinged fine-dining classics: caesar salad, seared salmon with beurre noisette, ahi tuna tataki, conch ravioli, and shrimp satay.
Though the dinner menu is filled with tasty-looking, Carribean-tinged dishes — tuna sashimi crusted in pink peppercorns and sesame seeds with coconut and mango, slow-braised guava and tamarind babyback ribs, tandoori marinated mahi mahi, jerk wellington chicken — ridiculously delicious desserts like petite pot au chocolat and powder sugar-topped ice cream make this adorable, twinkle-light filled restaurant a must.
While taking a yoga class at The Palms, the incredibly cool and fit instructor casually mentioned to me that occasionally there's a surfable break off the barrier reef that surrounds Providenciales. It's a helluva paddle out (about a mile), but if there's a northern wind the spot to be is Northwest Point. There's also apparently sometimes a small beach break at Leeward Beach. Bring your own board or rent a SUP.
Leeward Reef is a world class reef teeming with psychedelic-looking fish, so you're gaurnteed to see some stuff. Lots of outfits offer snorkel, scuba, and boating excursions and I'm sure they're all great. I liked the one I did with Caicos Dream Tours: The catamaran made a stop on a deserted island where we slid down a water slide into the ocean.
Photos: Christina Pérez