Took a recent trip to the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean region, and whoowhee, was I excited.
While I was there, though…I often felt bored. And hot. And a little underwhelmed.
But now that I’ve been away from it for a few weeks, I miss the laid-back vibe, the conch, the soft sand and a surprising version of the Atlantic Ocean that’s so clear it could make you cry.
The switch seems clear to me: Then, I didn’t need a vacation, but now I do.
And these islands are all about vacation.
The easy charms of the Ocean Club Resorts, two lushly-landscaped compounds that sit a half-mile from each other along Grace Bay in the islands’ capital of Providenciales (“Provo” for short), took a little while to grow on me.
But eventually, they did.
When I arrived at around 1pm after an epic haul from Hawaii, front desk reception was just shy of unwelcoming and my room wasn’t ready; I was eventually cleared to move in about two hours later. By then, sweating in the June humidity (for great weather here, shoot for April-May or September-October), I’d changed into shorts in a small public bathroom, stored my luggage, scarfed a chewy conch salad out by the pool, wriggled my feet in the pale sand and at last, gazed on out to sea. Having spent my childhood summers at the Delaware shore, this here water, seaglass-smooth and bathwater warm, was a far cry from the brown, cold Atlantic Ocean of memory.
Cleared to go unpack, I followed a porter (like many employees here, Haitian and slightly homesick) way back along a parking lot and up a couple flights to my room(s). Set on the top floor of the adjacent-to-the-right-on-the-ocean section of the resort, the homey, unassuming decor in my sprawling digs felt like the Caribbean circa 1986: rattan furniture, palm-tree accents and a pastel color-scheme.
The lodgings here are like beachy apartments, designed less for wafting romance than for wash, wear and lounging around in whatever you’ve thrown on while your bathing suit’s drying. My place had a full kitchen, plus dining and living areas, all leading to a screened-in porch. The latter had two chaises and a dinner table for four, with a view of a parking lot on one side, the central pool-plaza on the other. There were two bathrooms (one with a shower/bath combo), a cozy queen bed, full-size (and full-power) washer and dryer, free wi-fi, a flat-screen TV and a closet big enough to sleep, should I have so desired, an extra person.
Happily, way up here I wasn’t much bothered by kids splashing and Marco Polo-ing in the pool, and double-paned glass in the bedroom made parking lot noise a non-issue. Was it fancy? No. Did I have two sound nights of sleep, great water pressure and way-more-than-decent toiletries? Why, yes — yes, I did.
And by the way? I’d never heard of Küdos Spa conditioner before, but in a part of the world where my hair often looks not unlike the Cowardly Lion’s mane, it was a silky godsend.
I pondered activities out on the beach like paddleboarding and sea kayaking, saw a smiling couple borrow bikes to tool around the downtown shops, and greeted the one lone guy who was hitting the small gym for a workout.
While there are separate facilities for the Spa Tropique at Ocean Club West and in a nearby shopping center, at the Ocean Club Resort the spa is a single treatment room inside the gym. Not to fear, though, as the decor is pretty, the soundproofing excellent and the massages divine. The therapists here truly want to remove your tension with care and strength; after my 50-minute rubdown, I felt like my 20 hours’ worth of flights hadn’t even happened.
While the food out by the pool is pretty pedestrian (e.g., over-fried conch fritters and plates bearing fruit-wedge-and-lettuce garnishes), you can punch it up a notch by treating yourselves to a more elaborate candlelight meal on the beach; make sure it includes blackened fish and sweet plantains.
Or, stroll along the sand to try out the food at neighboring resorts like the swing-parties-of-the-1970s-will-never-die Club Med Turkoise or the more mature Royal West Indies. A half-mile or so down the main road, there’s the wonderful, French Caicos Bakery, where fresh-baked chocolate croissants are an inexplicably cheap 80¢ US or for lunch, the cool and palm-y patio at the Caicos Cafe.
For dinner, though, be sure to visit the resort’s romantic Opus Wine Bar & Grill. The wine list is sexy, the fish preparations simple and fresh, the veggies bright and crisp, and the desserts worth weeping over. (Three words: Key. Lime. Pie.) Canoodle out on the fairy-lit patio under old-growth trees and listen to local artists like the amazing Sally Greenwood, who grew up right down the way and often performs here alongside her musician dad.
Like golf? Wander across the street to the Provo Golf Club (owned by the royal family of Qatar) to rent clubs and any other gear you might need from the pro shop, then, beneath the soaring ceiling of the club canteen, toast a course well played.
Into shopping? There’s a store for almost every taste downtown, just a few blocks away. You’ll find eco-friendly cotton designs, elaborate jewelry, high-end sunglasses, local condiments and colorful, floaty beachwear.
The Ocean Club Resorts are a good place to come with someone you’ve loved for a long time; I feel it’s not sexy enough to encourage the blush of new love. But it’s gentle and unfurling, with friendly cats, cute little darting lizards, and profusions of bougainvillea tumbling from every window; after a few days beside the waves, you might be hard-pressed to remember your own phone number. Sure, you could hop in a cab or rent a car (keeping in mind that it’s left-side-of-the-road driving here), but you could easily sloth away your entire stay here, reading/napping in a lounge chair on the beach ’til sunset blushes pink and orange.
My trip to the Turks and Caicos was sponsored by the Ocean Club Resorts.
My stay included all on-site meals and a (kick-ass) massage.
Turks and Caicos, Anyone?
TWT Travel Binder: Turks and Caicos