By Keith Kennedy
As the sun set across Grace Bay and the turquoise waters were beginning to fade to black, our first full day in the paradise of the Turks and Caicos was coming to a close.
We’d had a perfect day, with a morning of snorkeling and island hopping, followed by a late lunch at the pool. Our twin boys, meanwhile, had been off at the kids club in the afternoon, making seashell picture frames. We gathered back together at the beach, in time to take an end of day swim together in the calm Caribbean waters fronting the decadently luxurious Grace Bay Club.
To wax prophetic for a bit, what I’ve found from my travels is that the success of a great vacation, like this one, ultimately boils down to two things, place and people.
Place is the tangible element, the where and what of an experience. In our case it was the island of Providenciales in the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean, located about halfway between the Bahamas to the Northwest, and Hispaniola to the South. In the category of clear blue waters and soft sand, the islands possess beaches that need to be put above all others in the Caribbean, and arguably, on par with such exotic locales as the Maldives or Tahiti. The climate can best be described as ideal, with a near constant ocean breeze which helps keep one cool even on the hottest days in July.
With the 3rd largest coral reef in the world, marine life abounds for diving and snorkeling fans, as does an abundance of game fish for anglers. The island also features a golf course, numerous four star restaurants and shopping experiences, as well as spate of new resorts and hotels to offer luxury travelers many choices.
Our choice for this visit was the Grace Bay Club, an exclusive oceanfront luxury featuring separate accommodations and pools for families and adults only. Trust an experienced traveler, this is a huge plus for couples, as well as for us parents who occasionally need a break from the dependents.
Accommodations range from one bedrooms in the hotel, to 4,000+ square foot three and four bedroom configurations in the “estates” section of the property. Amenities include three pools, tennis courts, complimentary water sports, fitness center and classes, spa, bikes, and VIP transportation to concierge level activities including scuba, sailing, fishing, golf, and many other island attractions. For families, a much-heralded kids club called KidsTown provides both supervised morning playtime and activities, as well as afternoon excursions specifically designed to engage even the most disinterested teenager.
Grace Bay Club also plays host to three restaurants and bars, attracting visitors and locals from all over the island to such culinary hotspots as Anacaona, a highly regarded restaurant featuring a spectacular menu designed by Chef Wolfgang von Wieser, who most recently held court in the kitchens of the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas before becoming the Food and Beverage Director for Grace Bay Resorts. For a sultry evening, the Lounge is a sexy cool outdoor spot, featuring an infinity bar, circular multi-level seating coves, and fireplaces well suited to get even the most stressed New Yorkers back in the mood. And when it’s morning, the Grace Bay Club gets you going with an elegant breakfast buffetat the Grill Rouge,overlooking the beach. Touches such as honey drawn directly from honeycombs, premium teas and coffees, and made to order eggs make this a daily morning ritual.
One of the activities we enjoyed was a cruise with Island Vibes, an unpretentious yet extremely comfortable boat that comes highly recommended by the Grace Bay Club. Captain Sean and his warm and entertaining crew took us to several spots, including a prime snorkeling spot on the reef, as well as Little Water Cay, also known as Iguana Island, where the only inhabitants are a protected species of iguanas only found here. Crewmember John later dove for conch, the sweet meat found in abalone shells, and prepared a feast of conch salad, rum punch, and various other treats for lunch.
Since we had our twin boys with us for this visit, the KidsTown Kid’s Club was an essential part of keeping our sanity, finding sometime for ourselves and also getting involved in some wonderful family oriented activities. Morgan Luker runs the show at KidsTown and she has created an ever-changing menu of activities, crafts and mini-eco adventures to keep even the most rambunctious toddlers or carefree teens engaged and having fun! Our boys spent a great morning in the clubhouse, making seashell musical instruments and learning how to make tropical picture frames. We joined them in the afternoon with KidsTown counselor Margaret for a trip to Coral Gardens beach, a lovely snorkeling spot where the kids could frolic in the calm waters while the adults occasionally snorkeled out to on reefs. This was followed by an early dinner at a vibrant local spot called Da Conch Shack.
Morgan later joined us on a sunset boat ride courtesy of SURFside Ocean Academy, the island’s premier marine excursion and action sports outfitter. Our goal was to see luminescent glowworms in action, a phenomenon of nature found just after sunset in the Leeward Channel side of the island, usually a few days after the full moon.With our mission accomplished, we then once again enlisted counselor Margaret from KidsTown, this time to babysit the boys while my wife and I enjoyed a night out alone.
We spent that evening at the Veranda, the all-inclusive sister property to the Grace Bay Club. Situated less than a mile down the beach from Grace Bay Club, we enjoyed a beautiful dinner here on the beach, overseen under the watchful eye ofJohn Vasatka, the gracious General Manager of the resort. We finished with cocktails in front of the firepit at Bar Marin, where local musicians playing reggae and soul hits got us into the island groove.
And then in an instant, it was over, with us back on the plane the next morning for a quick three hour flight to NY. Reflecting on our visit, we made an oath to return, something we rarely do, given our propensity to seek out new destinations. With the unique combination of place and people the Turks and Caicos islands delivered, making future plans to visit was one of the easiest decisions we’ve had to make.
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