Turks & Caicos Islands
Set in the tropical West Indies, Turks & Caicos consists of 40 islands and cays with eight main inhabited islands. The larger islands are called Caicos while the smaller ones are called Turks. One of the most popular destinations on the islands is Providenciales (better known as Provo), located on the Caicos Island. With stretches of white beaches it's home to Grace Bay, where you will find most of the hotels, spas and restaurants. It's also a quiet escape for Hollywood's elite. Besides Donna Karan, other celebs who have homes on the islands include Bruce Willis, Keith Richards and Oprah. And there are those who frequent the island for a quick paparazzi-free, sunny getaway (Rashida Jones, model Molly Simms, Ashton and Demi, Ben and Jennifer, and Ashley Greene). It's not only a celeb hot spot, but it's the perfect place to let your worries slip away. turksandcaicostourism.com
Where to stay:
Hotel Gansevoort Turks & Caicos
The latest in a string of luxury hotels to pop up along picturesque Grace Bay beach in Provo, the Gansevoort is unlike any other Caribbean hotel. In fact, if it weren't for the humid temps, you might think you've landed at a slick hotel in lower Manhattan. The Gansevoort offers modern New York-inspired design that sets it apart from the heavy Caribbean aesthetic of dark woods and reds. Minimalism reigns in shades of white with dark wood accents and turquoise, making you forget you're in paradise until you step out onto the balcony overlooking the private beach. Like its sister in the Meatpacking District of NYC, this hotel has urban sophistication down pat with the penthouse suites going for $7,000 per night. It's the epitome of high-end luxury complete with ensuite kitchens, jacuzzi tubs (where the water tap comes from the ceiling), rain showers and enormous flat screen TVs. The celebrity clientele should be enough reason for you to stay at this resort -- Molly Simms, Elisha Cuthbert, Ashley Greene and Ellen Pompeo are just a few A-listers who choose to spend their time at this quiet paradise. Lounge poolside (a 7,000-sq.-ft. pool with floating islands, no less) with a view of the beach, share a drink at the beach bar, or spend quite moments in the breeze on a large, fluffy bed on the beach under an umbrella. No matter what your relaxation fancy, there is a spot for you. If you can't afford a home in Parrot Cay next to Donna Karan, this is the next best option. gansevoortturksandcaicos.com
What to do and where to eat on the next page ...
Where to eat:
The Conch Shack
You can't visit Turks & Caicos without trying their island delicacy. Conch is found in large conch shells (the pretty cream and pink coloured ones you'll find at all the shops), and at The Conch Shack they are harvested fresh out of the water a couple hundred feet away from the restaurant, shelled and then fried up fresh in so many concoctions you could spend the day trying all the different ways they enjoy this seafood. It's not only a tourist spot; it's a local favourite. Side note -- you can see the conch being harvested and shelled while at the restaurant, but if you have a slightly squeamish stomach, you might want to do this after eating or bypass it just to be safe.
Gansevoort's restaurant is not one to be missed. Continuing with the urban NYC theme, Bagatelle is the Turks & Caicos sister of the trendy Meditterainiane Bagatelle restaurant in the Meatpacking District in NYC. Intimate and romantic, the restaurant is set just off from the pool area where you can dine outside by candlelight at night. And since we're experiencing the Caribbean in a New York way, you might just feel like you're dining at a high-end restaurant in NYC.
Caicos Café, located in Grace Bay, Provo, is a wonderful mix of traditional island foods (think fresh seafood in every way imaginable) and classic French dining (rich sauces, lamb, steak and stews). With French owners, you know that the food is not only going to be delicious, but also rich. It is fine dining island style with seating under a large, shady tree and French sauced dishes with hints of hot sauce for that bit of Caribbean heat. It's the best of both worlds: Parisian luxe and island cool.
What to do:
Yes, sitting on the beach staring out at the clear blue water is amazing -- but it's hard to not want to get in and explore the colourful life that exists beneath the water. You can do just about every water sport imaginable (snorkeling, water skiing, tubing, swimming, jet boating), or just sail around the islands to get a spectacular view. Visit nautiquesports.com for more details.
Visit Iguana Island
Home to 2,000 iguanas, this island also called Little Water Cay is one of the most popular attractions (other than the sandy beaches and water, of course). Uninhibited by humans, the iguanas roam freely around the island, sunbathe on the beach and eat berries. A short boat ride will get you there, where you can walk along the boardwalk to catch a glimpse of these mysterious little creatures.
You're in one of the most relaxing places on earth -- so why not add to the relaxation factor and have a spa day (or two, or three)? The Exhale spa at the Gansevoort offers up a little bit of everything from specialized facials, massages and wraps, to exhilarating yoga and core classes set outside in the warm breeze where you will work up a sweat. So you can keep that body in perfect bikini shape even while indulging on wine and fried conch.