Turks and Caicos
The jewel in the crown of Turks and Caicos – an archipelago of 40 islands – Grace Bay boasts a staggering 12-mile arc of powdery white sand lapped by turquoise waters that teem with marine life. It’s considered one of the most beautiful beaches on the world. Located on the northern shore of the main island of Providencials (“Provo” to locals), it is protected by a coral reef just 1,650 feet off the coast, creating diving, snorkelling, and swimming conditions that are second to none.
A slew of new, stylish hotels and condo-style resort have opened near the world-famous strand. But Grace Bay Club still reigns supreme in the luxury market, in part because it was early to the game and nabbed 11 choice acres, making it the lowest-density resort on the island. The original Mediterranean-style hotel has 21 suites for adults only, while families tend to stay in villas. All enjoy a host of amenities, including the breezy Anacaona restaurant by the beach.
Island life at its basic waits those who make the trek to Da Conch Shack, an open-air landmark restaurant where the conch is harvested right in front of you and served every way imaginable – as salad, chowder, fritters, stir-fried, or as ceviche.
Or consider total isolation, via the 35 minute boat ride to Parrot Cay, a 1,000-acre private island with just one unberexclusive resort. It has a pared-down aesthetic and swish villas (owned by A-list celebrities) that can be rented. Guests staying in either the hotel or villas can book at what is arguably the best spa in the Caribbean, the COMO Shambhala Retreat (“shambhala” is related to the Sanskrit word for “center of peace harmony”), a veritable temple of the soothing arts that brings in top therapists from around the globe.
One of the best places to experience snorkelling and diving is the appealing undeveloped and sparingly populated Salt Cay. The dives here take you to forests of elkhorn coral, past a British frigate that wrecked back in 1790. In winter there’s a good chance of spotting – and swimming among – migrating humpback whales.