Turks and Caicos - like home, only better
Our writer visits the famed Grace Bay and discovers it's worth veering off the tried-and-true all-inclusive track
Courtesy Seven Stars
The turquoise waters of Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos, rated one of the most beautiful beaches in the world
This is going to sound distinctly un-Canadian of me. And yes, it probably makes me a snob. But the thought of vacationing at a Caribbean all-inclusive has never been the most tantalizing of getaway options. While a place with hot sun, cool blue seas and a whirring blender full of frozen drinks is one I visit often in my mind, the phrase "package deal" has always invoked images of wristbands, beer chugging contests at the pool and godawful food. And so I have stayed away.
But Providenciales, notable for an almost complete lack of all-inclusives, promises a different type of Caribbean getaway. Provo, as it's commonly called, is the most populous island in Turks and Caicos. But though it emerged as a travel destination on the heels of Club Med, which opened in the '90s, much of its boom has been around condominiums and world-class resorts that have cultivated a more sophisticated flavour (if you're looking for a good ole-fashioned, laid-back beach vacation though, don't let this deter you. The island is the antithesis of pretension).
When we arrive at the tiny Provo airport early on a Wednesday afternoon, I can literally feel a drop in my blood pressure, even as we work our way through the usual airport routine. While customs lineups back home are synonymous with words like stress and chaos, at Turks and Caicos' main airport, a ceiling fan whirls lazily over our heads as we wait our turn (it's not a long wait - outside of peak times - like Christmas - we're told airport traffic is often one flight at a time). The customs officer is mostly concerned with how the weather back in Canada compares and whether this is our first visit to Turks and Caicos. As we're about to discover, everyone on the island considers himself an ambassador.
We're greeted at Seven Stars resort with ice-cold glasses of rum punch, and immediately whisked off on a tour of the property by the front-desk manager before being shown to our room. Though the resort has all the amenities you'd expect of a five-star resort - spa, tennis courts, pool, several eateries - and though its three towers sparked controversy over their height when the property went up two years ago (with seven stories, they are the tallest on the island), the feeling is quaint and personal. Unlike monster-sized resorts or cruise ships where it takes half your vacation to learn your way from the beach back to your room, we have our bearings immediately.
Though the best thing about vacationing is being away, it's impressive how quickly Seven Stars, and its environs, feel like home - though a more aspirational version of it. The kitchen in our two-bedroom suite has more appliances and nifty gadgets than I own (lots of sleek and modern Krupps toys and more than a dozen different types of drinking glasses and cups) and the décor is elegantly curated and appropriately Tommy Bahamas-esque. The master bedroom and wraparound terrace both overlook Grace Bay, the 20-kilometre stretch of fine, white sandy beach and turquoise waters on the Atlantic side of the island where Seven Stars is nestled. The beach is rated one of the world's 10 most beautiful by Conde Nast Travel magazine - which makes it better than home. Much, much better.