By Sherry Amatenstein
You know the “vacations” where you spend all day racing from tourist site to tourist site, morphing after sunset into a partying fool?
Turks and Caicos is not that kind of destination. Practically from the moment you step off the jet onto the runway at Provideniales Airport (the frozen tundra that is New York City now a PTSD-laced memory) and feel the gentle caress of balmy, not blistering sunshine, you will be hooked.
Snail-shaped, 38-mile long Provideniales, known as “Provo”, is the most developed of the 40 islands and cays comprising Turks and Caicos Islands.
This doesn’t mean Jamaica- or St. Thomas-developed. Those two islands, of course, are ‘New York in the Caribbean’. Rather, Turks and Caicos retains the small town feel–albeit with incandescent azure water abutting the 12 miles of velvety white sand that is Grace Bay, a sprinkling of upscale resorts and homes, golf course, restaurants, spas and the opportunity to hear yourself think.
Once settled in at the Seven Stars Resort, there is serious danger of spending the remainder of your stay, if not your life hibernating in this Shangri-La.
Named for the seven stars of the fabled Pleiades constellation, this all-suite luxury resort spread over 22 acres features a beach jacuzzi (beam me up, Scotty), seawater swimming pool and service so genuinely caring, this hardened New Yorker nearly wept with gratitude. Rather than having local children hawking souvenirs on the beach, waiters bring complimentary treats.
Which brings us to the resort’s chef, Kyle Kingrey, newly imported from Beauty & Essex, the Lower East Side jewel, serves Cacois Rum Butter Lobster and conch fritters that alone are worth the trip.
If (when) you need to work off some of this good living, the underwater show beckons. Turks and Caicos is justly heralded for its diving. Over 30 percent of the archipelago has protected status–thus assuring a crystalline view of turtles, spotted eagle rays and more.
January brings the start of the opportunity of several lifetimes–to snorkel or dive with humpback whales off the North West Point of Provo as they migrate toward the Dominican Republic for winter.
Another timing-related viewing opportunity occurs about one hour after sunset three to six nights after the full moon. This phenomenon lasts 15 minutes amid the ebbing tide of the Caicos Bank. What am I talking about? The mating ritual of the glowworms aka Odontosyllis Enolpa that emits a pale green luminescence against the darkening sky. It’s been described as “seeing all the stars.”
More wonder-filled water adventures are available in Turks and Caicos–keeping an eye out for “JoJo the Bottleneck Dolphin,” horseback riding with “Provo Ponies” on the beach and into the shallow waters, and booking a private beach excursion from Provo for a day trip of R and R on a remote cay. Picnic lunch will be included.
Dining is the major activity on Provo when the sun goes down. The current “it” spot for couples on the island, Coco, is situated under swaying coconut palm trees. A more laid back option is Da Conch Shack, dubbed “one of the world’s top 50 beach bars.” Here you can actually watch conch being harvested and shelled. Martini fanatics should not miss Grace Bay Club’s 90-foot long Infiniti Bar – with its rum-laced Infiniti Martini and fabulous vantage point to watch the stars come out.
Different types of stars frequent the island –Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner honeymooned here, as did Eva Longoria and Tony Parker–a 50/50 success record. Best place for celeb spotting is Ananyara, an uber-upscale hideaway.
Probably the most incongruous spot on this low-key island is the Casablanca Casino. Vegas it’s not, but the casino does offers a full complement of black jack, roulette, craps and even poker tournaments.
Perhaps the perfect way to end your island idyll (if end it you must)! is to partake in Seven Stars’ Sunday evening beachside barbecue. Eating at a table under a tent next to the ocean accompanied by music, a bonfire and the magical sound of crashing waves… Life does not get more chill.
When she’s not doing travel writing, Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW, is a therapist. www.marriedfaq.com