Soak up the sun in this Brit-controlled set of 40 quiet islands in the West Indies
Even after it became a hot spot with the jet-setting crowd, “Turks and who?” is the most common thing you’ll hear when you say you’re headed to this Brit-controlled set of 40 quiet islands in the West Indies. Instead of explaining, my advice is to say you’re going to the Bahamas and let TCI be your own little secret.
Most of the action and accommodations are centered on Providenciales, an island that’s about 30 minutes from end to end, assuming you drive like a reckless Belonger. (That’s local speak for a TCI native.) There are scores of choices, the best being the pristine à la carte beachfront hang Grace Bay Club, an impeccably staffed and appointed resort on Providenciales’s prime sunbathing stretch, Grace Bay Beach. The smallest rooms top out at $864 per couple, though Shaq digs the 4,800-square-foot (and $7,700-a-night) penthouse villa, probably due to the 11-foot ceilings. 800-946-5757, gracebayclub.com.
TCI regularly pops up on World’s Greatest Dives lists thanks to its exquisite fluorescing reefs filled with sharks, rays, and plenty of benign (though equally beautiful) creatures. The reef wall can drop off quickly (as in, plunging more than 7,000 feet just half a mile from shore), so experience is suggested. Whether you choose to strap on the scuba gear and get crazy or go for the more laid-back fins and snorkel, Dive Provo is TCI’s premiere guide company. They’re good to have around when the five-foot stingray approaches. 800-234-7434, diveprovo.com.
Stay for good
Should your portfolio be outperforming the rest of ours, you might consider opting into the Ritz-Carlton’s Molasses Reef, which is basically an island (West Caicos) that was uninhabited for almost 100 years until 2003, when the Ritz started creating mind-boggling all-beachfront condos, bungalows, villas, and $13-million, five-acre empty cliff plots. When it opens later this year, guests will have access to private speedboats, personal electric carts, equestrian facilities, bike paths, three Gray Kunz restaurants, and, of course, a highly structured program to occupy the kiddies while you’re, ahem, occupying your little piece of paradise. 800-533-2911, molassesreef.com.
Sooner or later — and I’m betting on sooner, like within 30 minutes of your arrival — you’ll be offered conch, because there’s a hell of a lot of it off the shores of TCI. A saltwater mollusk not all that dissimilar to squid in flavor and texture, conch is served pretty much every place on the islands, from Grace Bay Club’s strict-dress-code, adults-only Anacaona to down-home roadside joints like Caribbean Delight (Grace Bay Road, 649-941-8784), which does the island’s most serious conch fritters, jerk chicken and curried goat, and which boasts a chill patio, perfect to sip the local Turk’s Head beer.
There’s only one direct-from-Philly flight a week (Saturdays, US Airways, figure about $600 per person). Heads-Up: Agree on a taxi fare ahead of time, and expect to pay more anyway. (Rumor has it that the taxi companies are in cahoots with the government.) Fun Fact: The Ritz’s private airstrip? Not created by the Ritz. Apparently, some guy named Pablo Escobar built it in the ’70s.