By Barbara Ramsey Orr
The reality of Grace Bay, and my hotel, is far beyond expectations from the first impression. In the shared taxi van from the airport in Providenciales, the various passengers chat, sharing information about where they’re from, where they’re staying. When the taxi drives up to my hotel, The Gansevoort, there’s a noticeable silence. Then, the six-year-old across from me says to her mother, “Is this our hotel?”
“Can we stay here, please?”
“Maybe next time,” her mom sighs.
Talk about a first impression. The entrance to the Gansevoort Turks and Caicos is drop-dead spectacular. White steps lead up to an open-air lobby that flows through to the infinity pool, with its lounge pods and cool white curtains. Then, beyond that, is the beach and the turquoise waters of Grace Bay.
For check in, I’m settled on a white sofa with a clear view of the pool and ocean, complete with a frosty rum punch and chilled facecloth. I’m close enough to the pool to observe the bodies soaking up sun on loungers.
The Gansevoort Turks and Caicos is the sexy cousin to the three other properties in the collection, two in New York and one in Dominican Republic. The Turks and Caicos version, located on the northern shore of Providenciales, continues the reputation for clean contemporary style, with white décor, colourful art in the rooms and manicured gardens. The 7,000-square-foot infinity pool at the heart of the hotel may well be the most gorgeous in the Caribbean.
There are 91 guest rooms, including 32 suites and four penthouses. My suite has a full kitchen, a massive bath and a perfect view of Grace Bay from the terrace.
The hotel makes an unforgettable first impression, but the islands themselves are equally impressive. The Turks and Caicos Islands is a British Overseas Territory, made up of more than 40 small islands. The two largest island groups are the islands of Grand Turk to the east and Caicos to the west. The islands are located southeast of Miami, Florida, south of the Bahamas and east of Cuba. The majority of tourism development is on the island of Grand Turk, where many cruise boats stop at the large cruise port, and on Providenciales, the most developed of the islands.
I am staying on Providenciales, or ‘Provo’ for short, in the gentle curve of Grace Bay, the area of the islands where most of the resorts and tourism facilities are located. From the beach in front of the Gansevoort, I can walk for miles in either direction, along a sugar sand beach, beside crystal clear water. It comes as no surprise that the 12-mile Grace Bay beach was named the best beach in the world in 2018 by TripAdvisor, and figures on many ‘best beach’ lists every year.
On my first afternoon, I enjoy a long sea kayaking trek along the coast. It’s an easy paddle and a good way to view the range of small hotels, resorts and restaurants that line the popular beach. A rare and quick storm blows in that quickly turns the sky and water into a dozen different shades of blue, green and grey. The rain is warm, the winds gentle, and the sun is back in under 10 minutes.
A day-long excursion on the Island Dream, a catamaran run by Caicos Dream Tours, takes me out to the Leeward Reef and the Caicos Bank for some good snorkelling, with exotic fish and a variety of coral formations. The crew shows us how to get conch meat out of the shell, and then prepares a lunch of conch salad and fresh grilled fish on the boat. Later we push on to Half Moon Bay, where we discover a colony of iguanas, take a short hike, and then swim again in the clear water.
There’s a good diversity of activities on Provo. Visitors with a love of horses can ride along the beach and even swim with the horses with different companies that provide riding experiences. Provo Ponies and Caicos Corral are two that offer riding excursions along the beach and in the ocean. There are hour-long and 90-minute rides that can include transportation to and from Grace Bay hotels. Riding belly-deep in the ocean on the back of a friendly horse is a cool way to enjoy the water and the beach — and so Instagramable!
History lovers will enjoy tours of Cheshire Hall to witness the remains of colonial times and plantation history on the island. Night life isn’t a big thing in T&C; the islands are more about relaxation, enjoying nature and indulging in water sports. A short walk from my hotel along the beach is the quirky Somewhere Café, where there is often live music and a bit of a social scene, and there are other small places with live music, but most visitors find the sun and the sea is all the excitement needed.
Dining possibilities in Provo are multiple, from the upscale likes of Coco Bistro to the informal fun and casual food of the T&C Thursday Fish Fry at Bight Park. There’s also live music and dancing at the Fish Fry, and it’s one of those island experiences that lets you meet up with locals and taste some authentic island food.
Wherever you eat, fresh fish and seafood are the most frequent culinary choices for dining on the island. The chef at the Gansevoort, Joel Valero, does some elegant Asian fusion dishes and the hotel runs a weekly Asian barbecue at the beachfront grill that features Thai, Indonesian and Balinese specialties.
For the ultimate in a luxury visit to the islands, families and groups can rent a private villa. In Turtle Tail, just down the coast from Grace Bay are the Gansevoort Villas: half a dozen four- and five-bedroom luxury oceanfront units that are beyond beautiful, combining the sleek design of the hotel with a private hillside location. Guests at the villas can use all the facilities of the mother resort. Each villa has two pools, a large fire pit overlooking the ocean and full dining facilities. A private chef can be arranged through the hotel. The real knockout feature is an elevated swimming platform attached to each villa, with a suspended sun bed, white lounge beds and the waves just a short step below. The villas effortlessly combine island cool with urban chic; it’s the perfect bolthole for the stressed-out urbanite who wants peace and quiet with a contemporary, high-design aesthetic.
Surrounded by one of the largest reef systems in the world, the Turks and Caicos offer spectacular and multivarious ocean adventures. Go whale watching on Salt Key, or try bone fishing, take day trips to other islands for kite surfing or scuba diving, or learn to paddle board. There’s an excellent golf club on Providenciales and nature walks around Cheshire Hill for the ecologically inclined.
There is even the opportunity to be spectacularly and totally idle.
If You Go
The island is small, so getting around is easy. The Gansevoort is about a 15-minute trip from the airport.