For an uncommonly luxurious long weekend, what better than what is often referred to as the world's most beautiful beach? Stretching 12 miles on the most developed of the islands and cays that make up Turks and Caicos, Grace Bay beckons those looking for unspoiled tropical beauty, laced with personal pampering.
Day 1, Welcome to paradise
2 p.m.: We arrive at Providenciales International Airport located on the island of Providenciales (Provo to locals), the most developed of the islands. A direct flight from Toronto is just under four hours, and on this day a 10 a.m. departure seemed incredibly more civilized than what is often required for a Caribbean flight. Customs at this tiny island airport can take a few minutes, but the hotel shuttle is waiting and bags are swiftly stowed and we are on our way. A short drive along the Leeward Highway and our destination us upon us: Seven Stars Luxury Resort. We pull up to the open-air lobby, and welcoming smiles and service are waiting. We settle into plush sofas and a classic rum punch is served ““ we did arrive just in time for cocktail hour. The resort is made up of three buildings housing a total of 113 suites, with ocean or garden views. I open the door to a breathtaking one-bedroom suite, including a full gourmet kitchen, dining area and cozy living room with lots of seating and all the comforts of home. The balcony wraps around from the living room to the bedroom with sweeping views of the beach in both directions.
4 p.m.: Skip unpacking and head down to “The Deck,” a beachside lounge with polished hotel chic style serving cocktails and an “island” tapas menu. With the beach on one side and the hotel pool on the other, The Deck is the ultimate chill out spot for the hours between the day's activities and the evening's entertainment. We quickly spot a waiter serving champagne by the glass and decide to follow suit. The glass of Veuve Clicquot and the last sunlit moments of the day both quickly disappear. Welcome to paradise.
7 p.m.: Seven Stars boasts its own onsite gourmet restaurant serving a variety of continental cuisine. A short stroll from the suite, and we are seated at The Terrace at a table overlooking the pool. Service is personable and attention to detail is evident in everything that is served.
Day 2, A conch what?
7 a.m.: The first morning at Seven Stars, and I awake to the perfect Caribbean day. I take advantage of the view from the terrace and watch the early risers walking the beach. The kitchens in the hotel suites really do have everything, including those trendy automatic espresso machines, which means I can loll in the terrace chaise for a few extra moments without missing my morning caffeine. Downstairs to the Sand Dollar, the hotel's poolside answer to breakfast, lunch and refreshments in between. Fruits, pastries, juices and coffee are set out on the bar for continental style self serve, or you can opt to choose from the a la carte breakfast menu.
10 a.m.: We arrive at the dock for a private boat excursion and some offshore adventure. Just minutes from the resort lies a string of uninhabited cays begging for exploration. The tour operators are excellent guides and this is a great way to experience Provo away from the hotels. The ride itself is an experience surrounded by sea and sky in what can only be described as the bluest blues you will ever experience. You can make arrangements to stop for swimming and snorkeling, but the ultimate is pulling into Half Moon Bay for an island picnic. The guides are more than willing to prepare the classic island lunch: conch salad. And yes, the rumours are true. They do consider the conch penis to be an aphrodisiac. Be prepared to eat it as your initiation to the islands. The conch is combined with lime juice, herbs, etc to make a salad. It's a bit reminiscent of ceviche, but not to everyone's tastes; but the cooler laden with sandwiches, fresh fruit and champagne from the resort keeps us all happy.
3 p.m.: After a morning of salt air, we're feeling like we've been truly ambitious and deserve a little pampering. We check in at The Spa at Seven Stars for a mid-afternoon massage. An outdoor area offers a lovely spot to sit back and enjoy an herbal tea prior to my treatment. I've booked an aromatherapy massage and a pedicure, and am impressed with both. This spa isn't one of those dressed in excesses to impress its guests, and serve them in droves. The spa at Seven Stars is tiny and perfect. It's just what a spa is meant to be: intimate, restful and sends you back into the world feeling refreshed and energized.
8 p.m.: We take a quick drive to a local restaurant that is said to be one of the best on the island. Caicos is operated by a husband and wife team and offers a French-Caribbean inspired menu. The seating is outdoors, and the look casual; but service and menu selections are fine dining. Everything we order is perfection ““ truly one of the best dining experiences I have ever had while on vacation. Many courses and bottles of wine see us well into the night, and we end the evening feeling very satisfied with ourselves, the meal and Grace Bay.
Day 3, Beach bliss
8 a.m.: Leave the suite prepared to spend the morning at the beach and poolside as we head downstairs for breakfast. The Sand Dollar scores once again with a delightful breakfast, and it's a mere few steps from the chaise I have my eye on. We settle in alongside the pool for a morning of sunbathing. It's really the little things that make a resort better or worse than the next, and this is really where Seven Stars shines. The poolside loungers are weighty teak chaises, with terry-covered padding. Just to one side of the pool bar stands an enormous armoire that stores soft, white beach towels at the ready for guests. Now and then a server will go by and gently interrupt your languor to offer water, a fresh fruit skewer, a cold towel. And then there is the divine heated saltwater pool. It's the only one on the island, and you really could spend all day here with the occasional break to peruse the cocktail menu.
1 p.m.: Head to Da Conch Shack on Blue Hills Beach for an authentic taste of the island. A true beach bar with brightly hued picnic tables pulled right up on the sand. The specialty here is what you would expect: conch. They prepare it battered, fried, stewed, in salad and any other way you can think of. As you wait for your lunch to arrive stroll the beach, sit back and enjoy the view or discover how your conch is caught and prepared. They are brought in live here just off the shore (they are pre stocked) and visitors can see how they are shelled.
2:30 p.m.: On the drive back to the resort we stop for a peek at some local shops. There is a bit of shopping, dining, etc within short walking distance to the resort, so if you don't want to rent a car or plan transportation, you can still do a bit of exploring outside of the resort.
7 p.m.: Tonight we enjoy dinner in the suite. With a kitchen outfitted with everything right down to fine wine glasses, it's easy to enjoy a meal in your suite without feeling you're missing out. If you just can't find time for grocery shopping, the resort will arrange for shopping to be done and prestocked in your kitchen, or you can arrange for the resort chef to prepare an in-suite meal.
10 p.m.: We decide to sample a taste of the night life and grab a table at a cool wine bar with enough options by the glass to keep anyone happy. It's casual and relaxed and feels like we could be at home. The shopping area near the resort is modern and clean, and security patrolled so even the wariest traveller need not fret about leaving the resort.
Day 4, Leaving paradise
7 a.m.: Start the day with a walk on the beach ““ we want to soak up every last minute on our last day. The beach on Grace Bay is the purest white sand you will find anywhere, and is postcard perfect placed against an unreal blue sky.
10 a.m.: Seven Stars offers guests a variety of water sports and experienced staff at the ready to lend a hand. We set out for a quick hobie cat ride to get a glimpse of our home away from home from offshore. You will see lots of people snorkeling just offshore due to the clear, calm water and to take advantage of a coral reef that is just moments away from the resort.
1 p.m.: Time to check out and head back to the airport, knowing this is a place we'll surely make time to visit again.
Seven Stars Luxury Resort
General info about Turks and Caicos