As we approached our resort, the friendly driver, Deryk, boasted that the Turks and Caicos islands have the best of all worlds – British passports for its 30,000 citizens, the American dollar as its currency and a Canadian banking and health care system (three Canadian banks – Royal, CIBC and Scotiabank – dominate the British Crown Colony).
But this tranquil and tropical archipelago of 40 islands (eight inhabited), located where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic just south-east of the Bahamas, also boasts the clearest and brightest turquoise water we’ve ever seen, fantastic white sand beaches and several resorts that rate among the best in the world.
Our destination resort was Beaches Turks and Caicos, the award-winning, family-friendly version of the luxurious Sandals chain. Accommodating up to 2400 guests in three distinct “Villages”, Beaches attracts couples, parents with kids and, like us, three-generation families. We were accompanied by our daughter, her husband and our three excited granddaughters, aged 3, 5 and 7. As we soon discovered, there were lots of other grandparents around, some with a dozen family members in tow, having the time of their lives watching their kids and grandkids play on the beach, in the giant pools, at the Pirates Island Water Park or interacting with the Sesame Street characters that gave shows, hosted breakfasts and wandered around the 65 acre beachfront property giving hugs and high-fives.
Each village (Caribbean, French and Italian) has its own reception area and distinct international flavour to the architecture and landscaping (a new area, Key West, will soon add room for 700 more guests). The suites are spacious, spotless and well-equipped with premium toiletries and a well-stocked bar. Maid service comes twice a day.
All-inclusive resorts sometimes skimp on the food but each of the sixteen restaurants on the resort has its own dedicated team of chefs and a commitment to quality. The Executive Chef, Colin Watson, told us that Beaches Turks and Caicos has the same high culinary standards as Sandals but, for kids, more ice cream areas plus unique stands for popcorn and cotton candy. Two restaurants are for adults only so parents can get a break. There’s a good combination of buffet and a la carte restaurants with almost no waiting for a table. The breakfast and lunch buffets were the best we’ve seen at any resort.
Supplying the sixteen restaurants is a major challenge. Chef Watson said that 99% of the food he uses has to be imported because the soil of the islands doesn’t support significant agriculture. A parade of containers comes every few days from Miami with provisions. For the most part this works well with some of the best beef, pork, chicken, fruits and vegetables we’ve ever enjoyed. The sushi restaurant, in particular, was absolutely world-class. Unfortunately, most of the fish comes frozen and we found quality to be spotty (although fish and chips at the Cricketer’s Pub was excellent).
The extensive Pirates Island aqua-playground is near the French Village and is the second biggest water park in the Caribbean (after Atlantis in the Bahamas). Free for guests, it features nine water slides, a lazy river for tubing and a lively surf simulator. Great fun for kids and adults.
But for us, the best attraction was the waterfront. Grace Bay Beach is an uninterrupted 15 kilometres of pristine, wide white coral sand facing a brilliant turquoise sea with a colour that, in the words of one guest, “makes your heart leap”. Protected by the 3rd largest coral reef system in the world, Grace Bay is considered by Conde Nast and others as one of the ten best beaches in the world. It’s hard to argue with those reviewers.
Free water-based activities are extensive including sailing, wind surfing, snorkeling and even SCUBA (certification required). Children can attend Kids Camp for a variety of daily fun activities and there’s even an opportunity to visit a local school to interact with Turks and Caicos children. We did that with our seven year old granddaughter, Eva, and she loved the experience.
Many of the Beaches guests without kids came here out of curiosity. Newfoundlander David Snow and his wife, Barbara, wanted to celebrate their 30th anniversary in a warm place they’d never been to before. “People told us how nice the Turks and Caicos were. And they were right. Having so many kids around is just fine.”
Ottawa native Mike Burke (now living in New Jersey) was here with his wife, her mother, and their three kids. “This is our third visit to the Turks and Caicos,” he said. “We just love it here. Grandmother loves it too. She’s our built in baby sitter.”
Canadians have a special reason to enjoy the Turks and Caicos. Back in the 1970s there was a concerted effort by some MPs in Ottawa to annex the British territory and make it a part of Canada. We spoke with a number of older residents who remembered that debate and would still love to be a province of Canada. With the need for a safe, winter playground for Canadians and resorts like Beaches available, perhaps it’s time to revive the idea!
All photos by John and Sandra Nowlan
One of the best beaches in the world.
Bert and Ernie by the Beaches pool.
Cookie Monster and Kids
Water Park Fun at Beaches Turks and Caicos