In recent years, the island-nation has gone from sleepy getaway to one of the Caribbean’s most popular destinations, and the reason why is clear — as crystal clear as the turquoise seas that might have you doing a double-take, wondering, “Am I in the Maldives or the Caribbean?” The comparison is appropriate, especially when you consider the powdery fine sand of Grace Bay on the main island of Providenciales, where you’ll find the island’s most luxurious resorts, including the glamorous Palms Resort, home to Exclusive Resorts’ three- and four-bedroom, residential-style suites.
Still, what makes Turks & Caicos such a special place is its effortlessness. We’re not just talking about the fact that it’s an easy three-and-a-half hour flight from New York City. There’s just the right amount to do here, too — not so much to cause jam-packed itineraries that are anything but relaxing, but certainly not too little. Over a long weekend, you can see it all, and still find time for lazy days on those dreamy white sands.
Flights from the U.S. are timed perfectly for the weekend crowd to arrive in Providenciales with plenty of time to unwind before sunset. You’ll likely arrive at the Palms — only a 20 minute drive from the airport — just in time for check-in. First things first: Check out your elegant digs. Spa-like bathrooms, expansive terraces, and ocean views are guaranteed, and so is perfect weather since Turks & Caicos claims an average of 350 days of sun per year.
Take advantage of it by changing into your swimsuit and heading down to Grace Bay, where your Exclusive Resorts concierge will have beach chairs waiting for you. Keep things casual with frozen cocktails from the tiki-hut bar and kayaking or paddle boarding just off the coast. For dinner, head to Parallel 23, the resort’s fine-dining venue and one of the island’s best restaurants, serving elevated island-fusion cuisine like Shrimp Fettuccine and Korean BBQ Short Ribs on a garden terrace covered with bougainvillea.
There’s something about Saturday mornings on Providenciales. The whole island seems to be filled with optimism. Perhaps it’s because almost everybody is looking forward to Da Conch Shack, a legendary beachfront spot where the cocktails are fruity and the conch is served as fresh as can be, pulled straight from the sea before being prepared every way imaginable — in a salad or bowl of chowder, stir-fried or deep-fried, and even as ceviche. Be careful: It’s easy to spend an entire day at this lively institution, wading into the sea, watching the fisherman bring in their hauls, and dancing to island beats at the colorful rum bar.
After a long and lively lunch, cool down at the Spa at the Palms. Secreted away behind a thicket of tropical flora on the edge of the resort, it’s a surprising oasis brimming with climbing bougainvillea and reflecting pools. Book a detoxifying Zareeba treatment, a holistic ritual performed by a local herbalist, or the repairing Hydrofacial — or simply Zen out on a lounger or in the garden. The downtime will be just enough to prepare you for dinner at the new BLT Steak, where a hearty Wagyu Ribeye or Porterhouse is served with playful sides like jalapeño mashed potatoes and, for dessert, mini-doughnuts.
Providenciales may be where most everything seems to be happening in Turks & Caicos, but a day at sea discovering the outer islands brings even more discoveries. Your Exclusive Resorts concierge can arrange for a day-boat charter to North and Middle Caicos, where you’ll uncover the roots of this Caribbean nation. On Middle Caicos, the beaches feel like a secret — as beautiful as Grace Bay but without the crowds. Two of the most picturesque are Bambarra Beach and Conch Bar Beach, the latter of which is a great jumping-off point for stellar snorkeling among the reefs. In town, visit the Middle Caicos Co-Op, a nonprofit collective of artisans selling authentic local crafts like woven straw bags and baskets and handmade jewelry. Along the way to the outer islands, you’ll also pass by excellent spots for fishing and snorkeling and even some mangroves and underwater caves.
Just before sunset, make your way to the north shore of Providenciales for a vibe that might have you thinking you’ve been transported to the Turkish Riviera. Clinging to the edge of a limestone cliff over royal blue waters, the Rock House is a chic new hotel that’s home to the Cave Bar, an intimate lounge carved into the rocks above a jetty, and the Beach Club, an al fresco restaurant with heavy Mediterranean influences. The lemon spaghetti with prawns is exquisite, and pairs perfectly with the 2018 La Chablisienne Chablis.
There’s still time for more fun! Wake up early and grab one of the South Beach–style circular loungers surrounding the Palm’s pool (your concierge can reserve one for you) for a few more hours of sunny bliss. En route to the airport, one more island delight awaits: A stop at Sweet T’s diner, a landmark favorite of Belongers (the affectionate term for island locals). The spicy chicken wings are renowned across the Caribbean — and they’re a finger-licking way to say goodbye to Turks & Caicos.
Photos courtesy of Jackie Caradonio.