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Hotels on Turks & Caicos

Travel & news discussion about the Turks & Caicos

Hotels on Turks & Caicos

Postby KarenS » Tue May 30, 2006 9:27 am

By Alex Gorton: "SMALL islands in the Caribbean aren't usually seen as battlegrounds, but in terms of high-end hotels and celebrity hideaways the Turks and Caicos is where this year's hottest hotel war is being waged.

A scrubby archipelago lying at the end of the Bahamas Bank, the Turks and Caicos aren't the most attractive islands in the Caribbean; indeed, lying in the North Atlantic Ocean, they can't officially claim to be Caribbean islands at all, although they still do. Dry, flat and sparsely populated, there's nothing to draw you to them except crystal clear water, sunshine and some of the best beaches in the region; stretches of beautiful white sand that wrap around the edge of nearly all the islands. This is great, but it's not widely different from many other holiday destinations. So why exactly are the Turks and Caicos attracting all the heat?

The answer is the hotels. The main island of Providenciales, or Provo as it's known, is experiencing a construction boom and the once quiet Grace Bay beach is now lined with high-end, high-rise resorts. However, for the luxury market, the people who fly by private jet and feature on the cover of magazines, it's really down to two resorts - Parrot Cay and the newly opened Amanyara. Both are competing for the attention of A-list stars and billion-dollar businessmen looking for a very private, very exclusive hideaway in the sun.

For the last eight years, Parrot Cay has been the number-one destination for a plethora of Hollywood stars, including Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner, who married on the island, Britney Spears, Keith Richards and Julia Roberts. Bruce Willis and Donna Karan loved it so much, that they both bought houses here. Located on a small private island, 40 minutes' journey from Providenciales, Parrot Cay is owned by Singaporean hotel whizz Christina Ong, the woman behind the fabulously exclusive Como hotel group. As a private island, you can see why the stars love it - it offers that most valued quality for celebrities - privacy. No-one sets foot on Parrot Cay without the resort knowing. Secondly, it's expensive and as a result, incredibly exclusive, meaning that if you do happen to bump into Bruce Willis at dinner, as we in fact did, you're feeling rather special yourself so that you don't appear to care. The result is that Bruce doesn't get bothered.

Parrot Cay is a lovely resort, a bit tired in places but with a sense of Caribbean charm (albeit with a sophisticated Asian touch). Rooms are painted white with terracotta floors and feature beautiful four-poster beds draped with mosquito nets. Balconies have daybeds and in some cases small Jacuzzis. There are also beach houses for rent at a distance from the main hotel. This is where Bruce, Donna and co hang out; and amazingly enough, when they're not there, and if you have the money, you can rent one of the beautiful beach houses, which come with a private stretch of sand.

The Shambhala Spa and the incredibly long white sandy beach are the island's star points, and both are truly special. Although, the main focus is probably the infinity pool and poolside restaurant/bar, which, come nightfall, turns into a catwalk as incredibly glamorous couples strut to dinner and everyone keeps an eye out for a visiting celebrity. However, despite this sprinkle of stardust, it manages to feel low-key and relaxed, which endears it to the guests.

Over the past eight years, Parrot Cay has had an easy run of things, and until March this year it was arguably the only true high-end resort in the Turks and Caicos. The glitzy, glam Palms resort on Provo opened last year, and while it certainly offers great service, good food and all the major selling points - such as a big swimming pool and fabulous spa - it doesn't have the privacy that being located on your own private island brings. Neither do Grace Bay Club and Point Grace, two other high-profile resorts nestled along Grace Bay's built-up beachfront.

However, Amanyara, located in the extremely isolated north-west corner of the island does have that sense of privacy, exclusivity and style that Parrot Cay prides itself on.

Amanyara is the latest offering from Adrian Zecha's high-profile Aman Resorts group and the first Aman resort in the Caribbean. Zecha started off in Asia, opening stylish, design-led retreats catering to a very wealthy clientele, who, with their dedication to the brand, followed the hotels around the world and became known as "Aman junkies". Having expanded into Morocco, France and the US, he chose the Turks and Caicos as the destination for his largest project to date.

Surrounded by 5,000 acres of scrubby, undeveloped land that forms the land part of a marine reserve, it is certainly the most isolated resort on Provo. Driving along dusty, bumpy roads to get there from the airport feels more like a trip into the Australian outback or Arizona desert than a trek across a Caribbean island, and it's a feeling that remains for the rest of your stay. With its slick Asian design, staff and menu, when you come to Amanyara, you may as well forget the Turks and Caicos, as really nothing about it feels like the Caribbean.

Designed by Jean-Michel Gathy, the architect behind the Setai in Miami, One & Only Reethi Rah in the Maldives (last year's big news) and several other Aman properties, it has the symmetrical design loved by Aman fans. The main lobby, restaurant, library and bar are all linked by wooden walkways over dark pools of water, while the guest pavilions, of which there will eventually be 40, are dotted throughout the property, either facing on to a lagoon or out to sea. Construction is still underway and at time of writing the resort wasn't fully finished, although by completion in a few month's time there will be 33 larger villas alongside the 40 pavilions.

The guest pavilions are predictably chic, with three of the walls constructed entirely from glass that can be slid open to create an internal/external space, which aims to be at one with the environment. Fashionably minimalist, the large double bed lies in the centre of the room, as does the bath, which dominates the amazing bathroom. Necessities such as a hairdryer, torch and guest information booklet are hidden away out of sight, which depending how you view it can be annoying or tasteful. And despite the outside stylish seating areas that surround every villa, the talking point of every room is the freebies - delicious Kiehl's products in the bathroom, a free minibar and, thanks to Cisco Systems, free telephone calls to anywhere in the world. Bring your address book and phone your friends - it's a brilliant idea that will hopefully catch on everywhere else.

Amanyara will undoubtedly please those already in awe of the Aman brand, but with its distinctly Asian design, food and service (many of the staff have been brought over from the Philippines) it'll disappoint those who value a destination for its local flavour and not for its mod-cons.

Another minus point is the beach. While the small stretch of sand is as beautiful as that at Parrot Cay, it is neither as long nor as accessible. Additionally, none of the villas or pavilions are actually on the beach, which again is a shame, as if you're paying this much money then being able to step out of your bedroom on to the sand is surely an important benefit.

However, Amanyara is beautiful. The black infinity pool fashioned from volcanic rock and surrounded by loungers is stunning, as is the central sunken bar with its 45ft domed roof. It also enjoys a wonderful sense of calm - you do feel as if you're getting away from everything. Only a few days here would be enough to banish any big-city blues.

The resort is rumoured to be building a recording studio, which will fit the property perfectly. As there is little to do other than swim, sunbathe and relax, it will be the perfect place for visiting rock stars recording their album. Just like Parrot Cay, the kind of people who stay here are too wealthy and well travelled to bat an eyelid at a visiting celebrity, meaning that when they come they'll be left in peace.

So, the question is, who will win the battle to attract high-end, high-flying guests? Amanyara with its slick design and established group of fans? Or Parrot Cay with its laid-back, slightly more Caribbean vibe (although this still isn't Rasta, reggae and steel drum territory)? There's probably more than enough high-end business to keep both resorts happy. I think movie stars will still go for Parrot Cay thanks to its history as a Hollywood hangout - it also boasts a far better beach. On the other hand, interior designers and East Coast design snobs will probably end up choosing Amanyara.

In truth, both resorts are great and offer a level of style and service that is rare in the Caribbean. In the war of hotels, it looks like both of them could be winners."

For a list of hotels go to: ... p?code=PLS
Karen for
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