They are some of the lesser known islands in the Caribbean, but Turks and Caicos have been making a splash in the celebrity world. The British overseas territory, which comprises 40 idyllic islands and picturesque cays, has been visited by the Kardashians, Rihanna, Bruce Willis and Drake to name a few. Most recently, Neil Patrick Harris rang in the New Year there, while fashion designer Donna Karen is one of the many stars who owns a holiday home.
Now for the mere mortals among us, we'll never know what it's really like to step into the shoes of a celebrity. But as a guest at five-star hotel, Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort & Spa, you're not far off. Imagine a place where your every need is taken care of. As an all-inclusive, Beaches has, quite literally, thought of everything.
The resort sits on Grace Bay Beach, a stretch of pristine sand and azure water that was voted the world's best beach by TripAdvisor Travellers. At Beaches, luxury is most definitely the order of the day. Some may shun the idea of staying in an all-inclusive, but when everything is catered for and the concierge service goes beyond your needs, how can you resist? Did I mention your mini bar is re-stocked every day with champagne, you can order anything from Japanese to jerk chicken, you can go snorkelling and scuba diving, and you can take some much-deserved me time, leaving your children with a babysitter – all at no extra cost? Beaches equals paradise, I'm telling you.
Your boredom levels will never be high thanks to the waterpark, nightclub, games room, outdoor cinema and theatre for teens and tweens; the 21 restaurants and 14 bars for older revellers; the nurseries for the tiniest of visitors; and the adult-only pools and romantic restaurants for couples. There are also 12 miles of pure white sand to sunbathe and do water sports on, seven swimming pools, and two Red Lane Spas to be pampered in. Not to mention the fitness classes you can take up, from sunrise yoga to tennis, the boutiques and on-site local markets you can peruse, and the day trips you can embark on. But more about that later.
Let's start with the food. Many all-inclusive hotels offer two or three restaurants at the most, but Beaches goes above and beyond with its choice of 21 gourmet options. There are family-friendly casual eateries, including The Jerk Shack and Barefoot by the Sea, both located on the beach. There's Sapodillas for fancy Caribbean fare, Soy for sushi lovers, Arizonas for Tex Mex aficionados, Dinos for pizza and Bombay for a good old curry. Want a coffee and a pain au chocolat? Then head to the quaint Café de Paris bakery. Want to cool down with a shake? Curls n' Swirls is your ticket. Want a burger and fries at three in the morning? Bobby D's diner is calling. For foodies, Beaches is literal culinary heaven. You can order anything and it's all included in your stay. The restaurants are also exceptional at catering for your dietary needs, with waiters trained to know which dishes are vegan, gluten-free and so on. There is even a dedicated culinary concierge who can brief staff beforehand with your dietary requirements.
The more premium packages also include a butler service. Forget about running down to the pool to reserve your sunbed, or waiting for a table for lunch. Your dedicated butler will have your private, poolside cabana ready with clean beds, towels, a bottle or two of bubbly and any food or snacks you may wish. Of course, those who don't want to splash out on a butler need not worry. There are plenty of waiters who can deliver your daily rum punch to your beach bed, or take your order at one of the many swim-up pool bars.
The resort is made up of four areas – the Italian Village, the French Village, the Caribbean Village and the Key West Village – each holding its own charm, but all parallel in luxury. Last year, Good Morning Britain presenter Kate Garraway and her family stayed in Key West, which features three and four-bedroom villas, some with private pools, and is modelled on the city in Florida. It's relaxed and quiet, with alfresco seafood restaurants including Neptune's and Bayside, the chic Sky bar, and a luxury spa complete with sauna, steam room and treatment rooms. Bougainvillea sprawls around the picture-perfect village.
In contrast, the lively Italian Village is made up of towering, monumental buildings that are dotted around a large swimming pool. During my stay in December, I was treated to a family suite with a pool and ocean view. The atmosphere is always upbeat in this village; background music constantly plays, while the sound of children splashing in the water and fitness fanatics doing an aqua tabata class reverberates around the gargantuan pool.
Next door and just as animated is Pirates Island. The water park is every child's (and kidult's) paradise playground with nine slides, a surf simulator, water cannons and a lazy river. There's a hair braiding and henna tattoo station, a Mr. Mac Truck that serves Philly Steak mac and cheese, an ice cream bar and the aforementioned Bobby D's diner that is located aboard the Jolly Roger ship and open all night until 6am.
While Beaches welcomes all guests, it's particularly ideal for families. It's no wonder they dub themselves the 'Kingdom of Fundom'. As well as the state-of-the-art water park, the resort has an abundance of kid and teen-friendly activities that shouldn't go amiss. A dedicated holiday planner on the concierge team can help organise your days and tell you what's on offer. Tweens and teens can hang out in the Shadow Lounge, a games room that has pool tables, X-box and more. There's an activity hut where you can borrow footballs and basketballs, plus there's the infamous Club Liquid for 18 years and over guests.
A stay at the resort will also guarantee downtime for the parents. Mums and dads can feel safe in the knowledge that their tots will be looked after at Camp Sesame. Designed for children up to four years old, the camp is equipped with cribs, rockers and swings, a play area, a canopy-covered children's pool, an arts and crafts centre and more. All of the babysitters and counsellors are nanny-certified and have CPR training, while parents will be glad to hear there is no extra charge for the services. Thanks to Beaches' exclusive partnership with Sesame Street, you might see Big Bird or Elmo milling around the villages. For an additional cost, private parties or a bedtime tuck-in service can be arranged with your child's favourite character.
No matter which village you stay in, you can guarantee you'll be a stone's throw away from the warm Caribbean Sea. Undoubtedly the reasons you travel to Turks and Caicos are for the sunshine and the beaches, and the resort will not disappoint. If you're part of the fly-and-flop brigade (no judgement here), you have some of the best stretch of sand to relax on. But for those who hate the idea of sunbathing with a good book and cocktail in hand (really?), there's an abundance of water sports you can try, all included in your hotel stay. Kayaking, windsurfing, snorkelling and paddleboarding are all on offer, or you can test your skills on a Hobie cat or aqua trike. Those with a PADI certificate can go on scuba dives arranged by the hotel for free, or you can learn and get your certificate for an additional fee.
While there really is no excuse to leave Beaches, if you're anything like me, you'll want to get out and explore the local area. You can book day trips and excursions through the hotel's Island Routes service. Ever been conch diving? A speedboat will take you out to sea where you can take part in a scavenger hunt to find conch (priced from $138 per person), which the captain will later whip up into a fresh seafood salad. There's nothing quite like sailing in the open water, sun rays beating down and your favourite tunes playing in the background.
The hotel can arrange all sorts of boat trips, whether it's a catamaran at sunset or a private cruise around the islands. One of the local operators they use is Big Blue, who arrange kayaking trips to Iguana Island (priced from $152 per person). Grab your partner and kayak in tandem to an iguana-inhabited island and mangroves, where if you're lucky like us, you'll spot turtles and baby lemon sharks aplenty. It's not as scary as it sounds, promise. Alternatively, the local tourism board can also recommend some great activities.
I was fortunate to visit Beaches in December, just when I needed that elusive winter sun. Flying time was around 12 hours from London Heathrow with a stopover in Antigua, but once you land in Providenciales, or Provo as it's known by the locals, you're a mere ten-minute drive away from the paradise that is Beaches. I don't know about you but those January blues are hitting hard… Time for another Vitamin D top-up? It would be rude not to return.
Seven nights at Beaches Turks and Caicos, in a Key West Luxury Concierge Room from £2,425 per person: A seven-night stay at Beaches Turks and Caicos, staying in Key West Luxury Concierge Room costs from £2,425 per person. Price includes Luxury Included® (all-inclusive) accommodation, return economy flights with British Airways from London Gatwick and resort transfers. Price is valid for travel on select dates between 1st September – 11th October 2019. Prices are date specific and subject to change and availability. To book or for more information on Beaches Resorts visit www.beaches.co.uk, call 0800 597 0002 or pop down to the Sandals Luxury Travel Store at 135 Fulham Road, London.