To many this property, part of Singapore-based hotel company COMO, epitomizes what drew people to Turks and Caicos in the first place. It’s exclusive (located on its own cay, a thirty-five-minute boat ride from Provo) and expensive (the most modest rooms begin at $775 during the high season), but in design and ambiance, Parrot Cay evokes the castaway beach feel more readily associated with resorts in the Maldives or Bali. Legendary hotelier Christina Ong dreamed up Parrot Cay, which opened in 1998, as a place of understated elegance, where luxury is about lounging on a muslin-draped daybed—blissfully aware that your BlackBerry doesn’t get reception—or getting hooked on daily yoga lessons at COMO Shambhala and snacking on ultrafresh seafood in bare feet.
Parrot Cay has (somewhat absurdly) dubbed itself “the most exclusive resort in the world,” and it certainly is one of the most recognizable names in the Caribbean, with a loyal following of longtime guests and high-profile celebrities (Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck were married here). That said, it is not for everyone, and travelers who prefer that their five-star experiences come with marble bathrooms and a buzzy scene won’t be happy here. The cluster of two-story buildings, containing forty-six guest rooms and suites with wrap-around balconies, are located in the center of the island, i.e., with no direct beach access, and, in some cases, very remote ocean views. The interiors are sleek and all white, with stripped wood floors and simple (some would say sparse) furnishings, including four-poster beds and pillow-topped daybeds. Several of the older rooms could use a makeover and some of the lower-level rooms were renovated in the past few years.
To really get the Parrot Cay experience, it’s worth splurging on one of the freestanding beach houses or villas, as they offer more privacy, more space and direct access to the glorious sand beach that snakes around the island like a white velvet ribbon. The same minimalist aesthetic prevails in the spacious bedrooms and soaring living rooms, but bathrooms are considerably larger (they also have outdoor showers). Most units have a wonderful screened-in patio and a small plunge pool. For the ultimate indulgence, there are sumptuous private villas, owned by the likes of Christie Brinkley, Bruce Willis and Donna Karan, on the island’s serene Western coast. After years of resisting the building boom in TCI, Parrot Cay has also released more plots of land for private villas, and several were in the process of being constructed when I visited in July 2008.
There’s not much to do on Parrot Cay—and that’s the point. Guests, a stylish mix of couples and families (all with very well-behaved children), lounge by the cobalt blue infinity pool, at the beach or on the covered double daybeds built into the vegetation overlooking the beach. It’s all about pampering, wellness and—to a large extent—staying put. Unlike many Grace Bay resorts, where water activities are complimentary, Parrot Cay will arrange snorkeling, sailing, scuba and kayaking for an hourly fee; daily yoga and Pilates classes, however, are free, and the outstanding COMO Shambhala spa is so popular with guests (and even nonguests, who come for the day) that you’re encouraged to book treatments well in advance of arrival.
There are two restaurants: Terrace, in the main hotel, and Lotus, the breezy poolside eatery. With banquet seating, teak shutters and loungy music, Lotus is the perfect place for lunch, for a relaxed meal of healthful salads or crispy fried seafood, while at dinner, it transforms into a candlelit alfresco setting (it’s one of TCI’s most romantic places for a special-occasion dinner). Talented Australian chef Anna Rossel oversees the different menus, mostly Asian-inspired, including one featuring nutritious spa cuisine. She changes it regularly, but if you’re staying longer than three or four days, you’re bound to see some repeats.
Besides a pool table, board games and a large plasma TV in the main hotel, there’s little entertainment (unless Bruce Willis is on the island—I was told that he often takes over the sunken poolside bar, playing bartender and DJ at the same time, the only time there’s something resembling nightlife on the island). Service is attentive and friendly; the Parrot Cay staff, like that at the Amanyara, hails primarily from Asia, which some find odd at a Caribbean resort and others applaud for its smooth professionalism. Overall, Parrot Cay is one of those special places where you come to really get away from it all—you can literally watch new arrivals fresh off the boat unwind and ease into the nature-embracing lifestyle offered here.
WHO SHOULD STAY: Travelers who enjoy a relaxed, beach-chic aesthetic and are looking to spend quality time together and to drop out; also, spa aficionados who want to take advantage of COMO Shambhala.
WHO SHOULD NOT STAY: Active types who need entertainment and nightlife.
ROOMS TO GET: If you can, it’s worth splurging for a beach villa for the seclusion and the space. Room 1001 is close to the pool and the main hotel area; Room 1004 is farther down the beach and feels private. Residences include Christie Brinkley’s Lucky Villa, which is decorated in a shell motif; Dhyani House, a gorgeous beachfront three-bedroom on more than two acres; the Residence, an estate that belongs to a major Hollywood star and comprises a five-bedroom master villa and two three-bedroom guesthouses (it can be rented in its entirety or separately); and Donna Karan’s recently completed Sanctuary.
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See below for a member review of staying in a Parrot Cay villa.
Read a member postcard on a trip to Parrot Cay with teens