Destination: Turks & Caicos
See also Newcomers: Turks and Caicos Sporting Club.
Read a member’s postcard about renting a villa on Parrot Cay with his family.
Grace Bay Club
Opened in 1993, the Grace Bay Club is considered the first hotel to introduce five-star luxury to this pretty stretch of powdery beach. Set on eleven acres of beachfront, this property is not as overbuilt as some resorts farther south (though the newly opened, Seven Stars nearby has somewhat marred the glorious views). The heart of Grace Bay Club is the so-called Hotel, with twenty-one guest suites in a Mediterranean Spanish-style mansion. The decor is tasteful and elegant, if not particularly memorable, with alternating stone and dark-wood floors, king-size Balinese beds, mahogany furnishings, white ceiling fans and an earthy color scheme. Bathrooms were recently gutted and enlarged. The hotel and the surrounding property, including a pool, Anacaona restaurant and the ultracool Lounge, are for adults only.
In 2001, Grace Bay Club was bought by Mark Durliat, a former co-owner of acclaimed Mexican resort Esperanza, and has since seen a rash of exciting additions and renovations. First came the (somewhat misleadingly named) Villas: thirty-eight family-friendly residences housed in a cluster of four-story buildings in the same cheerful Mediterranean Spanish-style architecture as the rest of the resort. The one-, two- and three-bedroom suites are spacious—the smallest measures 600 square feet, the largest Penthouse is 4,800 square feet—and come with state-of-the-art open kitchens (a private chef can be arranged) and washer-dryer units. Priced starting at $1.25 million, they sold out before construction was even complete, and all are now in the rental pool of Grace Bay Club. The family-friendly side of the resort has its own pool, restaurant and swim-up bar (“to keep parents happy as well,” I was told). Located in yet another separate cluster of buildings, the Estate functions as a hotel-within-a-hotel (à la Jade Mountain on St. Lucia) with twenty-two 4,500 square-foot, four-bedroom residences, each with its own entrance and smashing ocean views.
In spite of, or perhaps because of, its separation between adults and children, Grace Bay Club has long been known as one of the most family-friendly resorts in the Caribbean. Morgan Luker, who runs the kids’ club, is energetic, fun and not afraid to take children off the property for such tours as visiting nearby ruins and snorkeling excursions, though she says that camping on the property is among the most popular activities (complete with a campfire and s’mores, of course).
Even if you’re not staying here, beachside Anacaona has one of the most romantic settings on the island, and the Lounge, with its new Infinity Bar, draws guests from other Grace Bay resorts for cocktails during sunset. Rooms from $950.
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Read a member’s postcard from her recent trip to Grace Bay Club.
Everyone refers to it simply as “the Palms,” but the Regent hotel company played an important role in bringing this once tired resort to five-star glory. The property reopened in 2007 after extensive renovations, and its condo units sold out almost instantly. The four-story towers feature seventy-two suites—arranged like a horseshoe around a sprawling, free-style infinity pool—and are made of Caribbean coral stone, giving the property a distinctly Anglo-Caribbean feel, which continues in the spacious guest rooms. There’s the typical dark-wood furniture, including mahogany king-size beds and armoires studded with brass buttons. Floors are smooth marble, walls are painted white or cheerful pastels; and ceiling fans, wicker chairs and tasseled curtains add old-world British accents. The inspiration here is the style of British theater designer Oliver Messel, who is most famous for his interiors on Mustique. All the rooms have balconies or small terraces, but the ones to get are the Ocean Front Suites, which have terry-cloth-covered double daybeds from which you can take in the turquoise-drenched views.
When I stayed here, most guests, including tons of families, seemed to prefer the infinity pool to the beach, though some couples took advantage of the adults-only loungers on an elevated deck between the pool and the beach. When the resort is full, scoring one of the more desirable pool spots, especially one of the five so-called pods (large round mattresses topped with pillows), can be tricky. The sunken, poolside restaurant Plunge, which also has a swim-up bar popular with young guests who order smoothies, serves light lunches, with plenty of child-friendly options, and a limited menu is available right at the beach and poolside. For dinner, the fine-dining restaurant Parallel 23, in the Palms’ pretty courtyard, draws lots of guests from other resorts. Also gathered around the courtyard is a collection of small boutiques, including a gourmet food store—a nice touch—where you can stock up on snacks like Terra chips, crackers and pâté, and German chocolates.
What really sets the hotel aside—besides a renowned kids’ program that is available year-round—is its 25,000-square-foot Regent Palms Spa. If you’re a spa junkie who wants to stay in the Grace Bay area, there’s no other facility that comes close.
Says Indagare Insider Tiffany Schauer, a longtime visitor: “If you want some five-star action, the Regent Palms is nice. It has a tranquil spa facility with a Balinese or Asian feel with the usual hot rock and Thai menu of spa services. They also offer private yoga and Pilates instruction. And the clothing boutique carries Da-Nang summer wear, which is hard to come by.” Rooms from $595.
WHO SHOULD STAY: Families and friends traveling together (most of the suites can be turned into one-, two- or three-bedrooms), couples who want to be part of the Grace Bay action and spa aficionados who plan their time off around treatments and wellness.
WHO SHOULD NOT STAY: Romantics seeking privacy and a secluded setting. Grace Bay Beach is utterly built up, and while the Palms’ neighbors are relatively quiet condo hotels, they are almost wall to wall with the resort.
ROOMS TO GET: Of the Palms’ seventy-two rooms, only forty-eight face the ocean, an important detail to know when you book. For the best, uninterrupted views, ask for an oceanfront suite. If you’re traveling with kids, it pays to upgrade to a one- or two-bedroom; each comes with a kitchen with Viking appliances and a Nespresso maker, as well as a washer and dryer. The oceanview rooms are behind the pool, so you’ll see the buzzing poolside action before you see the sea. For the ultimate views, there are eight sumptuous Penthouses, all three-bedrooms.
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