Destination: Turks & Caicos
The Aman chain is famous for creating grand entrances, and the one in Turks and Caicos must be among the most memorable. After a ten-minute drive through the tangled landscapes of northwest Provo’s nature preserve, down a bumpy, unpaved road, guests walk through the soaring entrance hall and end up in a courtyard with an enormous reflecting pool. The calm water is surrounded by a collection of wooden buildings that lead the eye toward a dramatic infinity pool and on to the turquoise sea. It doesn’t look even remotely Caribbean, but it’s so breathtaking that you can’t help but feel thankful you’ve arrived—wherever you may be.
The Amanyara overall can feel like a dream, which is of course part of the genius of the brand, which has made an art of the fusion of haute design (and haute prices), a laissez-faire ambiance and the illusion of a totally responsibility-free vacation. There are no set meal times, no minimum ages or date restrictions for kids, no dress code and no checks to sign (whatever you order is automatically charged to your room). Guests, whether first-timers or Aman junkies, are made to feel part of the club, encouraging you to do what you want when you want it. Of course, there’s a large and excellent staff working hard behind the scenes to make the experience feel effortless.
The resort is made up of forty so-called pavilions and twenty private villas (with plans for thirteen more in the future), which are scattered around ponds, along the beach and on black rock ledges overlooking the sea. Each pavilion is a freestanding structure with an open floor plan, a soaring ceiling and large sliding glass doors that lead to a generously sized patio. They’re true designer pads: uncluttered (there’s not a single superfluous chair), sleek (an abundance of teak is used) and minimalist (the supremely comfortable beds sit in the middle of the room on futon-like frames set close to the floor). There’s a soaking tub in the center of the spacious bathroom, which doubles as a dressing room, and the only things separated from the rest of the room—with a sliding door—are the toilet and the shower.
It takes willpower to leave the pavilions—I have never wanted to stay put in a hotel room the way I did here—but overall the Amanyara has been conceived around comfort and relaxation. Every two yards, it seems, there’s another oversize daybed or cushy lounger that invites reading and daydreaming, and as soon as you sit, a member of the exceptional staff (similar to Parrot Cay, many are from Asia) materializes to offer food and drink. My favorite spot was one of the upholstered window seats in the Amanyara’s soaring round bar, which has prime sunset-watching views. Perched on the edge of the resort, the 164-foot-long infinity pool is made of black volcanic rock from Indonesia and framed by three enormous daybeds (salas) and boasts incredible views. Most guests seem to prefer lounging poolside, though the stretch of beach is lovely and has a funky Beach Club, where elevated seating assures great views. At sunset, most guests gather at the poolside bar for an aperitif, and a recent visit revealed that while there’s no official dress code, this is not your sarong-and-flip-flop kind of resort: styles ranged from a woman in a formfitting strapless black dress and pearl choker to a young man sporting Pumas, a hipster haircut and a fedora. (It’s telling that the Amanyara boutique is stocked with labels like Heidi Klein, Elizabeth Hurley and Eres.)
The Amanyara spa is housed in one of the private villas with four treatment rooms, centered around a pool and offer Thai massage, yoga and Pilates instruction as well as a full range of spa treatments. There are tennis courts and a small gym, but most guests come here for relaxing and pampering, not to chase balls in 80-degree heat. Divers, however, will be thrilled by the proximity of Northwest Point, an almost five-mile-long reef.
Before you book, be aware that besides Parrot Cay, the Amanyara is the most expensive resort in TCI. The minibar (stocked with tasty treats like herb-covered crostini, chocolates and San Pellegrino lemonade) is complimentary, as are all phone calls, but food here is pricey (think $11 for a juice, $18 for a cocktail and $35 for a bagel and lox at breakfast). If you think you’ll be eating most of your meals at the resort—and one rickety drive on the unpaved road leading to Amanyara is enough—consider looking into the packages on the hotel’s Web site that include some or all meals.
The Amanyara is great if you go with someone you love (though kids are accepted, there’s not much to do for them here and the vibe is decidedly adult). Everything is designed to be utterly romantic—from the restaurant overlooking the reflecting pool, which is illuminated by hundreds of lights at night, to the pavilions that practically disappear in lush vegetation. The resort certainly lives up to its name: “Aman” means “peace” in Sanskrit, and “yara” means “place,” in the language of the Arawak Amerindians, one of the region’s indigenous peoples. Pavilions from $1,450.
WHO SHOULD STAY: Travelers who are interested in design and who enjoy a secluded, remote location where the days are all about lounging, reading and spending quality time with your spouse or partner.
WHO SHOULD NOT STAY: Those seeking nightlife and lots of activities and travelers who are not crazy about sleek designer spaces.
ROOMS TO GET: Pavilion No. 115 has its own private stretch of beach. There are seventeen pavilions that have ocean views; note that the less expensive partial-oceanview pavilions are set back a little, so while they don’t have uninterrupted vistas, you can still see the sea.
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