Spa/Wellness: Places: Just Back From... Parrot Cay
Just Back From... Parrot Cay
I didn’t come to Parrot Cay seeking spiritual renewal. A few days away from my kids and office was meant to be restorative, certainly, but also my great opportunity to accomplish a hundred tasks I never seemed to have the time for at home. And so I arrived in the Turks & Caicos laden down with work to do and books to read, a cough I couldn’t seem to shake, and a long agenda of projects. But then I went to a morning yoga class in a wooden hut and somehow started down a different path. Three sides were open to the breeze, ferns, mangroves, and a glimmering ocean beyond. When it came time for a balance pose, I picked a crimson bougainvillea branch to stare at to steady myself. I have studied meditation and yoga before and have never been very good at sweeping my mind clear of thoughts, a curse of the type-A personality I suppose. But every time I felt the crosswind in that hut, it was so pleasing that I became a little more present. Then, because the breakfast buffet had fresh fruits I’d never tried (something that looked like a cherry tomato and tasted like passion fruit), smoothies already prepared, and delicious looking baby greens, I somehow slipped into healthy eating. My dip in the ocean afterwards was so warm and calming, I couldn’t bear to get out, and next thing I knew I had spent an hour floating on my back, closely observing the play of light on the waves and the shifting colors of the sea: now aqua and sun-spangled, now clear, now silvery and opaque. My mental chatter silenced, I listened instead to the waves, the wind in the palms, the thrum of cicadas, the dry rustle of grasses.
Part of the reason it’s so easy to lose yourself at Parrot Cay is the cocktail of solitude, simplicity and natural beauty. It is, after all, one of the more perfect beaches you will ever find, with a mile of soft white sugar sand and teal blue water. But the best part is how secluded it feels. The island itself is tiny and privately owned by hotelier Christina Ong, with little more to it than the resort, a few private homes and a dock here and there. Many of the resort accommodations have their own pools and terraces where guests linger away from it all. When I was floating in the sea, the beach was practically deserted, even though the resort was close to full. I could see a couple kayaking a good distance away, but otherwise I was alone. This morning I went for a long beach walk and saw not a soul, nor could I see much beyond the dunes and mangroves. The villas are set far enough back from the water that you rarely glimpse more than the occasional peaked roof. This natural serenity is echoed by the decor of the resort. Whether large or small, all accommodations have hardwood or marble floors, white daybeds and walls, and Balinese teak four posters. Pure, simple, uncluttered.
In many ways, the heart of the resort is the Como Shambhala Spa. Set on a hillside, it offers beautiful views of mangroves, bougainvillea and ocean from both the relaxation area and the individual treatment rooms. The practitioners are excellent and the range of treatments wide. I particularly enjoyed the signature Como Shambhala massage, which used long, continuous strokes and a special oil created by Ong that smells lightly of eucalyptus. Next door is the Yoga Pavilion, where complimentary classes are offered twice a day.
There are only two restaurants on the property (or the island, for that matter): Lotus, which is next to the pool and serves Asian food, and Terrace, which is in an unremarkable space in the main building and serves Mediterranean food. The dishes at both were consistently fresh, delicious and healthy—so much so that it felt like a pep rally for fruits and vegetables. I would eat spa food all the time if it tasted like the incredible snapper and broccolini sauteed with garlic and hot chiles from Terrace, or the grilled prawns with oranges, fennel, almonds and red pepper dressing at Lotus. For those who want to be extra healthy, there is a Como Shambhala menu available at all times with plenty of vegan options and raw foods.
Tomorrow morning, I will leave with my pile of projects undone, my books unopened. But my cough has disappeared, as has my frenzied restlessness. I am peaceful, centered, zen. As my yoga instructor would say, I have “reconnected with my center of pure awareness.” I accomplished nothing…or maybe everything.
Getting There: Fly to Providenciales International Airport (PLS). For East Coasters, there are direct flights from New York (about three hours). From there, it’s a short taxi ride to a private pavilion and dock, where a boat takes you to the resort (about a 25 minute ride). Few guests leave the island once there, except to go snorkeling, diving along the nearby reef or to do kayak or boat excursions. If you are keen to play golf, it is possible to go to a course in Provo, but a bit of a chore.
Room to Get: The resort offers essentially two different types of experience at very different price points. The lower category rooms (Terrace Rooms, Garden Rooms and Ocean View Rooms) are small and reasonably priced—a low-key getaway for the type of traveler who loves the barefoot vibe of Esencia or Caneel Bay. They are set on a grassy hillside among palm trees and are a short walk from the beach. The most desirable accommodations are the villas, which are huge, beachfront and stunning. Each comes with a highly-trained personal butler who tends to your needs all day, creating an overall experience that is more on level with an Aman resort (and priced accordingly). Most of the butlers have previously worked at Ong’s other properties overseas, such as Como Shambhala Estate or Uma Ubud in Bali, and the service level is superb. The villas function very well for families. The One-Bedroom Beach Villas have day beds that can be easily turned into beds for two children. The Two-Bedroom Beach Villas have a small extra room for a nanny (with a single bed), so are essentially three bedrooms. The three-bedroom Rocky Point Villas have traditionally been the top pick of Indagare members, but I stayed in one of the new three-bedroom Island Villas, and found it even better. The layout is an improvement (bigger living space), the pool has an infinity edge, and it’s closer to the main resort, so you can walk if you’d like (the Rocky Point Villas are a mile or so away).
Read our review of Parrot Cay.
Read about Mii Amo, another of our favorite spots for spiritual renewal.