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Pedigree of Posh: Selling Turks & Caicos Islands

Written by  Melanie Reffes

Pointed southeast of the Bahamas and 575 miles south of Miami, Turks and Caicos Islands are a sunny collection of seven main islands and forty smaller isles and uninhabited cays. A British Overseas Territory, the island chain is easy to get to with plenty of flights from the US and a breeze to sell for travel agents with clients looking for top-shelf resorts, fine dining, funky beach bars, historic sites like the former cotton plantation called Cheshire Hall, superb diving, temps in the eighties and the island’s crowning glory; miles of white sandy beaches that front the sea blindingly bluer than a Tiffany gift box.

One of the first spits of land that Christopher Columbus spied when he voyaged across the Atlantic in 1492, the archipelago is laid-back with a West Indian vibe. The most developed in the island chain, Providenciales, referred to as Provo, is an uncluttered cosmopolitan city with just two stop signs, no traffic lights and 30,000 people including a spirited community of expats who swapped the winter winds at home for year-round sunny skies.
Most of the resorts and villas salute Provo’s famed Grace Bay Beach; the brochure-worthy sugary white strip of sand framed by snorkel and scuba-friendly water. Although ‘doing nothing perfectly’ is an approved sport, adventurers like deep sea fishing, sailing, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, kite-boarding, windsurfing, riding the Provo Ponies on the beach ( and teeing up at the Provo Golf Club; the only 18-hole course in the country and one that ranks among the top 10 in the
Provo is also where you’ll find duty-free shops, galleries, restaurants, bars and cafes. Seclusion-seekers head to the southern shores and the western tip or set sail to one of the many deserted cays and other islands in the chain.

Bright star on the beach
A short 15-minute drive from Providenciales International Airport (PLS), The Shore Club is the first and only resort on Long Bay Beach at the undeveloped corner of Provo. A new build on the 2.5-mile long beach, the upscale 106-suite resort caters to wellness-inspired travelers who come for unrivalled indulgence. Easy -to-navigate, two low-rise buildings house the spacious suites that include two enormous multi-bedroom presidential suites with balcony hot tubs. On the beach less-traveled (most of the other resorts are on Grace Bay Beach), the resort was built by the Hartling Group, owned by Canadian Stan Hartling, who bought his first beachfront parcel of land in 1996 on Grace Bay Beach. Investing US $100 million in the new resort with plans to open six upscale villas in the fall, Hartling Group also owns The Sands at Grace Bay and The Palms. Gratis shuttle service between the three resorts is offered daily.
With floor-to-ceiling windows that open to unobstructed views, Shore Club suites come with top-of-the-line appliances in the open kitchens and balconies or patios to hang out after a day on the beach or at the pool. For those not in the mood for sand between their toes, three pools include one for families, adults-only by the beach and the centerpiece Colonnade Pool with a bar and cabanas. Relaxation comes easy in the Dune Spa with scrubs like the Long Bay Ritual that blends sugarcane, Salt Cay salt, white sand from the beach and aromatic coconut oil. Upping the relaxation ante, there are fire pits by the pool and yoga classes on the beach. For families with kids, Jungle Jams Kids Club dishes up plenty of fun for wee ones up to twelve years old and for parents on a date night, nannies are available at $20 hour.
 Under the watchful eye of Executive Chef Lauren Callighen, three restaurants include the Colonnade for shareable tapas and a Long Bay Breeze cocktail, Sea Grapes Pool Bar and Grille where you’ll find healthy treats like conch ceviche and beetroot hummus and Sui-Ren; Peruvian-Japanese fusion with stand-outs created by Chef Daniel Delgado. “My background is Japanese and Peruvian so it’s natural that I combine the flavors of both cultures in our tasting menu,“ he says, while serving hungry tourists his signature ceviche made tangy with fresh white fish, Asian lemony spices and crunchy corn. A sumptuous breakfast buffet in the open-air courtyard is included in room rates.
Selling TCI for more than two decades, Massachusetts-based travel agent Susan Peavey sells vacations at The Shore Club to her clients in the Boston and Cape Cod area. “The resort is an amazing new option for our higher-end clients,” she says. “An all-inclusive resort is not a great option for the beautiful island as guests don’t leave the resort to experience the beauty of Turks and Caicos. plus it is not supporting the local economy.”
 Formerly the general manager of The Palms, Karen Whitt joins the new resort as VP of Sales and Marketing, and isn’t shy trumpeting its appeal. ”The resort stretches across a shallow bank of water that’s a shade of blue you’ve never seen before, with each element of the development meticulously curated, from the crushed coral stone walls to the tiles which have been painted by hand.” Nightly rates through the end of April start at $925 for a junior garden view suite to $6,000 for a three-bedroom penthouse with butler service. “We are the newest luxury resort on the island and the only one on this magnificent beach,“ says Frits Hannenberg, general manager. “We are delighted to welcome travel agents to the property, as they sell Provo vacations to their discerning clients.”

All in the family
Also owned by The Hartling Group, The Sands at Grace Bay is a short hop from the Provo Golf Course, and has a pair of marinas for those is arriving by boat. Fronting Grace Bay Beach, the affordable, family-friendly resort is casual Caribbean chic in 114 suites and studios within six three-story buildings that stand no higher than a palm tree. Multi-bedroom suites are spacious and have modern kitchens, dining rooms, washers and dryers and screened in furnished patios and balconies, ideal for an afternoon siesta or a cocktail as the sun sets behind the beach. “We are thrilled to unveil our newly-renovated resort,“ said Mona Beeson, general manager. “Guests are raving about these contemporary updates that provide them with plush comforts, while maintaining the property’s beloved sophisticated yet relaxed ambience.” Ideal for families, couples and singles, the resort is a popular mainstay on a perfect stretch of Grace Bay Beach. “The Sands gives guests the opportunity to enjoy a true home-away-from-home feel while they soak up our exceptional resort destination,” adds Mona Beeson, showing guests to their suites. Complimentary bicycles are for exploring the island, tennis and basketball courts are lit for night play and the fitness center stays open until 11pm.

Wine and Dine
For an authentic taste of the island and a celebration of the conch; the national treasure and the national dish, head to Bight Park on Thursday night and fill up on conch fritters, cracked conch and conch salads while local bands keeps the crowd on their feet until the last person leaves.
A culinary ode to Ernest Hemingway who fished in the sea surrounding the island, Hemingway’s at The Sands at Grace Bay is beachside dining with servers so friendly you’ll swear you’ve met them before. A table on the dune deck is where to greet the morning with a spicy Blood Mary, stack of crazy good almond pancakes or a yummy ‘Ernest’ omelette with a dab of the local hot sauce called ‘Ghost Story’. Big salads are divine for lunch and for dinner; check out Chef Alix’s citrusy conch or a buttery South Caicos lobster tail. Save room for fried ice cream deliciously shareable in a sweet tortilla basket sprinkled with cinnamon powdered sugar and chocolate sauce.
For elegant dining under the stars, Parallel23 at the 72-suite The Palms is the pedigree of posh with tall French doors that open to stately palms and a striking fountain. An international menu of land and sea are works of art with standouts like coconut-marinated conch ceviche, pan roasted sea bass and 21-day aged steaks. Two forks work nicely on a slice of lemon meringue pie drizzled with raspberry sauce. Bartenders are expert pourers of sour lemon martinis and glasses from an extensive wine and spirit list.
In the heart of Grace Bay, Coco Bistro is the go-to for house specialities like lobster bisque and conch ravioli with crispy beet chips and house-made pesto. Executive Chef Stuart Gray works his magic with herbs from his own garden and wonderfully flavorful add-ons like banana chutney that pairs with grilled shrimp on sugar cane skewers.
For the real deal, follow the locals to Bugaloos Conch Crawl in Five Cays on the south coast; one of three original settlements that today is a residential area with small shops, restaurants and friendly Belongers; the local term for islanders. Snag a seat at a seaside table or an oversized chair under a palm tree and dig into a peppery conch salad, fiery buffalo battered conch and addictive conch fritters. Ideal for a gaggle of pals, a pitcher of heady rum punch and a big platter of fabulously fried conch, lobster and shrimp will do the trick nicely. A sandy stage hosts local performers, fishermen look for conch in the knee-deep sea and vendors sell crafts on the beach.
The word on the street is that any Casanova worth his sea salt eats at least fifty conch pistols a day; that gooey part of the conch’s anatomy that looks like a worm and is eaten raw. Full of protein, iron and calcium, the gastropod’s slimy private parts are the big draw at Da Conch Shack in Blue Hills where couples on a babymoon vacation skillfully down a few of the translucent strands. A few steps from the barefoot casual tables, Zab-Zab, the resident conch expert and father of eight, delicately removes the pistols from their pink shells and if you ask him nicely, he’ll pose for a photo as he explains how the islands natural fertility drug increases the odds of a bigger brood. Wash it down with a Turk’s Head beer, conch fritters and stay awhile for a platter of conch fritters, views of the passing pelicans and a shot of the local Bamberra rum.

Arrive in style
For priority service upon arrival, expedited departure and lounge amenities while you wait for take-off, VIP Flyers Club is the regal way to start a vacation. Greeters meet arriving travelers for fast tracking through customs and immigration and provide departure priority assistance through security and to the relaxing lounge with Wi-Fi, snacks and views of the planes on the tarmac.

Getting there
American Airlines flies twice daily from Miami, Delta offers Thursday, Friday and Saturday service from Atlanta and Saturday flights from Boston and New York and JetBlue flies every day from New York (JFK) and Fort Lauderdale and Saturday from Boston.

Save the date
Now in its twentieth year, St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl starts at the Tiki Hut in Provo on March 17. Also in Provo, go fly a kite on April 17 at the Kite Flying Competition on Lower Bight Road. Sailors and wannabees head to South Caicos for the Big South Regatta on May 27-28 and for conch-philes who plan ahead, the November Conch Festival in Blue Hills celebrates the crustacean with tastings, shell blowing and an all -day beach party.