With some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and plenty for kids, Caroline Scott discovers that there’s something for everyone on the islands of Turks and Caicos
Never has our holiday destination piqued such interest as when we announced we were off to Turks and Caicos. We were met with a barrage of questions from friends, many of whom had heard of it, some who’d considered it, but none of whom had actually been.
We booked into a Beaches resort, the family friendly off-shoot of Sandals. There are three resorts of this kind, two in Jamaica and one in Turks and Caicos. Like Sandals, these are ‘luxury included’ holidays and this really does include everything, from unlimited diving to childcare and perfectly decent wine.
Beaches Turks and Caicos sits on Grace Bay. There’s a reason why Grace Bay, with its white sand and gently sloping blue ocean, has been voted one of the best beaches in the world by everyone from Condé Nast Traveller to Trip Advisor and that’s because it is truly, truly beautiful. It’s also one of the top 10 diving destinations in the world. The sprawling 75-acre Beaches resort incorporates four different ‘villages’ – Caribbean, French, Italian and Key West. There are an impressive 22 restaurants, 10 pools, the Pirate’s Island water park, tennis courts, kids’ clubs, various watersports and even a spa.
We were whisked from Providenciales airport by transfer and received a warm welcome on arrival at the Italian Village. Immediately, we were thrown head first into the Beaches way of life – a rum punch thrust into our hands as we were led past the pool, where a DJ and personal trainer were putting guests through their paces in an aqua aerobics class, while just yards away a bustling swim-up bar was filled with new arrivals, and at the edge of the pool Elmo from Sesame Street was posing for selfies. It was quite the induction.
There are 43 types of accommodation to get your head around, but we were staying in a Butler Suite overlooking the pool. The accommodation is geared largely towards the US clientele so everything is super-sized – the beds and bath tubs are huge, there’s an Xbox 360 in the kids’ bedroom, a well-stocked bar and plenty of space. On the first evening our butler brought us food and we turned in early for the night; every evening they deliver a list of the following day’s events and I went to bed wondering how we would fit everything into one week!
On the first morning we only strayed as far as Barefoot by the Sea, the beach restaurant we had spied from our balcony. We gorged on Bircher muesli and breakfast burritos, while our son, Rupert, devoured a bowl of fresh papaya and pineapple, followed by a helping of French toast. For those guests staying at ‘butler level’, a cabana is reserved by the pool every day, and we were delighted to learn that this included a vast chest full of ice-cold drinks, plus a steady stream of snacks delivered every few hours, from fresh fruit platters to cookies and nachos. On arrival we had been handed a mobile on which we could reach our butler any time of the day or night.
It’s amazing how quickly you slip into the Beaches way of life and by the end of the first day I was joining in the pool fitness classes as my son played next to me and my husband snoozed in the shade. And while we would normally be ‘beach people’ there was so much to keep our son occupied – between endless activities, music and regular appearances by the Sesame Street characters – that we found it hard to pull ourselves away from the pool.
Beaches prides itself on being ‘everything and anything for everyone’ and while this means it is dedicated to keeping all ages occupied, it also means you can make it the kind of holiday you want. While the activities at the Italian Village pool were great fun for younger ones and the party-hard piña colada crowd, the beach was deliciously quiet and the resort’s other pools offered a different scene – Key West, for example, has an infinity pool and a chilled-out ambience. In the afternoons my husband would wander there for a cold beer and a plate of freshly prepared sushi, while he caught up on emails (there’s free Wi-Fi all over the resort). Meanwhile, my son and I would hit the play park or go for walks. The whole resort is buggy friendly and the gardens are unbelievably well kept.
As the week went on we spent our afternoons at Pirate’s Island, either bobbing along the lazy river or braving the surf simulator. The water park is the biggest in the Caribbean and is at the heart of the tweens and teens scene. This is where you’ll find the Scratch DJ Academy, an Xbox Play Lounge and various other kids’ hangouts. The entertainment for kids carries on in the evenings; for the teens there’s boat parties, barbecues and under-18s club nights, while there’s shows for the younger children and a weekly Sesame Street parade. Camp Sesame is the crèche for under fives, opening early for parents going out on a morning dive.
The joy of having a butler was that he instinctively knew which restaurants we’d prefer and he, without fail, always secured us the best table. The biggest surprise was the restaurant offering – we enjoyed some excellent Caribbean food and fresh fish, and found restaurants that had a lovely, laidback atmosphere while also being child-friendly. We were delighted to see our son trying new foods with gusto, from shrimp grits for breakfast to snapper for dinner. There is every type of restaurant imaginable, from Japanese teppanyaki to The Jerk Shack (our guilty lunchtime pleasure), so you’ll always find something you fancy.
Bearing in mind the dizzying array of activities on offer, our trip to Beaches was one of the most relaxing holidays I’ve ever been on. And the added bonus of having a butler meant we experienced luxury like never before. We were extremely sad to leave and let’s just say getting back to normal life in London, sans butler, was hard to bear!
Seven nights’ accommodation during half-term (10 to 17 February 2018) in a French Village Luxury Room starts from £7,658 for a family of four, including return flights from London Gatwick and return resort transfers
0800 597 002
Want more? Six of the best beaches in Britain