By Bob Friel
In the world of travel, some forms are more difficult to pull off successfully than others. Solo trekking to the North Pole, diving to the bottom of the Marianas Trench, landing a man on the moon; they all present their own challenges.
They’re all a walk in the park, however, compared to the most complicated type of travel known to man.
Hungry polar bears, crushing depths and the force of gravity are nothing compared with trying to please three generations of family on a single vacation.
Eight people, from teens to octogenarians, each with a different list of demands and desires, all satisfied by one island let alone a single resort? Travel agents trying to solve simpler problems have wound up in asylums. Fortunately, all we had to do was make one call.
The only common denominators on everyone’s lists were that we all wanted easy flights and a great beach. Boom: how about nonstops and one of the very best beaches in the world? We quickly narrowed it down to Providenciales Island in the Turks and Caicos, and Grace Bay Beach, its powdery paradise lapped by a warm, clear, turquoise-tinted sea.
After that, the wish lists deviated a bit. The grandparents wanted tranquility and accessibility.
The teens wanted lively and exciting while safe.
Us middle-agers just wanted a nap. And excellent food. And rum drinks. And a spa.
And then, once we’d recuperated for a bit, we’d be ready for some adventure and maybe even, if the stars aligned, some romance.
In a previous life, I spent decades exploring the Caribbean as a travel writer. Almost always solo, I nonetheless noted certain places and resorts that might fit future family needs. Now, faced with this waterfall of wish lists, I realized I already had the perfect answer: The Sands at Grace Bay, an elegant all-suite beach resort.
The Sands checked all the boxes. Directly on Grace Bay Beach, with three pools, a spa, and one of the island’s best restaurants right on site. And the rooms… It’s not even fair to call the accommodations the grandparents settled into a “suite.” Located on the top floor of an elevator-accessible beachfront building, their corner unit was more like a palace, with a huge wrap-around balcony featuring forever views of the brilliant-blue sea. This became the go-to spot for happy hours and family quality time whenever we weren’t out enjoying the beach and watersports.
The two teens had dreamed of scuba diving since they were wee little snorkelers. Dive Provo set them up with a resort course, and by the next day, five of us were finning among the grouper, snapper and angelfish out on the reef, even posing with a placid nurse shark.
The scuba divers came back bubbling over with so much excitement that everyone else wanted to get in on the watery action. The Sands staff arranged for a private family charter with Caicos Dream Tours, who brought their boat right to the resort’s beach to pick us up. The entertaining Dream crew took all eight of us on a day trip that included three snorkeling stops, an iguana safari, family high-diving Olympics and even an onboard lunch featuring fresh conch caught by the teens.
That evening, the Conch at Provo’s Thursday Night Fish Fry was nearly as fresh, and the lively market stalls with souvenirs, rum drinks, and all the fish and fritters we could eat plus live music and a crowd of both belongers and visitors gathered to dance and party gave us all our fill of local flavor and fun.
The night before we left Provo—everyone now tanned, relaxed, spa’d and adventured to their heart’s content—we gathered for one more family dinner at Hemingway’s Restaurant to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday. We all know that as matriarch and mom-mom, her number one wish-list item was simply that everyone else in the family have their best vacation ever.
After each of us recounted the highlights of our great week, we all held up our glasses and waited for her final assessment.
With her eyes glittering in the sparkler the staff lit atop her cake, she announced that the trip to The Sands had been a complete success.
For more, visit The Sands.
Bob Friel is a veteran travel writer based in Orcas Island, WA.