By Bob Curley
Providenciales in Turks and Caicos is known as one of the top luxury destinations in the Caribbean, and it got just a little bit posher in January with the opening of Ambergris Cay, a 10-villa all-inclusive resort on a three-mile long private island less than a half-hour by air from Provo.
It’s just the second private island resort in Turks and Caicos, after the COMO Parrot Cay (and not to be confused with the other Ambergris Caye, the popular destination in Belize).
The Ambergris Cay experience begins when guests are met at Providenciales International Airport and taken to a waiting turboprop for the short flight to Ambergris Cay, which has a long runway designed to accommodate the private jets of resort guests and owners at the small condo community on the opposite side of the island from the guest villas.
Arriving visitors are greeted with champagne and shown to a golf cart, assigned to each villa owner for the duration of their visit. It’s a short but dusty drive from the airport to the lineup of spacious studio suites on Monck Beach, each looking across a broad, brilliant white-sand beach.
The low-slung, peak-roofed villas are models of efficiency and style, with plush and roomy beds facing the beach and tall sliding windows that open onto shaded patios and plunge pools. Interior decorator Nicole van Schouwenburg sprinkles eye-catching touches around the mostly neutral interiors, like orange Veuve Clicquot tins styled into European road signs (above) and lithographs of the native cacti found on the island, including the ubiquitous Turks Head cactus that gave Turks and Caicos the first half of its name.
Once you settle in, the first thing you notice is the silence. Indeed, the lack of ambient noise alone may be worth the price of a stay on Ambergris Cay: no whoosh of passing cars (save for an occasional maintenance vehicle), chattering children, or other background sounds common even on a beautiful beach like Grace Bay on mainland Provo. The second may be the outdoor shower, a spacious cube enclosed shoulder-high and shared by potted succulents.
We found that mornings or evenings were best for the plunge pool, both for comfort and privacy’s sake: the villa units are quite close together and the foliage in between hasn’t quite grown in yet, and once the pool gets into the full sun it becomes uncomfortably warm. Fortunately, there’s always the calm and shallow waters of the Caribbean Sea to dip into nearby, including a fish-filled natural pool close to the resort’s boat dock.
The resort is all-inclusive, and the friendly, jack-of-all-trades staff stands ready to deliver breakfast or drinks to your villas (the minibar fridge also is stocked with beer and soft drinks, and welcome amenities includes a fruit and cheese plate and a bottle of white wine. The main restaurant, bar, and spa area isn’t visible from the villas but it’s a short and pleasant walk down the beach and across a boardwalk fringing a shallow cove. Each villa is helpfully equipped with a portable lantern for evening walks, as well as a Bluetooth Bose portable speaker that we used for music in the room, on our patio, and on jaunts around the island in our golf cart.
There’s an infinity-edge pool here when you want a change of scenery or a light lunch and drinks at your loungers, and for dinner the restaurant serves multi-course gourmet meals with a couple of main entree options (but the promise that the chef can cook to order as well). The ceviche offered as an appetizer was so good we ordered it three times in three days on the island.
Daily, 30-minute spa treatments are part of Ambergris Cay’s all-inclusive package, a service that we took full advantage of during our stay. The spa is small — just a reception area and a couple of treatment rooms — but right on the beach. The modest list of scheduled daily activities includes tennis lessons, biking on the airstrip (when no planes are landing!), and a crosstraining run on the island’s fitness course.
Not on the schedule, but highly recommended, are end-of-day cocktails at the sunset deck by the pool.
Our favorite diversions were a boat trip and lunch on a sandbar just off the shore of neighboring Little Ambergris Cay, despite the fact that the tide came in unexpectedly and swamped the sandbar, ending our romantic adventure early; and roaming the island with our GPS-equipped golf cart. Ambergis Cay is an arid, treeless coral island with some dramatic elevation and a resident population of rock iguanas (rare elsewhere, but abundant here), flamingos, and other seabirds.
It’s also a place of ruins from past, failed attempts at settlement, including rock walls left by Loyalists fleeing the American Revolution, hundreds of signs and home sites from a failed, large-scale development project done in by the 2008 recession, and several ruined villas destroyed by hurricanes. More lively is the resort’s combination watersports center and children’s center, where we found kayaks and sailboats to play with and a large clubhouse with a shady porch to cool off after a hot ride around the island.
All too soon it was time to leave the serenity of Suite 4 and return to Provo, although not quite back to reality yet. We followed our stay at Ambergris Cay with a few days at the Beach House, a sister Turks and Caicos Collection boutique resort on Grace Bay Beach, where we spent time lounging in an oversized couch on our deck and reclining in our preassigned beach chairs (no need to mark your territory here) between walks in the talcum-like sand to the nearby Alexandra Resort, also a part of the same resort group.
Guests at each resort in the group, including the somewhat more distant Blue Haven Resort, have all-inclusive access to all amenities at each Provo property (but not at Ambergris Cay). We loved having the ability to chill out at the 21-suite Beach House and then join in the party atmosphere at the Alexandria, which had more live music, activities, a swim-up bar, extensive buffet restaurant, and late-night dining. Blue Haven, on the other hand, has its own marina and is closer to shopping.
Provo has a lot of great resorts, but if you want to have several different vacation experiences tied up in one all-inclusive package, combining a visit to Ambergris Cay with one of the Turks and Caicos Collection’s mainland properties is the way to go.
For more, visit Ambergris Cay.