Boasting immaculate beaches, bath-warm tropical seas, ultra-luxurious hotels, the least rainfall of any Caribbean island nation and a lobster season that lasts from August to April, the Turks and Caicos Islands should definitely be at the top of the Caribbean holiday hit list.
On my last research trip, I hopped from Cay to Cay to track down the best hotels and experiences for Original Travel guests (the things we do for you), so here's the lowdown on where to lay your head...
The Private Island Retreat
Situated on a thousand acre Private Island, Parrot Cay by COMO is an idyllic escape. The journey from the airport was slick - so much so that I was yet to understand the concept of 'Caribbean time' that I'd heard so much about - as we were whisked from airport to air-con lounge at a private jetty, ready for the boat crossing to Parrot Cay. Tip - sit on the top boat deck if you want to avoid a soaking!
The hotel itself offers a mix of guestrooms and suites housed in plantation style villas at the heart of the resort, and a collection of Beach Houses and Villas dotted along a mile of powder soft beach, each with its own little stretch of sand. I stayed in a beautiful two bedroom Beach House with a private beachfront pool and sailing-inspired décor which would not have looked out of place in a wealthy New Yorker's Nantucket beach house.
So what to do once you have soaked in the blue hues of the ocean and the soft ivory sand? Retreat to the utterly spoiling COMO Shambhala Spa of course, or find your Zen during a yoga class with instructor Emy (who is so good she had a group of us novices striking a near-perfect warrior pose in no time). The more active guest can kayak or sail, enjoy a game of tennis or even paddleboard through the mangroves in the heart of the island.
And once you've worked up an appetite be sure to try the coconut sorbet; it's freshly made on the island and as close to dessert perfection as I have found.
The Super-Luxe Villa Hideaway
Next stop was the serene Amanyara, tucked away on the western tip of 'Provo', as it's affectionately called by the locals, and is within a half hour drive of the international airport. Given the twice weekly British Airways flight to Provo, Amanyara is within very easy reach indeed.
The hotel's Pavilions and Villas are incredibly private, spread out across a huge site and not overlooked by any others. If you want to simply lock yourselves away in the lap of luxury, this is the hotel for you. Pavilions are perfect for couples, while Villa options range from three to six bedrooms, each with a beautiful swimming pool, and tranquil reflection ponds.
Indulgent food was a recurring theme in the trip, with a particular highlight being my first lunch at Amanyara. Having enjoyed two incredible scuba dives in the morning (more on that in part two), our boat pulled up on to the sand at Amanyara and I was able to hop off the boat and into the beachfront restaurant in less than a minute, where a plate of fresh, sweet and tangy snapper ceviche was waiting. Post-dive perfection.
For those who can bear to tear themselves away from their villas, there is plenty to keep the whole family busy. Resident fitness guru Trent even managed to drag us out of bed at the crack of dawn for a beach bootcamp session and, despite the dreaded early start, it provided plenty of entertainment and worked up a sweat, allowing me to fully indulge at breakfast that day guilt-free. Those not of the bootcamp persuasion can instead enjoy a range of non-motorised watersports on the beach, yoga, pilates, snorkelling, tennis, beach volleyball and even a golf simulator.
Amanyara also has a Nature Discovery Centre, which is a hub of information on the island's flora, fauna and marine life. Little ones will love taking part in a Turtle Tagging Safari, learning how to catch, flipper tag and release turtles in the wild accompanied by legendary local fishermen Dave and Gilbert.
The Trendy One
For those that like a little more rum punch with their relaxation, may I present The Gansevoort. The Gansevoort is situated on the award winning Grace Bay Beach and feels like a little slice of Miami South Beach transported to the Caribbean. Having said that, it is still the Caribbean so don't expect to be partying until the sun comes up!
Spacious Studios and Suites are located in twin buildings either side of the swimming pool and walkway to the beach. Arriving at the hotel, you can hear the soft beats of poolside music drifting through the lobby as you cast your eye over the pool and catch a glimpse of the ocean beyond.
There are a string of other hotels along Grace Bay Beach, and a great snorkelling trail in the ocean a twenty minute walk from The Gansevoort, which pairs perfectly with a sunset happy hour at 'Somewhere Bar' on the beach behind the trail.
Come evening, tables fill up at The Gansevoort Beach Bar and once a week guests are encouraged to wander along the beach to the 'fish fry', where dozens of local food vendors pitch up, and cultural dances and music draw crowds of locals and travellers.
The Gansevoort is achingly cool, (relatively) calm and collected - and it makes quite the perfect pairing with Parrot Cay, too.