We’re packed into a cargo van, eight of us, just wrapping up our adventures in Turks & Caicos, a stunning little slice of the world with crystal clear waters and miles of powder soft sand.
It was a trip I eagerly anticipated, knowing it was the last of several other getaways I’d been part of over the summer, reviewing other incredible coastal spots, including Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and Costa Rica. My expectations were high for this trip, having always been a fan of the nearby Bahamas.
As we crowded into the shuttle for the 20 minute drive to the airport, we were exchanging opinions of what we’d each experienced over the past few days.
My closer friends knew this trip wasn’t the smooth journey I’d hoped for…from issues with a mean gate agent on the first leg of the trip that led to missing luggage…to afternoon thunderstorms that caused cancelled excursions on the water that I desperately wanted to be part of.
It felt as though forces were challenging me to dislike this place that I so desperately intended to enjoy.
But as I sat in the shuttle, heading to the airport to go home, I was sad to be leaving. I was not eager to be leaving behind this gorgeous little place I was finally able to visit firsthand.
The Beaches mentality: it starts with the beach. And they’re right. That’s the first thing that hits you.
It wasn’t until I saw it for myself that I was able to believe just how different the color of this water is from the other places I’ve visited. This is bluer than the emerald green waters of Florida’s Panhandle. It is lighter than the turquoise seas off Aruba. This color is more like the shade of blue green that you find on a Tiffany’s Jewelry Box. And the island is the present wrapped inside.
The true treasure: the people.
Take Johnny, for example.
He’s part of the watersports crew at Beaches. He happily snapped photo after photo of us aboard his boat as he took us on a trip out on the Atlantic, around the northeastern tip of the island, into the Caribbean waters, to what I’ll always refer to as ‘Iguana Island’, a national preserve built to teach others about these little reptiles that outnumber the people on Turks & Caicos four to one.
I think of Alex, or Flash as he’s known in his sporting circles, our tour guide on Iguana Island, who doubles as a model and competitor on the national rugby team, and his grandmother who still runs her farm on the island.
There’s Rashawn, who greeted us when we checked in at the resort with a ‘welcome home’ and later helped us reclaim our missing luggage that finally arrived at the airport.
I can’t forget Malcolm, the horticulturist from Canada who now calls this Caribbean island home, who we bumped into while searching for friends we were supposed to meet at the tennis courts one early morning. Malcolm offered to go to the front desk to call our friends’ rooms, and after we resisted, literally walked us to the other courts at the resort, taking us on a shortcut through the property so that we could get there more quickly. And when I asked how they kept the grounds looking gorgeous, he gave credit to the 40-plus staffers who work with him to keep the resort weed-free.
I certainly can’t forget Adam Stewart, the CEO of Sandals Resorts, whose father, Butch Stewart, started it all back in 1981, both of whom happened to be vacationing at the property with 70 members of their family and friends while we were there. Adam is a charismatic man, clearly passionate about the resorts and the people who work there, along with those who visit.
We met with him while on our trip, hearing the story of how it all came to be and where the next resorts in the group were being built (just wait until you see what they have planned next—it resembles the huts over the water that you picture when thinking of Bora Bora).
He explained his different theories on getting it right: that the only ‘no’ you’ll hear at Beaches is ‘no problem’, or ‘the closer you look, the better we look’. He makes it happen by giving every generation their own vacation while at the resort, through programs like their Sesame Street partnership and Super Nanny daycares, or the Bubble Maker program, where eight year olds learn to scuba in the resort pools, literally getting in the water with tanks for 20 minutes, then graduating to the SEAL Team, where they are given ‘missions’ to complete in the pool.
They know water makes us all feel like kids again. Take a look at the fun in the video below.
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These are the folks who invented the swim-up bar (genius, right?) and host 13-thousand weddings a year (we saw one each night we were there).
This is the resort known for the ‘all-inclusive, unlimited, all the time’ mentality that also has a giving side through its Sandals Foundation, which gives back to the people in the communities where the resorts are so incredibly popular.
As I think over this trip and let the good wash over me, and the bad fall away, I realize it’s the people who made this adventure memorable…not just the older friends I got to see again at the conference, but the new friends I made, including Noel, our shuttle driver, who beams with pride as he talks about his 14 children, including his son Joel, a bartender at Beaches, who we know served us a drink or two during our stay.
Noel makes me realize a missing bag and delayed excursion pale in comparison to the brilliant memories made on the trip.
My friends in the shuttle ask if I’ll return…if it’s a trip I’d like to take again. I only have to pause for a second to say I certainly hope to. But next time, I want my whole family to come along. This is the kind of place I believe they’d enjoy, too.
What to know if you go:
- All rooms are not the same. If a balcony view of the water is what matters most to you, make that clear in your reservation.
- Book your excursions early. The snorkel trips fill up fast and you want to go on the first day or two there. That way, if yours is cancelled, you’ll have time to try again.
- Not all the restaurants are open at all hours. Many won’t serve lunch until 12:30. Keep that in mind when planning your schedules.
- There are 19 restaurants. Some are great for breakfast, but not as good at dinner. Others offer delicious dinner options, but not as good at lunch. And some are musts for dessert.
- This resort is not ‘cheap’. You will pay a good bit for what you get, but once you are here, there’s very little need for money. Even tips are included. Keep that in mind when you look at the price. Even the shuttle rides from the airport and back are included.
(Note to readers: As mentioned above, I was a guest of the Beaches Resort as part of this conference. Our fees for attending were deeply discounted. As always, my opinions remain my own.)