I grew up accustomed to the “do-nothing” vacation. Family trips were taken to commercialized Caribbean destinations where the extent of our days amounted to eating, swimming, more eating and sleeping in. Now that I’m older, my wanderlust has continued but I choose to immerse myself in getaways that involve a bit more adventure and oftentimes result in me returning home more tired than when I left. So during a recent trip to Turks and Caicos, I wondered how I’d fare on an island that’s synonymous with relaxation—a culmination of bright sunshine, white sand, striking turquoise waters, luxury hotels and not a whole lot of action.
As if you needed an excuse to visit the home of the world’s best beaches, Turks and Caicos is an easy escape for more reasons than one. For starters, it’s only a three and a half hour flight (non-stop) from the New York/New Jersey area and less than 90 minutes if you happened to have already touched down in Miami. Their currency is the US dollar, they abide by Eastern Standard Time and although cars drive on the left, the steering wheel remains on the right. See? Easy.
I arrived at Wymara Resort & Villas with my Calpak carry-on in hand, filled with swimsuits, sunscreen, cocktail dresses and little else. I was greeted with a tropical-tasting cocktail that came with a floater of local Bambarra rum. While I waited for my room to be prepared I made my way to Zest for lunch, the hotel’s beachside restaurant. Here, I exerted the most brain power of the day when the waitress asked me what I wanted to order. I say that half jokingly, as I found it surprisingly difficult to focus on the menu when the clouds began to disperse revealing a radiant blue horizon shimmering under the mid-afternoon sun. I somehow managed to tear my eyes away and string together the words “jerk chicken tacos” before reverting my gaze back to the water.
I won’t waste time painting a picture of Grace Bay Beach, partly because it’s so easy to imagine—a vision you surely have tucked away in your head of uninhabited, white sand shores with sorbet sunsets at dusk. It was a place I had always wanted to visit and yet seemed outside the realm of possibility because of a notion that I didn’t belong. I wasn’t here on my honeymoon, I didn’t work in finance (as many of the hotel’s guests shared with me) and I certainly wasn’t Drew Barrymore, who recently stayed at Wymara Villas during a girls-only getaway.
Aside from being the poster child for paradise, Turks and Caicos is also the epitome of luxury. Wymara offers guests and A-listers alike the ability to vacation lavishly, while also in total obscurity if they so desire. Wymara’s boutique accommodations are broken up between its 91-room resort and a separate stretch of villas, which are only a 10-minute drive from the main hotel. The aesthetic captures the island’s laid-back Caribbean vibe while simultaneously melding global influences including whitewashed walls similar to those in Santorini and overwater swim platforms as if you’re in the Maldives. But more on that later.
In order to enjoy my time as an outsider, I knew I had to surrender to the awkwardness of it all. So after lunch I headed up to my now-ready room, a 1,106-square-foot oceanfront suite bigger than my Jersey City apartment. With every intention of changing into my swimsuit and making my way to the beach, I instead found myself lounging on top of the daybed on my private balcony with a chilled glass of rosé. It seemed almost perfect timing as I watched storm clouds roll in overhead and a soaking rain shower soon followed, clearing up almost completely a few minutes later.
With absolutely zero pressure to do anything—dinner wasn’t until 7pm—I couldn’t help but think of all the things I could be doing instead. Should I check out the pool? Plop under an umbrella at Grace Bay? Find out what the Pink Bar was? (Spoiler alert: it serves all things pink. Think rosé wines, champagnes and coordinating cocktails that use strawberries, watermelon, cranberry juice, etc.) The FOMO forced me to get up, change and head back downstairs. Framing Wymara’s open-air walkways were trellises covered with fuschia-colored bougainvillea flowers, a bright pop when compared to the resort’s outdoor wooden furnishings that reference the island’s powdery sands. I grabbed a chair by the infinity-edge pool and became acutely aware of the hot sun beating down on my skin, the slight island-y tunes being played in the background and a feeling of tiredness I hadn’t noticed earlier. I made it through barely half of Lena Dunham’s “Armchair Expert” podcast episode before calling it a day.
Breakfast picked up at Stelle where I had dinner the night before. In the morning, Wymara guests are welcomed to a breakfast buffet and by night, the indoor-outdoor restaurant features an à la carte menu with a Southeast Asian flare. I decided to keep it light as I had an alfresco yoga session in store for me at the villas. General Manager Rolf Lippuner, formerly with Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, wished us off and sent his apologies for the villa’s absence of a beach. What I wanted to say was that if it’s good enough for Drew, it’s good enough for me.
Overlooking Turtle Tail Bay, Wymara Villas currently has seven up-and-running hillside estates ranging from four and five-bedroom options that span 7,900 square feet up to 8,800. Going into 2020, Wymara aims to add five additional villas, a fitness center, game room, lap pool, along with tennis and basketball courts.
As they currently stand, the villas are jaw-droppingly chic and highly Instagrammable. I can’t tell you the number of DMs I got while fervently posting every square inch to my stories. Starting at $5,500 per night, each villa comes with its own courtyard plunge pool, firepit, seaside deck, swim platform, infinity pool—and that’s just on the outside. The interiors are spacious, decorated in a soft color palette and feature designer furniture, lofty ceilings, retractable TVs, Sonos sound system and kitchens with top-of-the-line appliances. Before arrival, guests can provide Wymara with a preference sheet and they’ll have the fridge stocked and ready. Similar to my experience, by request you can arrange for a private yoga lesson or to have a chef-prepared meal. The day wrapped up with a candle-lit dinner on the beach back at the resort. Zest’s nighttime offerings include proteins prepared robata-style—a Japenese grilling technique meaning “fireside cooking.”
I awoke the next morning feeling the aftermath of one too many chaturangas, which sounds more like a Mexican street food snack than it does a yoga pose. On the day’s itinerary was a four-hour snorkeling excursion. In some ways, a trip to the Caribbean feels incomplete without any type of water activity and for many, snorkeling is the easiest to partake in.
Out on the water, fellow snorkelers shouted out species left and right that they identified. In that moment, I had wished I’d known more about fish, or at least which ones to stay away from. A large barracuda, someone noted, made itself comfortable under our boat, which simultaneously made me as an onlooker very uncomfortable. We then set out for Little Water Cay, stopping at points to catch conch that our boat captains would later prepare as a ceviche-style salad. In more shallow waters, we spotted a sea turtle, lobster and stingrays. After arriving at the island, nicknamed “Iguana Island” for reasons I hope are obvious, I got to explore the nature reserve on foot. Following a sandy, limestone path and lush vegetation led me to an unforeseen opening that literally took my breath away. Beneath a bright blue sky was crystal-clear water and a pristine stretch of uncharted beach that seemed to have come out of nowhere. I was glad I had made the trek, which cost me more than a few mosquito bites. A part of me wanted to whip out my phone and take pictures but at the same time, I also wanted to just stand there soak it in. Ultimately, I made a beeline for the ocean because it was too hot not to.
Should you choose to stay within the confines of Wymara, however, there is plenty to do on-site including kayaking, paddle boarding and sailing on a Hobie Cat. If water sports aren’t your thing, the spa is definitely worth a visit to unwind. You’ll find typical offerings expected at a luxury hotel including an array of facials, massages and body treatments with options for couples, too.
Post-snorkeling, I couldn’t wait for my 60-minute massage. I felt my grip loosen (literally) and much to my surprise, my body didn’t fight back in the way it normally does when I tell it to slow down. I had no urge to get up and see what else was going on, nor did I have the mental capacity to think beyond the present. I had set my intention earlier during yoga to live in the moment and at that specific point in time, laying seemingly lifeless on a massage table in Turks and Caicos, I finally felt relaxed.