Turks and Caicos has been the go to destination for the rich, famous and want to be famous for many years. Until recently, mainstream tourism was lacking due to scarcity of direct flights and competitively priced hotels. Good news for traveling families, this string of white sand islands surrounded by stunningly turquoise waters is easy to get to, and more importantly, affordable.
On our recent family vacation we stayed as guests of two different properties and spent one day at Beaches.
Our first trip to Turks and Caicos was sans kids (isn’t that the best kind of vacation?). We stayed at The Somerset, which is described by Frommer’s as “reeking of old money, GOBS of old money”. You don’t have to guess that the trip was heaven.
We decided to return with all four children in tow. I had serious doubts that our second Turks and Caicos get away could come even close to matching the first. As I often say “family travel is no vacation”. The trip had it’s ups and downs, there were no naps (for me) but it’s the vacation my children are still talking about. And when my son needed to send his Flat Stanley on a trip, he sent it to the management at The Somerset. Even Flat Stanley knows how to travel in style.
Like most properties on the island, The Somerset is all personally owned condominiums, a portion of them are rented to guests. This means each unit is individually decorated, thanks to someone else’s old money, you can feel like you not only have your own island get away, but it’s ridiculously nice. Our 3 bedroom waterfront unit may have been the swankiest place I’ve ever stayed, anywhere, anytime.
To whomever owns these condos and is actually comfortable letting my rugrats sit on your gorgeous furniture in their wet swimsuits and sandy feet, thank you. The only downside to staying in a place so glam is there tends to be a lot of “don’t sit there, throw that pillow, swing from that curtain” yelling. To me, it’s worth it. I love the luxury (surprised?), for some, it may be too much to worry about other people’s silk linens on your beach vacation.
While many guests might enjoy The Somerset for the tranquil setting, the infinity pool or the world class dining; my children beg to go back because the staff can catch lizards on pieces of palm frond which then become “lizard leashes”. They must have given them a dozen “lizard pets” to play with, which, much to their loud dismay, could not be brought home with us.
My son entertained himself for hours with “Captain Lizard”, seen here making his maiden voyage. The kids never did master the skill of “lizard catching” but they spent many delicious hours “lizard hunting” while I sipped cocktails by the pool.
The beauty of The Somerset is that it’s like going to Grandma’s (if Grandma is loaded). When my son asked what a coconut tastes like, they cut 4 down and set the kids up with fresh coconuts to drink (they were all surprised to find out it was water inside, not milk). We had several offers for babysitting and they actually thought my kid’s wild antics were adorable, who doesn’t love a staff like that?
A little known secret about Beaches is that you don’t have to stay there to enjoy the pools, free food and alcohol for the day. We were hosted there as press, however you can go to their website and buy day passes, they aren’t cheap, but I’d rather spend the money to give the kids their one day fix than stay there.
Some people love the big all-inclusive hotels, I’m not one of those people. I had only been on property for two hours when I began looking for alcohol, it wasn’t even noon yet. Since my children had never been to an all-inclusive they were stunned to realize they could order ANYTHING and it was all FREE.
Beaches boasts several large pools, all heated to bath water temperatures and sporting swim up bars. It would seem a parent’s dream come true, until you try to keep an eye on all four of your children in this crazy aqua paradise. The kids’ camps are free, but my children refused to go and I didn’t blame them. Thankfully the management gave me a Sesame Street wagon so I was able to contain a small part of the chaos.
By the end of the day, I wasn’t the only one crying. My four year old was begging to go back to his “small pool” at The Somerset. I can’t imagine any circumstance, even free rooms, that would entice me to stay at Beaches, but I’m glad we spent the day there so I can check it off the “good mommy” list. And I can vouch for the fact that the pool bars pour top shelf vodka.
The second property we stayed at was The Seven Stars, a relatively new luxury property. The Seven Stars is also all individually owned condominiums, however each unit has been furnished uniformly and with brilliantly waterproof fabrics in the living room. We stayed in a 3 bedroom unit with a sweeping water view and all brand new amenities.
While it lacked the old money glamour of The Somerset, it made up for it with ease and convenience. I was sent a grocery list prior to my stay and upon arrival our gourmet kitchen was stocked with kid necessities; peanut butter, jelly and cheerios. The Seven Stars is a fabulous set up for families. They have a kids’ camp complete with Wii (hello), their own playground on property and they are steps away from the best supermarket on the island.
The Seven Stars has a dedicated activities director who’s job it is to make your stay fun. They will arrange anything from an afternoon trip to a grand excursion for you. I had always want to learn to dive and since Turks and Caicos is home to the world’s third largest coral reef system I decided to face my fear of death by shark and give it a go.
When I learned that children 10 years old and up can participate in the “Try Dive” program, I was sold. An instructor from Dive Provo came to the pool at our hotel and gave me and my two oldest children our initial class. We learned all of the saf
ety information and practiced tank breathing in the pool. The next day we went out for our open water dive.
Sadly, all of my underwater references relate to “Finding Nemo” and my little ones were most impressed that I saw a “300 year old sea turtle”, I fabricated the age, but I really did see a turtle! The hotel staff and the instructors at Dive Provo made learning to dive easy and fun. Best news of all, no sharks.
Since the little kids couldn’t go out on the dive excursion we decided to charter a private boat for our last day on the island. It may have been an extravagance, but it was worth it to spend our last day in paradise just as a family.
The captain took us to some beautiful uninhabited islands. One, Iguana Island, is a national park, they charge a token fee to be completely creeped out by an island full of reptiles. Needless to say, my boys were in heaven. Our next stop was the most pristine beach island in the middle of nowhere, it may be the most peaceful place I’ve ever been in my life
We spent the morning island hopping on our private charter, had lunch by the pool and then tucked our children in to their own beds that very night. The real beauty of Turks and Caicos for traveling families is the proximity to the US.
All of the properties we stayed at were luxury, however there are many more affordable options available. For another look at Turks and Caicos from a Traveling Mom perspective, check out the article by fellow blogger Theresa Medoff.