With breezes that are reliably balmy, water temperatures warmer than a bathtub and the sea and sky painted in spectacular shades of blue, the forty islands and cays in the Turks & Caicos are the perennial favorite of couples year round. Cycling is the transportation of choice, English the language of choice and the US dollar the currency of choice and with a gentle British vibe and welcoming locals or Belongers, the island chain is rolling out the red carpet to couples saying I Do’ on the beach.
From the main tourist centre of Providenciales or Provo and the serene islands of North and Middle Caicos to the historic capital of Grand Turk and tiny Salt Cay with just two quaint hotels, TCI is a multicultural treasure chest of natural beauty, swanky resorts, gourmet eateries, electric-blue water and secluded strands of silky sand. “The TCI star continues to shine in the region,” said Ralph Higgs, director of tourism, “we are excited about the 2012 season and we urge residents and locals businesses to embrace all the opportunities associated with the tourism industry.”
Brand new and very funky, Island Rhythms Tours are a must-do aboard a bright green flatbed truck. With guides that are called “Ambassadors”, tours make stops at Lake Victoria to see the salt pond, Cheshire Hall where the two-hundred year old tradition of growing cotton is celebrated and Sapodilla Hill revered for the historic inscriptions that date back to the 18th century. Delighted to host weddings, couples are invited to book an entire tour for their wedding party. “We love romance and will organize a wedding from top to bottom,” smiles O’Brien Forbes, manager, “couples find it so much fun to marry on a moving truck as it winds its way around the island.” Souvenir photos and DVD’s are offered are reasonable costs. http://islandrhythmstours.com/
Savour the Spread
With a staff so friendly you’d swear you’d met them before, Pelican Bay, under the watchful eye of Master Chef Peter Redstone excels with mains like a succulent lobster so fresh it’s still angry. Ask for the house pepper sauce and then suggest they bottle it as a souvenir more memorable than a fridge magnet or a t-shirt. A favorite of couples who covet a night alone under the stars, the gourmet eatery encourages lingering over a cocktail or a cappuccino. www.pelicanbaytci.com
South Beach meets the tropics at Vino Tiempo, a hip and happening wine bar in the swank Regent Village. Owned by wine connoisseurs Tony Garland and Murad Mohamad, the bar tempts with fine wines, minty mojitos and potent cocktails, shaken or stirred, with local Bambarra rum. “We are the island favorite for bachelor and bachelorette parties,” smiles Tony Garland, “we also are tops for rehearsal dinners, wedding parties and any kind of soiree that spells romance.” www.vinotiempowinebar.com
Crazy for Conch
With the only conch farm in the world, it’s no wonder TCI also hosts an annual Conch Festival that salutes conch from fritters and ceviche to crepes chockablock with the seafood delicacy. Conch-philes arrive early to sample a variety of dishes while esteemed judges’ award top honors. A day –long affair, the festival is tres fun with live bands, conch blowing and conch knocking competitions. “Every year the Festival gets bigger and better,” says Dick Bain, president, Blue Hills Conch Festival Association, “it’s an ideal way for visitors to get a sense of our history, culture and diverse tourism offerings.” www.conchfestival.com
Hand-picked by Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner for their 2005 wedding, Parrot Cay is magnificently surrounded by cobalt water and cooled by refreshing trade winds. Renowned for the opulent holistic Spa with a magical medley of massages, the swank resort is also the vacation home to an A-list crowd from Bruce Willis and Donna Karan to Oprah Winfrey and a few other You Know Their Names. Yoga on the beach, catamaran cruises and pampering par excellence, the island retreat is revered for its no-paparazzi rule affording couple’s unbridled privacy as soon as they check-in. “Parrot Cay is where you forget the world you’ve left behind,” says Grant Noble, general manager. www.parrotcay.como.bz/
On one of the ten sweetest beaches in the world, The Somerset on Grace Bay is sophisticated charm with villa suites that linger at the edge of the turquoise sea framed by endless stretches of sugary sand. For up to a dozen guests, the “Intimate Vows” package includes all the paperwork including the marriage license delivered via FedEx, bouquets, boutonnieres and bubbly and a keepsake flower-filled conch shell. www.thesomerset.com.
It’s a beach bonanza at the Seven Stars Resort with bonfire parties and complimentary sunglasses cleaning. www.sevenstarsgracebay.com. At Villa Del Mar, the penthouse suite is deliciously spacious and a favourite for newlyweds. A short stroll from Grace Bay, the modern hotel is elegant without pretention and luxurious without the price tag. www.yourvilladelmar.com
Tying the Knot in Turks & Caicos
Documents needed for a legal marriage include passport, birth certificate and divorce decree (if applicable). Couples must be in the Turks and Caicos forty-eight hours before submitting an application and couples under 21 years old must have parental consent.
Check with your travel agent for more details or ask at the resort as many will organize the legalities either before arrival or upon check-in. www.turksandcaicostourism.com