Island Spa Escape

Perhaps it's the 230 miles of pristine white, sandy beaches. Or maybe it's the clean, fresh island air and sun that rarely wavers that make the Turks and Caicos Islands so appealing. Whatever it may be, one thing is certain: This British dependency made up of 40 islands—eight major ones and numerous uninhabited Cays—is a destination that’s growing in popularity, people and resort spas. In less than five years, the population of the Turks and Caicos Islands has nearly doubled, according to the Islands’ Department of Economic Planning and Statistics. In 2006, the estimated population is 33,202, compared with only 19,886 inhabitants in 2001. Tourism numbers also reflect the rise, with 171,456 tourists vacationing on the islands in 2004 compared with the 71,655 who visited in 1994.

“I came to the island 21 years ago to work for a development company,” says Valerie Hudson, managing director of Point Grace Resort, a luxury boutique resort on Providenciales that is home to the tiny, yet charming Thalasso Spa. “At the time, there were 1,200 residents—1,000 local people and 200 expatriates.” During this period, explains Hudson, the islands were experiencing a miniboom. “Club Med was just completed. Its deal with the government was for the latter to upgrade the airport and surface the road from the airport to Club Med. There were four small hotels. Our development company attracted a number of overseas investors. The recent boom—which is more of an explosion—started about five years ago,” she says.

The level of recent development is very high-end, attracting a certain set of travelers who are knowledgeable about spas. “The additional rooms also have greatly improved incoming flights, which is a huge bonus to us,” continues Hudson. “We find that our guests want a direct flight and that this is an important element in their decision-making process when choosing a destination.”

Despite all of this growth, the islands still have a sleepy, untouched feel to them. The slogan “Beautiful by Nature” defines the location. “Turks and Caicos is such a wonderful spa destination due to the island being free from pollution, guaranteeing a true breath of fresh air as the client enjoys a morning stroll or jog along the beach,” says Karen Felimond, spa development manager of Temple Spa. “The people of the island have a warm and sincere nature, making travelers feel welcome. Of course, the climate, which is particularly desirable for 85% of the year, ensures our daily dose of vitamin D—not to mention uplifts the spirits and just simply makes us feel good.” Following is a look at three very different resort spa properties.

The Thalasso Spa at Point Grace Resort

This award-winning suite luxury boutique resort opened in March 2000 and added a small spa two years later. The Thalasso Spa features exclusively Thalgo products, and has two beachfront cabins where guests experience treatments and relax in whitewashed rooms with ocean views and gentle sea breezes. The spa team includes two therapists and a spa coordinator. Although the property has the space, there currently are no plans to expand the facilities. “Its size lends to the intimacy, which our clients seek,” says Hudson.

Although the spa doesn’t feature any Caribbean-inspired treatments, it sets itself apart from other facilities on the island by offering a sense of place, situated right on the beach. “We have a unique location on Grace Bay Beach, so our spa takes full advantage of that to allow clients to bask in the natural beauty of the island while enjoying their treatments,” explains Hudson. “There is no doubt when you are in the spa that you are in a fabulous Caribbean location.”

One of the most popular treatments is the Micronized Marine Algae Wrap (60 minutes, $85). This past February, the resort introduced spa cuisine, enabling guests to choose from among dishes such as the Healthy Skin Salad ($19)—a grilled pineapple and cucumber salad topped with lobster, green onion, basil and mint, and drizzled with sweet chili lime dressing.

The Spa at The Palms

A member of The Leading Hotels of the World—a hospitality organization representing more than 420 of the world’s hotels, resorts and spas, The Palms opened for business with a 25,000-square-foot spa in February 2005, but it recently underwent a concept change this past February. The brains behind the project included managing director Darren Law and Karen Felimond, spa development manager of Temple Spa, a consulting firm based in the United Kingdom.

The new concept, called the Spa Guest Journey, focuses on integrating the spa more closely with the guest experience. “Today’s travelers have to contend with more hassle than their predecessors,” says Law. “We help them unwind the instant that they arrive at the airport. The Palms has introduced a series of services to aid guests in taking time out for themselves at every possible juncture.”

From receiving chilled aromatic towels at the airport and a product—described as a dry shower in a bottle—called Arrival on Ice that has been chilled on crushed ice, guests experience spa-inspired services throughout their stay. Upon departure, tissues infused with Breath of Life that help to clear the sinuses are handed out to each guest. Guest rooms also feature spa touches, such as the housekeeping staff spritzing Quietude Aromatic Treatment Spray.

A new range of spa-inspired food is offered with a twist. The Power Breakfast menu is for those seeking energy, and includes a bowl of yogurt with oatmeal and fresh fruit, as well as green tea. In addition, guests receive a Power Breakfast face pack that contains the same ingredients included in the breakfast, as well as Wakeup Call spa products, all of which are delivered to the guest’s room. Another feature on the menu is a half-day treatment for $305, designed specifically for guests who are ending their vacations. In preparation for their flight home, this package—called Prepare for Take Off—offers a “ritual to soothe the sinuses,” including a hydrating facial and a relaxing massage.

The spa is nicely designed and is definitely an important and major component to the property. There are six single-treatment suites, two couples suites, a wet room with a Vichy shower, a hydrotherapy room, six white-tented cabanas, and a Pilates and yoga studio and fitness center. The most popular spa treatment is the new Matins Fully Restored (60 minutes, $135 or 90 minutes, $185), an energizing massage that concludes with a Wakeup Call face mask and scalp massage.

“The Spa at The Palms sets itself apart from others on the island for many reasons—the first being the square footage and architecture that have been devoted to the spa,” says Felimond. “We see the spa as one of our prime hotel facilities and not just an add-on service. We are very particular in choosing our therapists who are of the highest caliber, ensuring the most effective treatments and client satisfaction.” The facility employs 30 professionals, including a spa director and an assistant manager, a retail manager and a retail coordinator, five front-desk staff, 13 therapists and a team of spa attendants. “We have many spa expansion plans on the horizon,” she adds. “We are on a journey of development, listening to our clients and accommodating their needs in every way we can.”

Como Shambhala at Parrot Cay

Overlooking the ocean and located among lush vegetation, Parrot Cay is an exclusive private island resort that is a favorite among celebrities, including actors Bruce Willis, Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, as well as fashion designer Donna Karan. The resort opened in 1998, followed by the spa in 2000. This is one of seven Como Shambhala Spas worldwide, with sister properties in Bali, the Maldives and Bhutan, as well as in the cities of Bangkok, Thailand, and London. Como Shambhala bills itself as a holistic retreat and focuses on well-being through ayurvedic and alternative treatments, nutrition and yoga. Shambhala is a Sanskrit word meaning “center of peace and harmony.” The property is renowned for its weeklong yoga retreats that draw top talent, such as yoga instructors Rodney Yee and Baron Baptiste.

The 6,600-square-foot spa overlooks the tranquil protected wetlands. In 2004, it underwent a major expansion, adding a second yoga studio, a Pilates studio, four new massage rooms and two couples rooms with Japanese baths. There also are two secluded pavilions that may be rented for a half-day or full day.

For body treatments, Como Shambhala uses its own line of imported oils, herbs, spices and flowers, as well as Dr. Hauschka and Sundãri products. Recently, the spa introduced a new Sundãri Facial (75 minutes, $200), specially designed by the product line for the facility. This ayurvedic-inspired facial uses neem and omega-3s for their anti-aging properties. The treatment includes a stress-relieving scalp, hand and foot massage, as well as a complimentary product.

Other popular treatments include the Indian Head Massage (60 minutes, $120), a favorite for clients seeking to alleviate head, neck and shoulder tension. This massage also consists of a gentle facial massage. The most popular service on the menu is the Shambhala Massage (75 minutes, $150), which is a relaxing massage that uses the spa’s signature oils to calm the mind and soothe the body.

The facility employs 27 team members, 13 of whom are massage therapists. Also available is organic cuisine featuring Raw Soup of the Day with Flaxseed Crackers ($16), as well as Young Coconut Noodle, Almond and Chili “Pad Thai” Salad ($18).

A bright future

It is clear that a destination has arrived when Amanresorts breaks ground to build. Amanyara—a word that translates to “peaceful place”—is the name of a stunning new oceanfront resort situated beside one of the islands’ most famed national parks. It opened this past March and is the company’s first foray into the Caribbean. Plans are in the works to complete a state-of-the-art spa within the next two years. Currently, there are four therapists on hand, and guests can select in-room treatments from a simple, yet concise menu that offers six different massages, a facial, and a manicure and pedicure. The spa has its own line of products, called Aman.

There also are many new properties in the works. Mandalay Hotel Residences, the Watermark and Waters Edge are scheduled to open for business by 2008. Grace Bay Club, an upscale boutique hotel that opened in 2001, added The Villas at Grace Bay Club in November 2005 and opened the 4,500-square-foot Anani Spa, which features Elemis products, this past April.

“I believe that Turks and Caicos will grow as a spa destination,” affirms Hudson, who is confident that the islands have the opportunity to become a real wellness center. “Our target clientele is coming here for relaxation and nature-inspired activities. Spa treatments are part of these activities. Most resort guests tend to use the spa on the property, so more spa resorts should not hinder our facility. More resorts engender more general development.”

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