Stepping foot off the plane, we’re instantly hit by that intense but inviting Caribbean heat. What better antidote to busy lives than a spell in the West Indies? I couldn’t think of a better way to press pause on a hectic schedule than with a timeout on the island of Turks and Caicos, especially as I'd never been to this part of the world before. Bags rounded up, and a great start gets better — waiting for us in arrivals is our friendly Amanyara driver. "Welcome to paradise," he says, smiling.
Soon we’re ensconced in his Land Rover with ice-cold face towels, chilled bottles of water, and a music menu at our fingertips. Bob Marley selected — of course — and we’re heading to the luxury beach resort. Next in our fantasy-island welcome chain is a lovely lady who eases us into holiday mode with a quick tour of this five-star hotel. I’m soon feeling right at home — perhaps thanks to the revelation that the bar opens at 6 a.m. and doesn’t shut until the last person leaves. This is my kind of place.
Comfort is something Amanresorts does very well, and here at its only Caribbean outpost in a sprawling nature reserve, the hotel continues the tradition with aplomb. Like all Aman properties, the hotel — from its sleepy poolside salas to the recessed dining area on each pavilion’s private terrace — is architecturally inspired by the East. Hidden away in tropical gardens, the bedrooms are not only beautiful but they boast huge beds and old-fashioned bathtubs.
It’s pretty hard to imagine a hideaway one-upping our suite — especially when we discover that a quick swivel to our right has us stepping out onto that private swathe of beach. It may only be a small cove but it’s all we need to soak up those rays and swim in that crystal-clear sea in private. Set beside a vast sweep of untouched beach on the northern promontory of Providenciales, this stylish stay may only be 25 minutes from the airport, but truly feels as though we’ve stepped into another, incorruptibly tranquil, world. No surprise then that its name is the Sanskrit word for "peaceful place."
"Is there such a thing as too comfortable?" asks Mrs Smith, inspired by Amanyara’s enormous daybeds, which sprawl beneath the Thai-style cabanas alongside the 164-foot jet-black infinity pool. She has a point. There’s a very real danger that, once reclined, we’ll not be able to get up again for days. But with the sunlight beginning to retreat, we continue our pursuit for perfection with a stroll to find the ultimate beach. We find sand so soft and white, flanked by water so warm, we can see ourselves swimming well into the night.
While the look and feel of Amanyara may take breath away at every turn, it’s not making any dents on my appetite. Having been unsure what the Caribbean would have in store for us food-wise, as a chef, you’ll forgive me for hoping the meals on this isle don’t disappoint. By morning I’m ready for test number one: breakfast. Corn fritters, bacon, and relish with the sweetest pineapple in the world served overlooking the beach — delicious. The tastiest part? Enjoying it all from our own private terrace.
Next up for these sybarites is the spa. Not only a trot from our pavilion, but thanks to a massage from a super polite, highly skilled therapist it’s like being transported to Bali. Fast-forward to the afternoon, and the sun is softening so we pad down to the beach for a snorkel. One of the resort’s friendly staff soon has us hooked up with all the gear, armed with advice on where to get the best underwater eyeful.
Millions of anchovies lead us to brightly colored exotic fish, spectacular coral, and even a mighty barracuda. By now most people might be musing "Wow! What a sight!" But this is me — I’m thinking "Hey! How tasty!" Instead, we make do with simple grilled seafood with lemon and parsley back in the restaurant, washed down with a crisp New Zealand sauvignon blanc.
By morning, breakfast beckons from a new rendezvous — set meters from the beautiful beach with its white sand and bright blue water. Scrambled eggs later, and it’s too hot to roast in those rays, so instead we snorkel back to our room. Relaxed as much as a pair could be from a day spent dipping in and out of the shade on our sandy cove, we decide to venture out of the hotel for the first time. (As it’s a 20-minute car ride to anywhere over bumpy terrain, it’s tempting to stay put.)
Our first stop is a Jamaican restaurant named, aptly, Hole in the Wall. Flavorsome goat curry, jerk chicken, oxtail, and rum punch is enjoyed along with lots of laughs with some of the local characters. Our driver Reynolds promises the full dose of the real Caribbean and takes us on a tour of the local nightlife. Visits to the Conch Shack rum bar and Horse-Eye Jack’s have us sipping more cocktails overlooking the sea.
By now, dear reader, you’re probably familiar with the drill: We eat something delicious in a paradise-like setting, sunbathe or snorkel, then plot up for supper. So today we’ll try mixing it up. Well, a tiny bit. A poolside platter of fresh tropical fruit in our own giant cabana is followed by scuba diving. The first fish we see? Nurse sharks and Moray eels! Then reef sharks. All very exciting, although if truthful, this surfer would rather not know all that lies beneath…
So, back to shore, and over to the beach club for its once-a-week dinner under the stars. Mouthwatering steak slathered in sea urchin butter seems a fitting culinary finale for our Amanyara experience. If the way to our hearts is through our stomachs, consider it fast-tracked there by the soul-stirring sea views. For dessert we choose the zingy Key lime pie, which our waiter invites us to enjoy back to our room. If this is how being too comfortable tastes, we like it.
Curtis Stone, Master chef
Australian-born Curtis got his big break by storming Marco Pierre White’s kitchen and offering to work for free. His offer was taken up and, after rising through the Michelin-starred ranks, he made the move to television, ending up at NBC on programs such as The Biggest Loser and the upcoming America’s Next Great Restaurant. He now works on his cookery books from his sunny LA base.