It takes a bit of effort to get there — a plane, a taxi, a boat and a golf cart, to be exact — but Parrot Cay is well worth the journey. In a day and age when it is difficult to truly get away from it all, this 1,000-acre private island resort in Turks and Caicos is a sublime respite from the stresses of daily life. With a world-renowned spa, first-class dining and villa butler service, families can feel completely pampered while experiencing the kind of deep relaxation that only comes from being on an island.
Parrot Cay, owned by COMO Hotels, is an acronym that stands for Christina and Melissa Ong, a mother-and-daughter team from HongKong who include in their portfolio 10 other properties from Bangkok to Miami Beach. The duo take great pride in their hotels and resorts and work hard to create a certain aesthetic and ambiance at each. Their healthy living philosophy, COMO Shambhala, is “inspired by mythical roots of Shambhala, which in ancient Buddhist texts denotes the sacred place of bliss.” They believe everyone can find such tranquility within themselves by exploring body, mind and spirit.
At Parrot, Cay, this COMO Shambhala philosophy is reflected in the clean, minimalistic yet comfortable decor, created to showcase the natural beauty of the resort surroundings. In addition to their healthy and locally sourced fare featured in the two restaurants, they developed their own COMO Shambhala Cuisine menu, offering a delicious selection of vegan, raw and vegetarian dishes and fresh juices prepared by a chef trained in these arts. Even at the spa, their influence is evident in the signature COMO Shambhala massage, a unique combination of deep tissue and lymphatic drainage using long, soothing strokes.
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This 5-star property works hard to welcome children by offering an incredible selection of accommodations to suit families of any size. My family should know — we tried three of them. The first was a COMO Suite, which consists of two rooms separated by doors. One has a king bed and the other is a living/dining area, with two ingenious daybeds built into the wall. Each room has its own bathroom, TV and balcony, accessed through sliding glass doors that frame the lush foliage, the red terra-cotta roofs of the property and the turquoise sea beyond. Additional daybeds on the balcony are perfectly designed for enjoying a morning cup of coffee, curling up with a good book in the afternoon or stargazing at night — this livable outdoor space is like having a third room.
The second accommodation we experienced was a one-bedroom villa. All villas are oceanfront and include beach access (about 50 feet away), a plunge pool and patio, and best of all, a butler. Our butler, Widi, was one of the kindest, most intuitive and thoughtful people I have ever met. He anticipated our every need, often knowing what we needed before we did. He chauffeured us to and from our villa in our golf cart, made our dinner reservations, readied our lounge chairs, brought us our favorite drinks, reminded the children to put on sunscreen and played Jenga with them while we enjoyed an adult dinner. It is this attention to detail, coupled with the exquisite beauty of the turquoise sea and surrounding landscape, that makes this retreat such a heavenly escape.
Villas, which have one to three bedrooms, do come at a price. If they’re not in your budget, a family of four can easily fit in one of the ocean view or garden view rooms due to the same banquette-style twin beds as in the COMO Suite. For families with older children who need more space than the banquette beds provide, adjoining rooms — a king room connected to a regular twin-bed room — are a good option.
Eight of the island’s 12 private homes are included in the rental pool and can accommodate larger groups. Bruce Willis’ and Donna Karan’s homes are available to rent for $30,000 a day, with space for up to 30 people. The least expensive rental starts at $4,000 per day. All private rentals include a butler and, upon request and for an additional fee, a private chef and nanny.
The food at Parrot Cay is unusual in its focus on health and wellness. The staff strives to use fresh, locally sourced ingredients whenever possible, and in addition to the gourmet fare, they offer options for all kinds of diets. A daily highlight is the lavish breakfast buffet that spreads from one end of the Terrace Restaurant to the other, including smoothies, fresh-pressed juice blends and Parrot Cay’s signature ginger tea, as well as made-to-order items from the breakfast menu. Enjoyed on a terra-cotta-tiled terrace, surrounded by hibiscus and overlooking the ocean, this is an unbeatable way to start the day.
Dinner is served every night except Saturdays at the Terrace Restaurant, offering Mediterranean dishes with an Italian focus. The kid-friendly library, replete with pool table, games, books, video games and a large-screen TV showing nightly movies, is easily accessible from the restaurant, so parents can enjoy a peaceful adult meal while the children eat and play with new friends. Given the privacy and intimacy at Parrot Cay, where it’s easy to become acquainted with the friendly staff and other guests, allowing our children to make their own way back to the room after we had retired each evening felt quite safe and natural.
Lunch and dinner are served daily, except Wednesday nights, at the poolside Lotus Restaurant, which offers cuisine with an Asian/Caribbean flair. Diners can enjoy their meals under a covered cabana, on the patio, poolside or oceanside. Don’t be fooled by the casual atmosphere; the food is exquisitely presented and wildly delicious. The uber-health conscious can enjoy the COMO Shambhala Cuisine menu at either restaurant at any time of day.
The poolside bar serves an array of exotic drinks as well as treats for kids. My children alternated between milk shakes and coconut water served Caribbean-style.
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One of the many charming qualities of Parrot Cay is its laid-back, relaxed environment. This is not a resort offering nonstop action where you arrive home needing a vacation from your vacation. There are plenty of activities for those looking for them, but you can also spend the day by the infinity pool or the ocean and find that deep internal unwinding that comes from just being, a rare gift these days.
The beach cabana offers an assortment of paddleboards, kayaks, Hobie-Cats, sunfish, snorkel equipment and beach toys. The calm, shallow waters and nearby mangroves filled with sea life make these activities perfect for kids. A family-friendly, staff-led activity is offered each morning or afternoon, ranging from an art project to a game of Twister or aHobie-Cat race. Play COMO, a new educational children’s activity program for ages 4 to 12, is scheduled to open sometime in 2017.
In addition to a fully equipped gym and the full-service COMO Shambhala Retreat spa, offering facials, massages and other Asian-inspired services, adults can also enjoy regular exercise and relaxation classes, including yoga, pilates, and meditation. The classes and use of the spa facilities are complimentary to all guests over the age of 16; in-room services can also be arranged.
The on-island tennis pro is available for lessons and bikes can be borrowed anytime to explore the island. A trip to the coconut plantation, where children can plant a sapling and design a sign marking their own coconut tree, is not only a boon to the environment but also a great hook to encourage families to return year after year to measure its growth.
For adventurous families willing to go a little farther afield, Big Blue Unlimited offers small-group, low-impact ecoadventure tours in and around Turks and Caicos. Their service desk in the resort lobby, coupled with their friendly and competent staff, makes organizing a day or half-day trip from Parrot Cay a breeze. Trips include kayaking, snorkeling and diving tours, as well as visits to Rock Island’s iguana preserve and day trips to Middle and North Caicos. Private boat hire is also available for fishing trips or personalized tours.
Afternoon tea, served daily in the library, provides a welcome respite from the strong Caribbean sun. Adults and children alike can be found here chatting, playing a game of pool or browsing the extensive selection of multilingual books. Despite being so close to the U.S., there were quite a few European guests during our stay, which injected a good dose of cultural enrichment as the children made new friends from abroad.
Food on the island is quite expensive, due in part to the high quality and in part to the transport expense. As there are no other restaurants or grocery stores, prepare yourself for sticker shock. Fortunately, breakfast is complimentary and there is a kids’ menu that offers child-size, less expensive options. The resort does offer an all-inclusive meal package that seems like a very sensible option.
The ferry is an hour round trip from Providenciales (a.k.a. Provo), Turks and Caicos’ main island. While guests may visit Provo during their stay, the length and cost of the trip precludes frequent trips. Those interested in Provo-based activities are better off staying in a property there. Round-trip transport from the airport to Parrot Cay costs $225. However, the chic lounge at the private Parrot Cay Estates Marina, complete with beverages and light snacks, makes the price tag somehow seem worth it.
Finally, while it’s a 5-star resort, Parrot Cay is neither glitzy nor fancy. Its decor is simple and chic, blending in with the natural surroundings as much as possible and inviting the outdoors in. The allure lies in its privacy, staggering beauty and personalized, pampering service, plus the signature COMO amenities.
Editor’s Note: Martha received a media package to review Parrot Cay for Ciao Bambino. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Martha Stockhausen.
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