Think the Caribbean islands and images of lush greenness, blue seas and fruity drinks with umbrellas come to mind, but look a little deeper and you’ll find lands of distinctly different vibes, landscapes, weather and attractions.
In this head-to-head, we compare the two islands having a moment right now: The Turks and Caicos and St. Barth’s, and by the time we’re done, we are sure you’ll understand why.
The Turks and Caicos Islands
Come here for: Seclusion and tranquility
Why you’ll love it
- It’s the last outpost of the Caribbean not yet infected by tourism
- The sea is the bluest you’ll ever see
- There is a sense of peace and calm here that’s soul-soothing
- The pared-back island living might not be to your taste if you’re into glitz and glamour
- There is little to do besides R&R
More about the destination
Once the obscure lair of pirates, the Turks and Caicos islands, hiding southeast of the Bahamas, elude the radar of most travelers and therein lies their biggest appeal. They are places to go for discreet hideaways, and their beaches with talcum-powder-like sand are arguably some of the most beautiful of the planet.
It’s the kind of place you could run along the beach for miles on end and not see anyone or anything but wildlife and island greenness. But that’s not to say that you’ll run out of things to do. Yes, we would gladly lie on the beach all day, from sunrise to sunset, if we could, but if you need the adrenaline rush here and there, there’s windsurfing, tennis, walking around the island to discover its jungle-wrapped ruins and diving that’s truly out of this world. But in the evening, we recommend dropping every else and watching the stars come out. Every one of them blazes out so brightly across the sky, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen.
Bed down at: The COMO Parrot Cay
We are not saying the COMO Parrot Cay is paradise, but it’s pretty close. Set amid lush gardens and designed with beachfront villas done in a colonial-style, this private island resort just gets what you want from a holiday in the Caribbean.
The rooms have tile floors, magnificently comfortable four-poster beds and verandahs that open Parrot Cay’s ridiculously spoiling beach, but the absolute highlight of the hotel has got to be the Como Shambhala spa, with its encyclopaedic array of treatments. Our advice? Try the COMO Shambhala Bath. It will leave your skin the softest it’s ever been…
Pick it for: A tropical paradise with serious St.-Tropez vibes
Why you’ll love it
- Its unique brand of laid-back luxury breeds instant converts
- The flight to the island is an experience in its own right
- The cushy accommodations are straight out of the pages of a design magazine
- There are no direct flights to St. Barth’s
- It’s a playground for celebrities, models and socialites, so if you want a place to not be seen, this isn’t it
More about the destination
The plane ride to St. Barth’s from Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico or the nearby St. Martin can feel like a near-death experience, but once you land on this craggy-but-lush island, you’re in a paradise of white sand, turquoise water and beachfront restaurants and hotels that look straight out of the pages of an interior design magazine.
But what really hooks travelers about St. Barth’s is the diversity of its beaches. There are 16 of them in total, and each has a personality of its own. At Saline Beach you’ll find topless women frolicking in the translucent azure waters. In the northwestern part of the island, you’ll find Colombier, an isolated haven accessible only by boat or a rugged 30-minute hike. For something with an uber-chic vibe, Saint-Jean with hot spots like Eden Rock and Nikki Beach provide ample space for people-watching.
In more ways than one, this overseas collectivity of France mirrors the chic and sophistication of St.-Tropez, and it’s, by far, the most elegant and exclusive of the Caribbean islands.
Bed down at: The Hotel Manapany
This recently renovated hotel with all of its 43 rooms facing the ocean is the most eco-savvy on the island but you’ll never know it. The luxury touches are on point, from the breezy, white-washed rooms hidden like garden dens amid tumbles of greenery to the sky-reflecting oval pool, but the beach towels are made from bamboo fibers, solar panels provide much of the hotel’s power and no chemicals, petrol cars included, pass its gates.
The restaurants also pack flavours of the island in their menu, with ingredients sourced from the vegetable garden and orchard, or reeled in by the island’s fishing boats.This is the Caribbean with a recalibrated sense of direction.