Best things to see and do in Turks & Caicos for a Caribbean holiday of dreams

As I broke through the surface of the crystal-clear waters, holding a pink conch shell aloft, in my mind I hoped I looked like James Bond.

Instagram evidence subsequently proved that I was more like Mr Bean trying to juggle jelly.

But at least I had caught lunch for my friends on the boat, who were enthusiastically snapping away on their smartphones.

We’d been diving for the molluscs all morning on a Seaside Scavenger Hunt off the coast of the Turks and Caicos islands, one of the jewels in the ­Caribbean crown.

Our captain made quick work of turning our catch, a renowned delicacy, into a salad while we dropped anchor again to go in search of sand dollars (otherworldly flat sea urchins) along white sands of one of the ­archipelago’s many uninhabited islands.

We would need the energy for snorkelling behind the barrier reef – the third largest in the world – to marvel at the rainbow parrotfish, snapper and angelfish to name but three inhabitants of its phenomenal coral world.

It would become but just one of several “once-in-a-lifetime” ­experiences we would log while staying at award-winning Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa – a luxury hotel complex on the sun-drenched shores of Grace Bay, just up the road from late pop star Prince’s second home.

Turks and Caicos doesn’t just boast some of the best beaches in the world, but THE best beach in the world – and it’s right on the resort’s doorstep.

Wander along its three-mile long pristine sand, dip your toes in its clear turquoise waters and you will soon realise why Grace Bay has been voted with this accolade for five years on TripAdvisor – and why so many lovers choose to say, “I do” here.

Beaches is the family brand of the adults-only Sandals chain – and given that British Airways flies here twice a week via Antigua in under 12 hours, it’s a journey that’s doable with children.

Many will just go for the weather, as Turks and Caicos boasts sunshine 350 days of the year – but you soon discover it’s the way Beaches does holidays that’s alluring too.

The resort is split into four villages, each having an accent on relaxation.

I stayed in a Concierge Family Suite in the monumental Italian Village, but if I returned I think I would be torn between the idyllic pastel-pink bungalows of the Caribbean Village, the peaceful classiness of the French Village or the sheer luxury of a Floridian-style villa on Key West, which celebrities favour for their privacy.

In total there are 758 rooms of 43 different categories, more than 20 places you can eat and almost as many places again you can drink in on this sprawling 75-acre estate.

Obviously that sounds big, but thanks to its clever design at no time do you feel ­overwhelmed. You can flit with ease between any of the villages via the impeccable tropical gardens (and if you’re struggling, don’t worry, they’ll ferry you around in a golf cart).

Another thing Beaches does awfully well is spoil you. Here, “Luxury Included” means just that – you get all the name brands of alcohol here, your fridge is restocked daily and if you want lobster, you get lobster.

Upgrade to the VIP option and you get luxuries such as a personal butler delivering bubbly and prawns to your poolside cabana.

At the centre of the resort is Pirate Island Waterpark, the focal point for children – although all ages are welcome to try out its tricky surf simulator, plunge down the water slides or float along the lazy river on a giant inflatable tyre (cocktails available for adults).

Away from the water, kids from little ones up are catered for at the Shadow Lounge games room, DJ Academy, teen nightclubs, Xbox Play Lounge, camps – and some of the first autism-trained nursery staff in the Caribbean are on hand.

Sesame Street characters are here – which youngster wouldn’t enjoy Big Bird or the Cookie Monster reading them a bedtime story? Indeed, this self-styled Kingdom of Fundom offers a seemingly endless combination of things to do.

My days began with a coffee at the patisserie, followed by breakfast overlooking the ocean at Neptunes seafood restaurant.

There are so many sunbathing options you don’t need to race down at dawn to bag a spot with a towel.

I preferred soaking up the sun at the quieter Caribbean Village end of the beach – although many will prefer to while away their hours at one the many swim-up pool bars where I could enjoy easy access to chicken, pork and rum from The Jerk Shack for lunch.

I also enjoyed topping up the tan at the adults-only pool at Key West in the afternoons before a massage at the Red Lane Spa.

This is a great way to ramp up your relaxation levels before taking in the remarkable sunsets while enjoying a cocktail on the wooden pier or in a hammock.

Gourmet dining options range from Indian and Italian to Mediterranean and French, with everything in-between. Opulent sushi and sashimi in the serene calm of Soy was exquisite.

The more adventurous might opt for a chef’s table at Kimonos, to see if they can catch an exotic teppanyaki delight tossed from the hot plate into their mouths – an acquired skill.

Finish the evening with a beer (although the strawberry daquiris are also delish) at the Cricketer’s Pub – and then there’s Liquid Nightclub for the party crowd.

Despite Beaches’ considerable facilities – for qualified scuba divers there’s an on-site Aqua Centre with PADI certification offering two free dives a day – I’d suggest heading out to explore on trips booked through in-house Island Routes.

I’d never tried paddling before, but found it easy to pick it up through the mangroves of the Princess  Alexandra Nature Reserve on the Provo Eco Kayak Tour, spurred on by the thrill of spotting a circling lemon shark or a sea turtle.

On our last day we took another boat to explore more of the islands, the 1.5-mile limestone caves of Conch Bar National Park and dive off the reef opposite palatial homes owned by DKNY founder Donna Karan, supermodel Christie Brinkley and Hollywood’s Bruce Willis.

As we relaxed on deck, our captain sailed us past their stunning pads towards the magnificent orange sunset… one final, sumptuous slice of paradise.

Book the holiday

Stay there: Seven nights at Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa, staying in a Caribbean Honeymoon Grande Luxe King Room, costs from £2,499 per person on all-inclusive with return British Airways flights from Gatwick and transfers.

Price based on selected dates between November 3-20. Find out more at beaches.co.uk.

Tourist info: Find out more at turksandcaicostourism.com.

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