PROVIDENCIALES, Turks and Caicos — Twenty years had passed since my toes had touched the powdery, talcum-soft sand on Grace Bay. Time hadn’t changed the intensity of the calm turquoise waters, sheltered by the coral reef located a half-mile offshore, but my surroundings at Ocean Club West, a 68-unit all-suite beachfront property, were decidedly different from the livelier, party atmosphere of Club Med, the all-inclusive resort where I’d stayed in the early ’90s. It’s more serene here, grown-up — ideal as either a quiet couples or family-centered retreat, and very accessible from Dallas-Fort Worth, with weekly direct flights on American Airlines.Ocean Club West and its nearly identical twin, Ocean Club, less than a mile east on Grace Bay’s much-lauded 12-mile stretch of sand, are on Providenciales, or Provo for short. While it is the most developed of the 40 islands and cays that make up the Turks and Caicos Islands, mega-resorts are nonexistent and no cruise ships visit; the only cruise port is at Grand Turk, another of the island chain’s eight inhabited islands. Ocean Club’s individually-owned condominium-style suites are housed in three-story buildings, so you can choose to have ground-floor convenience or a heightened view of the ocean, pool, or tropical gardens from your screened porch or balcony. Accommodations range from studios with kitchenettes up to spacious one-, two-, and three-bedroom suites with fully equipped kitchens. All units include a washer/dryer, so there is no need to overpack. Families traveling with children can pack lightly, too, since the resorts offer cribs, high chairs, strollers and baby monitors, if needed. If you can’t resist staying plugged in, complimentary in-room Wi-Fi is provided, or you may pick up books and board games from the lending library. Typically, guests stroll along the beach, ride bikes or take a shuttle to eat or play at both resorts. I chose Ocean Club West, which has the advantage of being closer to shops, restaurants and a well-stocked grocery, but the east location is great for golfers, because it is next to Provo Golf Club’s 18-hole tournament-level course, ranked among the Caribbean’s 10 best.It’s a perfect place to escape from technology, traffic and to-do lists — a place where I could do (almost) nothing at all. I could sip tropical drinks under a pale peach umbrella and gaze at the sea for hours. Eventually, after a few beach walks and a couple of mojitos, I was ready to trade my beach chair for a few additional stress-relieving activities that would nurture mind, body and soul. Taking on the wavesHaving a meditative experience underwater always tops my list of vacation essentials. My first ocean dives were here in Provo in 1992, so I was eager to explore the reefs with Provo Turtle Divers. After taking the plunge on two colorful dive sites near the West Caicos Bank, I was already getting my mojo back. If you’d rather snorkel on the surface, book an excursion through the resorts’ activity concierge, who can place you smack dab on top of an amazing reef.Cruises and conchsAbove water, I found sailing serenity on an afternoon sail through Sun Charters aboard the Atabeyra, a 77-foot former schooner. The cruise through the crystalline waters northeast of Provo includes sunning, snacking and snorkeling on a random reef. After stopping at Pine Cay to search for sand dollars in the shallows, we reboarded in time to witness a spectacular sunset.Another island treat is a tour of Caicos Conch Farm, the world’s first and only commercial conch farm (pronounced conk). I learned about the Queen Conch’s life cycle and viewed the various stages of growth of the marine mollusk that forms its own distinctive conical shell. Later, at Da Conch Shack and Rum Bar on Blue Hills Beach, my challenge of the day was choosing between the wild variety of ways this local delicacy is prepared, including my personal favorite: marinated conch salad. Topping it offBoth Ocean Club locations have excellent beach-side restaurants — the Seaside Cafe and the Cabana Bar and Grill. The ambiance at the more upscale Opus Wine Bar and Grill at Ocean Club is on par with the food and extensive wine list.With more than 50 restaurants clustered in the Grace Bay area, other gourmet dining experiences are within walking distance. The fresh catch from local waters ranges from snapper, tuna and grouper to mahi-mahi, wahoo, lobster and, of course, conch. Finally, a spa visit is a natural fit for this type of vacation, whether during the stay or as a perfect way to wrap it all up with a tidy bow. You can’t go wrong with a visit to the Spa Tropique — with locations at both Ocean Club resorts — to smooth any knotted muscles acquired while doing (almost) nothing on Provo. My last morning included a “Knotty but Nice” Swedish massage that left me saying “aah” all the way to the airport.
If you go …
Ocean Club Resorts, Providenciales, Turks & Caicos Islands
Reservations: 800-457-8787; www.oceanclubresorts.com
Rates discounted 25-30 percent for travel May 1-Dec. 20, based on room type and length of stay.
Units are available for purchase at Ocean Club West from $193,000-$995,000. www.oceanclubresorts.com/real-estate.
How to get there: American Airlines flies direct from DFW to Providenciales (PLS) on Saturdays year-round. Flights on other airlines require a connecting flight.