Is it possible to review a hotel you didn’t sleep in? I think so. At least, if a hotel is so good as a day guest that you know it would take an infestation of bed bugs and loud neighbors and no hot water to diminish your experience, it’s safe to give it a good review. Right?
This hotel, Aman’s Turks and Caicos resort, is one such hotel. Someone could castrate a chicken with their bare hands on my beach front suite balcony and I probably would still feel at peace. The resort instilled that sense of perfect calm. Every interaction was so carefully crafted that even a chicken castration could be part of the whole-person-wellness package (except for the chicken, of course).
We visited the resort for massages, a travel hack we often employ to visit the best resorts without paying for a room. We expected we’d arrive early to take advantage of the amenities, then stay awhile after enjoying the spa features and getting cleaned up and dressed for dinner.
Upon arrival we had to wait outside the gate while a white uniformed gatekeeper confirmed our reservation. This was a bit annoying, but it did make us pause to appreciate the exclusivity and breathe in the national beach forest surroundings – rugged low bushes, waving beach grasses, rocky outcropping, total silence, no cars or boomboxes or tchotchke sellers in earshot or – in reality – for miles. We also didn’t see any other guests coming or going during this time, which was a welcome change from the hustle and bustle of nearby resorts like the Grace Bay Club and The Yacht Club on Long Bay.
We checked in for our massages and were directed outside to relax around the black-granite-bottomed infinity pool, or the man-made mangrove-ringed stillwater cove, or to do some self-guided gentle stretching in the yoga cabana set above the cay. It wasn’t the cold plunges and sauna and steamroom playland I’m accustomed to at other favorite hotel spas (see: Schloss Fuschl), but it was exactly perfect. Why would you want to sit in a box breathing in re-circulated steamed water when you could sit by a pond breathing in fresh island air drinking cucumber water and green tea?
This chain of resorts seems to really emphasize sense of place – their Tokyo resort looks different than their Turks and Caicos resort, and both seem wildly different than their Salt Lake ski retreat. Unlike chains that value consistency above all else, Aman’s ethos seems to be, “Celebrate what’s special about a place and enhance that unique place and experience.”
Aman’s in-house (in-season) wellness specialist, Dr. John, stopped by to visit with us and ask how we were feeling. We chatted about acupuncture and the healing arts, without ever feeling like he wanted to upsell us anything past our steeply priced massages. My only quibble with his visit was that I had a momentary life crisis: Why didn’t I become a traveling acupuncturist for the Aman resorts?
The massage experience was an experience.
Every treatment room is actually its own perfectly designed hut. So none of that awkward, “This door? No… this door? No… yikes there’s a naked man in there!” Each hut is a self-contained treatment space replete with an outdoor shower and outdoor bathtub and luxurious, spacious spa-like bathroom accommodations. Nearly one entire wall is a window that opens to the outside, giving you that special outdoors feeling without any of the associated ickiness (have you ever truly relaxed during a beachside massage? The sand – everywhere – always takes that down a notch for me).
My fabulous therapist started with a smoke ritual. Had I been in the same hut as Matt this would have made me giggle, because nearly all rituals make me giggle (bad at funerals and sorority initations). The smoke ritual was a calming, almost sensual experience because you closed your eyes and the therapist walked you through this very peaceful process with fire and hot stones and I didn’t really understand any of it but I put my trust in her entirely and that prepared me to just relax and go with it and the rest of the treatment.
Relaxed, ritualized, and past any initial awkardness or discomfort, I was able to thoroughly enjoy the hot stone massage from start to finish. Generally I lose the first 15 minutes or so while I’m getting into the zone, and then near the end I’m stuffy and anxious about it being over too soon. That didn’t happen with this slow, methodical treatment.
Afterwards I was left to my own devices in my own little perfect hut. I rinsed in the outdoor shower, then I luxuriated in the outdoor bathtub. Why is an outdoor bathtub so different than a hottub? This felt infinitely more relaxing and more luxurious than even the best hottub. I suppose the nakedness makes a difference. And not having any chemicals. I did have a lizard friend, which I found charming, but I recognize not everyone would appreicate.
Eyes and limbs heavy with relaxation, a porter in a golf cart delivered us to the main lobby where we walked to the infinity pool overlooking the ocean. We were the only people there, so we claimed the over-the-top double lounger bed and cabana and ordered lunch. Our waitress practically read our minds, suggesting a fresh spring roll and two sushi rolls, and two elevated but still beachy rum drinks.
We ate, we oohed and ahhed, we sank in and relaxed even deeper, we swam, we giggled, we floated, we roamed to the cliffs overlooking the ocean, we suggested perhaps we’d never leave. We googled the nightly room rate. We decided we’d leave. After one more rum punch.
On our way out, the resort was just starting its afternoon “tea,” which wasn’t precocious. The chef was serving up quesadillas made to order and a variety of ceviches. Families started to trickle into the common areas, presumably after long days of beach and ocean activities, perhaps explorations with Aman’s resident naturalist.
Again, we looked at each other, thought, “Do we have to leave?”
Then I remembered we’re building a house. And one room at the Amanyara costs roughly the same as one custom French door. So yes. We did have to leave. But we left with full hearts, loose limbs, and future travel goals.
Recovering journalist who discovered a life outside of news leaves you time for things like getting angry, cooking and traveling. Plus, hopefully, writing. I’m a wife, dog mom and Washingtonian.