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(2015 - Winter/Spring Issue)


Relaxing by the pool with a mojito in one hand and a good book in the other, I’m loving the quiet scene at the recently opened Metropolitan by COMO in Miami Beach, a spectacular 74-room renovated art deco hotel.

This is COMO’s first U.S. location, boasting exquisite contemporary interiors by well-known Italian designer, Paola Navone, with a top-notch spa and incredible food. I barely unpack because Miami is only a warm-up for my next stop, a short flight away, to Parrot Cay in Turks and Caicos.

Pinch me!

I know my vacation is going to be perfect when after hours of paddleboarding on Tiffany blue waters, I jog across the flawless sand to my chaise longue and find a coconut pierced with a straw, ready for drinking.

Earlier in the day, I boarded a sparkling 12-metre transfer boat from the mainland, Providenciales (Provo for locals), along with honeymooners and couples celebrating milestones, for a 35-minute ride to Parrot Cay, a lavish private island resort in the Lucayan Archipelago. Two staff members dressed in crisp white button-up shirts wrestled with me to take my bags while a friendly hostess offered moist cloths, infused with lavender, peppermint and eucalyptus.

I feel like a character on Fantasy Island. A gathering of smiling drivers and a fleet of oversized golf carts (no cars on the island) meet us at the dock. Minutes later, I’m whisked away by Pema, who, I’m astonished to find out, is my personal butler. We drive past banana and coconut plantations, dense foliage and discreet “private”road signs that indicate the entrances to homes including those of Keith Richards, Donna Karan and Christie Brinkley. I try not to feel guilty as Pema carries my belongings to my room, I change into one of my many bikinis, switch off my iPhone and head to the beach, ready to enjoy the serene ambiance, outstanding service and healthy cuisine that Parrot Cay has to offer.

It’s not by accident that I feel like I’m in paradise. Parrot Cay is situated on 405 glorious hectares of lush wetlands, three kilometres of pristine beaches sprinkled with understated houses and a dozen private estates. Owned and operated by COMO (acronym for Christina Ong, and her daughter, Michelle Ong) Hotels and Resorts, a Singapore-based company, Parrot Cay was the first COMO resort to embody the Shambhala (Sanskrit for “place of peace”) brand established in 2000, which focuses on providing high-end, personalized, holistic and relaxing experiences for guests staying at their 12 properties worldwide.

Understated Elegance

Typically guests come here for the easy and unpretentious vibe, appreciating there are no clocks or televisions in common areas. There are 74 rooms and villas including terrace rooms, one- to three-bedroom beach villas, and 11-room beach homes all furnished in elegant teak furniture, soft white linens and tasteful Asian-influenced decor.

The Pirate house, an airy two-storey dwelling with its own breathtaking infinity pool, frequented by owner Ms. Ong, is where I park my flip-flops for the next few days. Folklore has it that two infamous pirates, Anne Bonny and Mary Read, used this area as a hideaway in the 1700s. Out front, there’s a tombstone and a skeleton of a small house.

Zen Living

I awaken peacefully each morning and peer through the translucent netting draped around my four-poster bed to the ocean below. While out for a run, I’m captivated by dozens of young coconut trees, each bearing handmade name plaques, planted by children of returning families, a tradition at Parrot Cay.

My days are a blissful combination of beach walks, bathing in heavenly waters, skillfully led yoga and Pilates classes and exploring the COMO Shambhala cuisine. It’s a healthy menu, so no need to count calories. I can’t get enough of the fresh fruit and veggie juices, and the Green Goddess soup made of seaweed and sunflower seeds is divine. Later, I dine under the stars at the Lotus poolside restaurant savouring a hearty seared spicy salmon on a bed of quinoa pomegranate salad. “Order the crispy banana and apple fritters,”Michelin Star-awarded executive chef, Stefano Cavallini, advises me. I happily comply, planning to eat everything on the menu.


But the icing on the cake during my stay at Parrot Cay is having the COMO Shambhala signature massage at their award-winning spa recognized by CondéNast Traveler. This is the same treatment I was lucky enough to have days earlier at their sister spa in Miami, on the rooftop of Metropolitan by COMO.

Miami Spa Manager, Angela Menoher, told me all Shambhala massage therapists undergo intense training in order to ensure the same quality treatment at every location.  “Massage is about healing and we look for therapists with the gift of giving,”she said.

It’s déjà-vu at the Parrot Cay spa. Lying face down on a massage table, I stare at a red hibiscus flower floating in a wooden bowl below, as strong hands expertly glide along my body, soothing any sore spots.  Later, while sipping the spa’s potent ginger tea, I notice a butterfly gliding above a freshwater pond nearby filled with lilies and smooth grey stones.

“Tough life!”my Facebook friends squeal after I post unbelievable photos of the breathtaking beach and rainbows on the horizon. Finally feeling less guilty, I pinch myself, hoping to never forget the flutes of champagne that serendipitously appear at the pool just in time for sunset, and Pema, standing by, anticipating my every move. “Miss Rena? Can I get you anything else?” 

Travel Planner

We flew American Airlines (aa.com) from Toronto to Miami, then on to Turks and Caicos. Air Canada (aircanada.com) and WestJet (westjet.com) offer direct service to the Turks and Caicos Islands from Toronto.

For more information visit:

COMO Hotels and Resorts: comohotels.com

COMO Shambhala Wellness: comoshambhala.com

Greater Miami and the Beaches: miamiandbeaches.com

Turks and Caicos Tourist Board: turksandcaicostourism.com

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