Insiders Guide to Turks & Caicos

With more than 230 miles of white-sand beaches and some of the world's most beautiful coral reefs, the Turks and Caicos islands are arguably the hidden gems of the Caribbean. Getting here from the East Coast is simple flight away; from the West Coast it's more of a paradise pilgrimage well worth the trek. You'll find historic villages barely touched by tourism and crystal-clear turquoise waters full of marine life, and plenty of pristine beaches perfect for spending long, relaxing days.  My recent trip to T&C was unbelievable and the perfect Pacific Northwest winter escape. 

 A little about Turks & Caicos

It's under British rule, but the currency is the American dollar. Traffic moves on the left, but most rental-car steering wheels are on the right. And you won't find a single McDonalds or KFC. What you will find is one of the world's most stunning shorelines, Grace Bay Beach. The 12-mile porcelain-white crescent of sand is fronted by the kind of turquoise and beryl-hued colors that Instagram dreams are made of. The color and clarity come partially from the crushed pink coral sea bottom, found only in this part of the South Atlantic. A protective barrier reef enables safe lagoon swimming for kids, easy snorkeling, and excellent diving and bone fishing. But should you wish simply to relax, the vibe is all about tranquility—more beach chic exclusive than overdeveloped. Although numerous resorts have opened on Providenciales -- really the only island developed for tourism -- there are just two small shopping centers, and hotels here blend into their natural environments.

 

Be Well / Sleep

One thing that you should know about Turks & Caicos is that it is expensive. Period. Having traveled through the Caribbean and throughout the world, I must say this was the one off the most expensive places I have been to, with Iceland, Sydney, London, and San Francisco being on that list. Not only are the hotels pricey but the food, drinks, tours, and transportation are as well. A rum punch is $18, and pretty standard! A 3 hour island tour was over $100. Hotels range in price but the more luxurious properties like the Gansevoort and Grace Bay Club may cost you in the high $400s to 600s for an oceanfront room. However, you are paying for immaculate service, fine dining, luxury accommodations and an intimate experience.

There are a few all-inclusive resorts such as Beaches and ClubMed but most hotels are European style with a daily breakfast buffet and free Wi-Fi which is helpful with costs. Staying at a hotel that is right on the beach you'll enjoy the peace and tranquility of the hotel beach vs. hagglers trying to sell you goods or tour directors approaching you which happens on other island beaches. You can also opt to stay at an Airbnb for a more economical price. And depending on your budget, you are bound to find something. Big roller? There are plenty of ocean front properties.

Getting Around

There are taxi drivers readily available at the airport. There are even private car services. Taxi rides are expensive. They charge per person not just on time or distance. A ride to a hotel less than 10 minutes away for two people was $20 one way. If you prefer to rent a car, be aware that they drive on the left side of the street. Based on the flat terrain it is also a great place to go bike riding and bikes are offered at many of the hotel properties.

Mango Reef
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Da Conch Shack
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Eat Well

Turks and Caicos is also the home to the world’s only conch farm! Conch is a sea snail with noticeable shells. The meat is edible and cooked in various forms on the islands. You'll see Conch everything on menus. Try it!

Somewhere is Mexican place right on the beach with the yummiest fish tacos. Other fun and casual places to hang out during the day are Bugaloo's and Da Conch Shack.  They are two places with a lively scene that has live music. Bugaloo's is also the place to be on Sunday evenings. During the day you can go there in your swimsuit and cover-up and hang for the day.  Okeanos Juice & Smoothie Bar is a great place for smoothies and fresh juices. 

Fine dining route, there are several good options like Grace's Cottage, Magnolia Wine Bar & Restaurant and Coco Bistro just to name a few.  Mango Ree, one of the more upscale restaurants in the T&C that serve great island cuisine. Mango reef is a nice open space, outdoor seating restaurant that is situated right on the marina. The Gansevoort Hotel is also a nice place to have cocktails and lunch during the day. Baci Ristorante and Caicos Cafe are both great picks for Italian.  Most resorts will let you hang out at their resort/beach as long as your ordering food. 

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Live Well

The main attraction of T&C are, well, the beaches! Thanks to the third largest coral system in the world, Turks and Caicos has beautiful, clean beaches. The water is a magnificent turquoise with soft white sand. Grace Bay Beach in Providenciales is the most well-known beach and home to many of the most luxurious hotels. Snorkeling and scuba diving are common past times on the island and attract many visitors. Visit Chalk Sound for snorkeling, amazing water views and sunsets. Smith’s Reef and Bight Reef are also popular snorkeling locations.

There are many other attractions including Humpback whales that can be seen on Grand Turk Island from January through April.  If you are a bird watcher this is also the place for you. The salt ponds and marshes are home to over 170 species of birds on Turks and Caicos. Make a stop at Cheshire Hall located in Providenciales. It is home to 200 year old ruins of a former cotton plantation. Go to the Thursday Fish Fry located in Providenciales. This is a local event consisting of food vendors, live music and local artists. Take a “glow worm cruise.” These cruises are planned 3-6 nights after the full moon when the marine worm “Odontosyllis” performs a mating ritual in which the female worm releases eggs then swims to the surface emitting a pale, green luminescence. Looking for a pool party? The Shore Club bar is your place. They often times host DJ's from Vegas for their Vegas-style pool party.  

Keep in mind that Turks and Caicos has a relatively flat terrain so you will not find mountains, cliffs, jungles or waterfalls. This is important for the land adventure traveler vs. the water soaked beach traveler. Sandbar is another great place for cocktails and live music at night!

Insiders Guide to Los Angeles

Three days in Los Angeles is just enough time to see all sides of this sprawling city, especially if you plan your days geographically. A hike is a great way to start the day before exploring the boutique shopping, the plethora of healthy eating options, and enjoying some beach time. A cultural day of museums, galleries and landmarks will highlight the city's center. Head west and wander the beach, boardwalk, and bustling streets will fill day three. And, no matter what time of the year you visit, Summertime weather is in store. 

Having grown up in California, I love to stay on top of what new fitness-eating-health crazes are sweeping the West Coast. Taking time to make a wellness weekend out of LA was just what I needed this winter. 

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My recent trip to LA was short but filled with plenty of fun with plenty to share in this guide of the places that make So Cal feel familiar and quintessentially LA -- of health and wellness, sunshine and kombucha, a healthy dose of meditation, yoga, and yummy eats paired with organic cocktails – it’s LA. It's also a place that was on the agave bandwagon well before it was trending. 

By virtue of being in Los Angeles, the access to fresh produce and vibrant flavors make it a no-brainer to eat clean and alkaline, and to fill your belly with the meals that make you look and feel fantastic. Plus, when it’s bikini season virtually ten months out of the year, you’re sure to find some added inspiration to take care of your body. Above all of that, the way of life in LA is all about taking care of your mind and spirit just as much as your body.

Ready to for another adventure this time by the way of LA? Here is my guide to a healthy LA of favorite eats, hikes, libations, and California love:


Eat Well

The Butcher's Daughter lives up to the hype! The Butcher's Daughter is a plant-based restaurant, cafe, juice bar and “vegetable slaughterhouse." Don't worry I was thrown off by the name as well. It's a place were fruits and vegetables are treated as a butcher would meat: We chop, fillet and carve fresh produce into healthy vegetarian dishes and press them into pretty juices. 

I was pretty darn excited to eat Cafe Gratitude. Years ago there was a Cafe Gratitude in San Francisco that was a favorite. It closed down abruptly, leaving patrons longing for this plant-based cafe. Obviously, this would be on my list of places. Cafe Gratitude is a rite of passage if you're in California. The concept and theory behind the restaurant translate into every aspect: the food, the presentation of the food, the ambiance, and the kind waiters. It's very refreshing to have something like this in today's world and the question of the day is very cute. The care for ingredients, the body, and the environment are staples in why this place does so well. The food was pretty good-expensive but that's what comes with all sourced ingredients made by the house. 

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Moon Juice, a small little shop in Venice with a serious menu of juice options; all with a list of how they help aid and stimulate your system. I first found out about Moon Juice from postings my friend Shayla Quinn had posted about on Instagram. I had to visit especially because of my new found adaptogen craze. I got a couple juices and nut mylks, all filled with adaptogens, to go and they were all delicious. If you're looking for some clean healthful fluids while heading to quirky Venice Beach, Moon Juice is definitely worth the stop!

There is no shortage of cold pressed juices and smoothie shops in LA. But, of course, a stop at Pressed Juicery is a must. And if you want to 'shroom it up (not in the magical mushroom way) there is Four Sigmatic Shroom Room in Venice. Learn and taste the various adaptogenic mushroom and how they can help elevate your health. Fonuts is a baked and steamed, never fried donut shop that will leave you wanting more and more!

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Real Food Daily is the original vegan restaurant in LA – with two locations, and a menu as varied and inviting as it is healthy (think Mexican-inspired vegan tacos, seasonal platters, and delicious cashew cheesecake that’s heavenly). I always crave their “real food meal” which is a perfectly balanced plate of pickled veggies, garlicky greens, beans, grains, and a dressing of your choosing. I love the lime cilantro one, and literally order this to take on the plane before every flight!

A Mexican restaurant which also happens to be vegan and owned by the same people who have Gratitude Cafe, and another San Francisco fave of mine is Gracias Madre. I was surprised to find on in LA as well. The food is delicious and the space is just beautiful – a great spot for drinks, as well as for margaritas laden with agave and fresh fruits.

La Scala  is a Beverly Hills institution, and when I’m home there’s not a week that goes by that I don’t have their chopped salad with turkey. It’s beyond simple – shredded lettuce, shredded turkey, garbanzo beans, and I add cucumbers and tomatoes. This salad is one of those mysteries in life to me – I can try as I might to recreate it at home, but La Scala does something magical to this thing. It’s worth a stop – and great for star sighting as well.

M Cafe offers macrobiotic meals served up daily. Their breakfast burrito in a brown rice wrap is craveable, and their salad selections and miso salmon are equally delicious. I go here for a casual meal or for takeout. The last time I was there I saw Alicia Silverstone. Healthy foodies always find the right spots.

The holy grail of health food stores, Erewhon, how could one not stop here? Whether you are grocery shopping, grabbing a meal to go or sitting at the elixir bar, you will find every product you need that makes eating healthy so easy. Biodynamic wines, house made kombucha, collard green wraps are just the beginning. It’s awesome!

Just hands down my favorite sushi in LA is Sushi Park. Sit at the sushi bar and order omakase. It’s in a strip mall as most good LA sushi spots are, and they have a sign that says “No California rolls.” Don’t come here if you’re looking for cream cheese in your hand roll – it’s just beautiful, clean, fresh sushi... they way it should be.


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Be Well

My favorite workout in LA is Pilates Platinum. There are four locations and they are all just as great for a full body toning experience with great music and awesome instructors. There’s a reason Alessandra Ambrosio comes here to keep her Victoria Secret model figure in shape – the energy is great, the music is awesome, and most importantly – it works. Speedplay, LIT Method, Lagree Fitness, and Playlist Yoga are other places that are worth paying a visit to. 

LA is filled with great hiking trails. My favorite being Los Liones where you can trail run and see a stunning view of Santa Monica, Malibu, and on a clear day all the way out to Catalina Island. I can’t do this list without including Runyon Canyon. My relationship with this hiking trail is love/hate. There are about four different routes at various levels, dogs run free, and the views are beautiful (you can see all of downtown LA and Hollywood). The hate part is that on weekends it can get crowded and there is endless Hollywood talk of auditions and projects that are greenlit. If that’s entertaining to you, or if you just tune it out, you’ll be tapping into a quintessential LA hike.

Vedic Meditation with Light Watkins is a place you must visit! I was introduced to Light through my good friend a while back. Light is one of those people whose energy is palpable the moment you meet him – transcendent, calming, therapeutic. He teaches seminars or privates for those seeking enlightenment. It makes the daunting process of meditation so simple. It’s changed my life.

 Just an hour outside of LA is the Deepak Chopra's The Chopra Center, a center offering classes, seminars for self improvement and a spa as well (where you can get an amazing Ayurvedic massage).

The most perfectly curated shop for all natural products is The Detox Market. Be it beauty products and candles, lovely gifts and chemical free nail polishes. (Plus it’s next door to Beverly Hills juice where you can go to one of the OG places for fresh pressed juice. Can’t beat a classic).