Ambergris Cay, located in the southeastern portion of the Turks and Caicos island chain, is a luxurious private island in the Caribbean unlike any other. It is one of the only private islands in the world that is accessible by private jet. On top of that, Ambergris Cay offers private beachfront villas available to rent and a full-service resort where all food, beverages and activities are included in the daily rate.
Indeed, there are few secluded vacation destinations in the world where one can directly reach by private jet without having to take a second mode of transportation to get there. The ultimate getaway, of course, is spending a holiday in a beachfront home on a private island. But while many private islands offer a luxurious experience, getting to them can be difficult at best.
Book Richard Branson’s Necker Island and you will have to first fly to Beef Island Airport and transfer by helicopter. Want to vacation in a villa on The North Island, the same private island in The Seychelles where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge went for their honeymoon? Just like William and Kate, you will have to first take a helicopter transfer from another island (they flew from Mahé). Interested in visiting Turtle Island in Fiji? You’ll first have to fly to Fiji’s Nadi Airport then take a seaplane to get there.
Ambergris Cay, a three mile-long, one-mile wide island in the Turks and Caicos is one of the only private islands in the world that boasts an airport with a 5,700-square-foot-long runway that can accommodate a private jet. No transfers are necessary. Not only can you fly your Gulfstream IV or Cessna Citation to get there directly from such FBOs as Teterboro in New Jersey or Hanscomb Field south of Boston, but it will take less than three hours to do so.
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Ambergris Cay can arrange for a customs and immigration official to meet guests who privately fly directly to the island, enabling them to depart the U.S. and avoid having to first land Providenciales International Airport which services the Turks and Caicos islands. Prefer to fly on a commercial flight? There are daily non-stop flights into Providenciales from New York, Miami, Charlotte, and Atlanta, to name a few, and Ambergris Cay will transfer you in one of its own twin engine prop planes. The flight, which is included in the price of the stay, takes only 18 minutes. Land on the Ambergris Cay and you will be greeted with a glass of champagne served in the Welcome Center before you are whisked away to your beachfront suite or villa.
While it can take an entire day to get to some of the nicest locations in the Caribbean, it is possible to fly out of New York in the morning and be sitting on the beach at Ambergris Cay by lunch. “Take a flight from Newark or JFK of just three hours, and you can be on your own private island with a spectacular beach, incredible water and in your own vacation home faster than you can get to most places in the U.S.,” says Jay Kaminski, an Ambergris Cay homeowner who resides in New Jersey. “We arrive on Ambergris with just a backpack and transition so quickly into relaxation. While admittedly biased, I don’t believe you can find the same wonderful experience in such a short travel time from the U.S.”
Ambergris Cay’s all-inclusive experience enables its guests and homeowners to leave their wallet back in the villa. Indeed, everything is included, from the cocktails served at your chaise lounge chair, to the butler service, meals, snacks and 24-hour room service and daily half-hour massages at the spa. Its white-sand beaches are expansive and the turquoise water of the sea is crystal clear and calm. “This is a destination for people looking for a tranquil, rustic Caribbean island experience, with all the luxuries and amenities of a five-star resort,” says Kevin Matier, Director of Sales and Marketing for Turks and Caicos Collection, which manages Ambergris Cay. “It is very true and authentic.”
Kaminski, a consultant for early biotech and technology companies, his wife, Julie, a self-employed business owner and doctoral student and their three grown children, visit the island frequently, spending several weeks there most months. The Kaminski family fell in love with the island’s simplicity and rustic feel, but appreciate the availability of upscale services and amenities expected from an exclusive resort, says Jay. “The uniqueness of the island and location is the unparalleled view of the stars at night, literally zero light pollution, the clear crystal waters and the year around temperature range of roughly 82-84 degrees (what fluctuates is the humidity),” he adds.
The Kaminski family also appreciates the undisturbed wildlife on the island, and in particular the cool rock iguanas, and the incredibly friendly people of Turks and Caicos Islands. “As soon as you arrive on’ the Cay’ your shoulders just ‘drop’ and you feel relaxed, as if you are the only ones on the island,” says Kaminski. “It is a true place to unwind, and refuel. The big choice of the day is should we start at the beach and then the pool or reverse the order today.”
Ambergris Cay is ultra-secure as there is no public access to the island as only staff, registered guests and homeowners are allowed onto the property. It is also extremely private as even during high-season there are relatively few people on the island. No need to ever worry about getting a chaise lounge on the beach or having to wait to take out a paddle boat or kayak or to use one of the tennis courts. “The island is very private and the owners (and guests) respect each others’ privacy tremendously,” says Kaminski.
However the island also has a wonderful community around the holidays with gatherings and social events. “So you can choose to participate in as much or as little as you like. As my children like to say, ‘it’s not that there is nothing to do, it’s that we choose to do nothing’ which we think is just awesome,” Kaminski says. “A crowded day at the beach is 15 people.”
While there are twenty private homes on the island, eight villas are available to rent by the night. These waterfront villas, which offer three, four or six bedrooms, are luxuriously appointed. Spacious, they range in size from 3,200 square feet to more than 5,000 square feet. They are ideal for couples or families seeking more space and privacy, as they are equipped with multiple entertaining areas, both indoors and outdoors, state-of-the-art kitchens furnished with Sub-Zero and Wolf appliances, outdoor Blaze barbecue grilling stations, laundry rooms with full-size washers and dryers, flat-screen HD televisions and high-speed wireless internet. Each villa is also equipped with a heated swimming pool, an outdoor shower, and two electric golf carts for getting around the 1,100-acre island.
Prefer to eat some or all of your meals in the villa? No problem. Ambergris Cay can arrange, for an additional charge, a private chef to prepare meals for you as often as you wish in your own kitchen. Or, if you prefer to do the cooking yourself, you can submit a shopping list and Ambergris Cay will do the grocery shopping for you in Provo and fly your order over on one of its private planes (this convenient service has a modest 15% surcharge of the cost of the order). Of course, you can eat some or all of your meals at Calico, the full-service restaurant on the island or you can opt for your butler to bring you room service.
Ambergris Cay also offers ten luxuriously appointed one-bedroom beachfront suites that are suitable for couples or families traveling with small children. Each is equipped with a wet bar, refrigerator stocked with snacks, oversized shower and a plunge pool. Located on a wide beach, they are steps from the water. All accommodations, including the villas and one-bedroom beachfront suites, are equipped with air conditioning, and have access to 24-hour room service, butlers and daily housekeeping.
Currently, “Calico” is the only full-service restaurant on the island. It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner (additional restaurants are in the works). The dinner menu changes daily, with a wide variety of dishes from which to choose, grilled Caribbean lobster to New York strip steak and fresh ceviche, depending on the catch of the day. Or, should you catch a red snapper or tuna while out fishing, the chef will prepare and serve it to you that same day.
While there is only one restaurant, there are a multiple of venues around the island where meals can be served. You can have a picnic lunch on a nearby sandbar reachable only by boat or you can request an intimate candlelit dinner or a bonfire complete with s’mores on the beach. Want something not on the menu or have a dietary restriction? No problem. The chef can prepare just about anything you might want, especially if you notify Ambergris Cay ahead of your arrival so the ingredients can be ordered.
There are many activities to keep you occupied. Motorized boats can take you out on a fishing or snorkeling expedition or for waterskiing or tubing. There are two Har-Tru tennis courts and a new Pickleball court. Miles of trails will take you on adventures around the island, which can be done on foot, or on one of the bicycles or electric mountain bikes owned by Ambergris Cay. A gym is outfitted with exercise equipment and weights and there is an outdoor fitness course. Many additional amenities and restaurant experiences will be added in the months and years to come, and ground will soon break for a new all-glass state-of-the-art 3,000-square-foot fitness facility and yoga studio, with unencumbered views of the ocean.
A typical day for the Kaminski family is laid back and relaxed. “We start with coffee and sunrise, then check email and world news, work out and then eat a light breakfast,” says Jay. “Then we go to the beach or pool, walk on the beach, eat lunch and then go stand-up paddle boarding or eFoil surfing (surfboard with motor and propeller), go for a mountain bike or e-bike ride, collect sea glass, have a cocktail and watch the sunset, make dinner or grab dinner at the restaurant and then it’s movie or series time…and the next day, we begin again.”
Ambergris Cay’s “Clubhouse” is located on a secluded cove. This Adirondack-style lodge has a wrap-around porch with rocking chairs and a ping pong table. Indoors, it features a snack bar, pool table, and arcade games. There’s an adjacent studio stocked with art supplies where children can create arts & crafts. Water sports are also offered here, such as paddle boarding and kayaking. Babysitting services are available for an extra fee. The Clubhouse is staffed from 10am to 5:30pm daily and is also upon request each evening for a beach barbecue or a private event.
There are currently 20 homes on the island and several under construction. The Ambergris Cay development team is selling a limited number of custom- built homes each year. The cost to build a new home starts at $4.5 million while the annual cost to keep it running (utilities, management, membership fee, community fee) is approximately $100,000. As part of the Ambergris Cay membership, residents are given full access to all of the island’s amenities plus ten complimentary nights in the beachfront villas which can be transferred to friends or family. Ambergris Cay also manages a rental program for owners who wish to participate.
There are no property, capital gains or income taxes in the Turks and Caicos, which is a British overseas territory. “We are not really interested in people using this as an investment vehicle,” says Turks and Caicos Collection’s Matier. “We are looking for people who want to be part of a community.” An advantage for owners who participate in the rental program is they do not have to keep sending money down to Ambergris Cay to keep it running, says Matier. “Everything is taken care of, from daily maid service to keeping the air-conditioning running,” he adds. “It’s a turnkey operation.”
The island’s full infrastructure includes a reverse osmosis water purification system as well as an independent electrical generation system. A cell tower provides phone and high-speed internet access and there is a fully-staffed fire department. Ambergris Cay employees, as well as construction workers, are housed in dormitories on the island, so there is never a shortage of staff. The staff is vaccinated and the ratio of staff to guests can be as high as two-to-one during slower periods.
There is an infirmary on the island and a hospital where guests can be flown in an emergency situation. The infirmary is able to perform Covid-19 antigen tests, with results available within an hour (these are administered on a complimentary basis for guests who need results for their departure flights).
The all-inclusive rack rate for a one-bedroom beachfront suite (based on double occupancy) is $3,000 per night (seasonal promotions can be seen at this link). Three-bedroom villas start at $6,000 per night while four-bedroom villas, which accommodate eight guests, cost $8,000 per night (villa rates are based on double-occupancy) with an additional $800 daily charge for each guest over the age of 12. Kids who are 12 and under the age stay free and rates are inclusive of service charges and taxes. Ambergris Cay is an ideal location for a destination wedding, bachelorette getaway or a family reunion.