COMO Shambhala Retreat, Parrot Cay


Does a place exist—a vacation destination so pristine in its beauty, so magical—that your boyfriend will be lulled into saying the words, “Sure, I’ll go with you to that pilates class”…twice? Indeed it does, and that fantasy land is called Parrot Cay.

I’d heard about Parrot Cay, the Turks & Caicos resort. Donna Karan owns a house there, “The Sanctuary”. Derek Lam often takes the quick flight down after his fashion shows, for a little R&R, and Tommy Ton documents his snorkeling pursuits (and Proenza “wetsuit”) in the clear turquoise water on I was invited to experience the crowning glory of Parrot Cay—the Shambhala Retreat—and, naturally, I couldn’t get there fast enough. Last weekend, armed with enough sunscreen to coat a family of five and an itsy-bitsy Lisa Marie Fernandez bikini, the BF and I scrambled out of rain-addled New York for greener (bluer?) pastures.

Parrot Cay is all about understated luxury. The main luxury being, at least for me, that it’s super private. The beachfront villas are flanked by walls of greenery, looking straight out to a pair of his and hers beach chairs. Breakfast is arranged in your sunroom, after which point you can take a dip in your own plunge pool. In fact, as one member of the attentive staff pointed out to me, there are guests who never even leave their rooms—you don’t need to.

But then, you wouldn’t experience Shambhala. The sanctuary is actually spread out into several treatment pavilions and, of course, the yoga and pilates studio. I’d like to say I spent most of my time fine-tuning my core, but that would be a fib. I ducked into the women’s changing area every chance I got, because it had an outdoor pavilion (totally walled off, of course) with a sun-dappled pool, waterfall showers, chaise lounges, and a steam room. “Relaxing” is an understatement. I went classic with my treatments: a “COMO Shambhala Massage” and “COMO Shambhala Purify Facial”. Admittedly, I fell asleep during the massage, but remember being thankful for the hibiscus flower/bowl situation on the floor beneath the headrest, not because it was visually pleasing, but because it would catch the drool. The facial utilized products from Shambhala’s own Purify skin care line, which is heavy on botanical and natural ingredients—rose hip oil, peach kernel oil, aloe leaf and yeast extracts among them. The practitioner was from Bali, and had worked at the sister site there (COMO Shambhala Estate). I don’t know what they’re teaching people in Bali, but let’s just say I think I’ll be asking for Balinese aestheticians from now on.

Back at the room, I eschewed my own haul of products in favor of the hotel’s line. The tiny bottles of shampoo, conditioner, shower wash and moisturizer were surprisingly efficient and smelled incredible—their signature “Invigorate” scent blends Eucalyptus, Geranium, Lavender and Peppermint. I think the only other time I’d stockpiled as many in my luggage was with Acqua Di Parma at the St. Regis in New York, during a visit in my teens.

Even as summer rolls around, I’m already dreaming of heading back to Parrot Cay, and from what I’ve heard, it’s easiest now—the deals for June, July and August are the best of the year. Why wait?


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  • kriss

    wow! pure perfection! don't wait!

  • Yasamin

    Oh my god, this sounds amazing. I like how you refer to the hibiscus bowl "situation", I just find that so funny. I'm very happy jealous! Warm sand... man oh man.

    • LuckyD

      I love the hibiscus mention too! ITG you're one of a kind in the best way possible!

  • Kat

    So jealous! It looks heavenly.

  • Olive

    WANT TO GO NOW. Seriously. I've always wanted to go scuba diving and this place looks ridiculously relaxing.

  • Sarah

    Sigh. Its so beautiful! I want to go now!

    <3 Sarah

  • mj

    sounds like a lovely vacation. welcome back x

  • anne

    wow i'm surprised you use the Anthelios sunscreens. Their primary ingredients are terrible - Octocrylene especially, but also Avobenzone and Ecamsule. Better to use a product with only zinc or titanium dioxide as these don't get absorbed into the skin (Josie Maran's is good stuff, but SPF 30 is really the max you need).

    • Ana

      what sunscreens do you recommend?

      • admin

        Hi Ana--I really like suncreens from Josie Maran and La Roche Posay (pictured), and Neutrogena.

        Claire--I do indeed! Don't know how I wound up with so many. Thanks for the concern; I'm due for my annual checkup in June!


  • Lisa C

    I want to go to there!

    And seriously, I love that you gave so much attention to the en suite toiletries. It's the first thing I check when I stay somewhere fabulous. Beauty nerds, unite.

    Bookmarking Parrot Cay right now...

  • erika

    i went a few years ago, such a memorable, beautiful, quiet island!

  • claire

    Hey Emily I noticed you have a lot of moles, hope you're frequently getting them checked at the dermatologist along with your usual sunscreen application :)

  • Alison

    I loved the Tommy Ton reference; that photo was one of my favorites he has ever posted!

    Also, what polish are you wearing on your toes? I've been trying to find the perfect shade for summer and I think that might be it!

    Great post, as always :)

    • admin

      Essie Meet Me At Sunset!

  • sarah

    just spent a week in T&C in April - pure heaven

  • smartsx

    This is my home country!!!! I'm pretty excited to see it featured here, we're such such a small country and get little press. I miss home so so much! *nostalgic tears* Counting down to the months I get to go home and see the sun, sea, and my family ^_^

    Thank you for this post!

  • Marian

    The whole Como Shambhala experience is simultaneously glamorous and peaceful.
    Gorgeous images.
    Glam Kisses,

  • anne

    Ana - a sunscreen that blocks UVA and UVB is a must. Going higher than SPF30 is unnecessary (it blocks about 97% of rays) and more likely to cause skin irritation.

    As for ingredients -I would only use ones that scatter the light (titanium dioxide and zinc oxide) rather than those that absorb it (all the other things that sound chemically - avobenzone, octocrylene, ecamsule, homosalate). If they absorb the sun's rays, they do so under the dermis/epidermis and can cause DNA mutation in the skin (potentially leading to cancer). Their safety is still questionable as well. If you can get onto PubMed (has peer-reviewed scientific articles) there are a frightening amount of reports regarding questionable safety of these sunscreen ingredients.

    My "credentials" if you're wondering - I'm in med school, plan to become a dermatologist.

  • Dianna

    Anne, which blockers do you recommend (brands)? I am currently in need of stocking up on some good facial sun-blockers...

  • Lindsay K

    Emily- So glad you were able to get away from rainy NYC- Yay. PS- I spotted you last week in the Dries jeans- I now covet so cute on you. That sounded creepy, but I was too shy to stop you but you looked so chic in them. This resort looks amazing. I'm filing it away. Thank you for this post.

    Anne- I just was reading this in the May issue of Vogue. There's a wonderful issue on sunscreen and summer skincare there. You really know your stuff.

  • blueevey

    omgosh! i'm relaxed and nearly drooling from simply looking at the pictures!! *save as* thanks!