Your Island Getaway Awaits You
Winter paradise is closer than you think
Kelly Sullivan lives in paradise, and he’s issued you an open invitation to join him.
The Mississauga native has been in Turks and Caicos since the early ’90s, and he’s seen the two groups of tropical islands slowly but surely become one of the world’s premier vacation destinations, with the world’s best beach.
“We have an amazing beach club on Grace Bay Beach, which is now ranked on TripAdvisor as the number-one beach on planet earth. Not the Caribbean. Planet Earth!” beams Sullivan, silver locks flowing, the very ideal of an ex-pat living his dream.
Sullivan, who is the director of Kokomo Botanical Resort, describes it like this. “Nestled into our five-acre botanical garden property are thirty-eight private cottages, a freshwater oasis pool with a saltwater hot plunge, garden spa pavilion featuring Lovina Spa, and the upscale WE Grill + Wok | Winebar, offering an East-meets-West farm-to-table menu.” He adds impeccable personalized concierge services on the property, luxury amenities, and a gated community.
With every story – and Sullivan is rich in tales – one is drawn closer and closer to the islands. There is something alluring for fellow Canadians to be able to say they have a luxury family Caribbean cottage in the Turks and Caicos Islands, with gated privacy in a residential resort.
Sullivan expounds on the intricacies of the island paradise. “Turks and Caicos is [nothing] but lush because on an annualized basis we have only 43 days of rain in the entire year!” Very little food is indigenous to the island, so everything is flown in fresh: fruits and vegetables from Florida, beef flown by FedEx from St. Lawrence Market in Toronto, and the genesis of Alive & Well’s own botanical garden, with imported figs, bananas, plantain, pomegranates, and more. “We have actual horticulturists on the payroll – they earned their bachelor’s degree in science and agriculture. We grow and propagate and it gives us an opportunity to offer that farm-to-fork spirit and experience.
“We have fresh fish coming in: branzino, mahi-mahi, and swordfish. It’s always fresh, never frozen. Fresh land proteins, fresh sea proteins, and even our produce, which doesn’t come from the grounds, we bring it in from a supplier in South Florida [who services the überluxury resorts and denizens there, he explains]. Gastronomically, we’re doing something different than everybody else. You’re going to eat well. And our mixologist, he comes from Barbados, so we create all these signature hand cocktails, we smoke tequila – it’s like the kitchen in the bar. It’s open concept. It’s an experiential environment, where West meets East in the kitchen and in the bar. We’re like an Asian steakhouse with authentic Chinese cuisine, Tomahawk steaks, or filets, bone-in ribeye. We actually are doing a veal Tomahawk tonight, a smaller cut, but it’s that light pink colour – all on the island’s only Argentine grill.”
The restaurant has become so popular that guests of the ultra-high-end celebrity-catering resorts in the area frequently drop into Kokomo Botanical Resort’s WE Grill + Wok | Winebar. “You know, they don’t want to be a prisoner in their villa, or wherever they’re staying,” says Sullivan. “They want to get out, and they choose to do so by booking private reservations at Kokomo. So, it’s not like paparazzi will be there. It’s a private dining experience in a public place, so to speak.”
But Turks and Caicos isn’t about a beach, world-class dining, or spa treatments (even the Balinese masseuse is imported, and offers authentic pampering care), though they certainly enhance its appeal. It’s about the adoption of a lifestyle. The pandemic has seen a revolution of remote working, and a better balance of life and work. “You know, lawyers, accountants, architects, engineers, a lot of them [have to commute] every day each way. [If] you’re spending an hour each way, that’s two hours a day, 10 hours a week, 500 hours in a year. Do that for 40 years. That’s 20,000 hours, and you don’t get paid to do that. You’re paying for that. So, I’ve gained [that time] over the last 25-30-plus years that I’ve been here.”
I didn’t check Sullivan’s math, but the ex-pat knows his numbers. And he doesn’t stop there.
“I don’t know what land transfer tax is in Ontario anymore, but we don’t have real estate taxes here. We don’t have property taxes. You just have a land transfer tax called stamp duty – and it’s about 8% of the purchase price. But that’s it: you pay that one time, and you never pay an ounce of tax again.
“It’s not just the [first] generation that buys it, because Kokomo is a multi-generational family property,” he continues. “And with our guests that stay here, we say why book a room when you could book a cottage? Each cottage has two bedrooms, so [you can] book more cottages based on what your needs are.” Or you might choose to buy an attractive cottage for yourself and your family – the price tag weighs in, with all closing costs, at just $525,000 Canadian right now. “That includes stamp duty, furniture package, your legal fees, and a rental guarantee – which in this marketplace, in all my years of being here, I’ve never seen anybody [need to use].”
Sullivan’s argument should appeal to any GTAer with a Muskoka connection: drive 2.5 hours north for the summer, fly 3.5 hours south for the winter and enjoy a tropical getaway in unspoiled and luxurious surroundings. And when you’re not using your Turks and Caicos cottage, you can enjoy a return on your investment via the property rental pool, with all details (cleaning/booking/guest services) taken care of for you.
All in all, as Sullivan can attest, Kokomo Botanical Resort is the closest thing to paradise you can find on this earth, and it’s only about 3.5 hours away.