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.
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.
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.
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!