Beautiful by Nature . . .
Perfect for divers, ideal for hedonists and romantics and even great for families; you may even bump into a celebrity or two, Julia Roberts, Bruce Willis and Donna Karen loved it so much they bought villas here . . .
Most visitors to the Turks and Caicos Islands wonder why the water is so blue. In fact its crystal clear, the reflection of bright white sand infuses the sea wit turquoise and cobalt blue shades, creating visibility of an impressive 200 feet on a good day.
The dazzling waters, which seem to stretch to infinity, secluded beaches with awe-inspiring views of the turquoise waters, coupled with sunshine some 350 days a year, are just some of the reasons visitors return again and again to this unique archipelago.
Internationally recognised as one of the world’s best dive destinations the islands are surrounded by an extensive coral reef system, most of which is not far off shore for spectacular diving and snorkelling.
The Turks & Caicos Islands are relatively flat but vary from sand dunes to lush green vegetation; the islands have the third largest coral reef system and the best tropical beaches in the world (stretching to over 230 miles), making it a premier beach, diving and snorkelling destination and an ideal location for romance, family vacations, ecotourism and adventure seekers, which is probably why 60% of the islands’ visitors come back over and over again.
The 40 islands and cays cover 500 square kilometres (193sq. miles). Only eight of the islands are inhabited by 26,000 residents. The major island in the chain, Providenciales in the Caicos Islands is known locally as Provo. The other main inhabited islands include Grand Turk, North, Middle and South Caicos, as well a salt, Pine and Parrot Cay.
The only way to experience the Turk & Caicos Islands is to experience each island in the entire chain. This is probably why most visitors come back to the Turks & Caicos on a regular basis. Think about taking a day trip, a longer stay or create your own two or even three week vacation.
The islands are arrayed around the edges of two large limestone plateaus, the Turks Bank, with deep offshore waters that serve as major transit points for Humpback Whales, spotted Eagle rays, Manta Rays and Turtles. Anglers who are fishing for Tuna, Wahoo and Blue Marlin use these same rich waters. Bordering the edges of the islands are lines of coral reef and some of the most impressive walls of coral in the Caribbean.
There’s a great buzz about the Turks & Caicos, with high quality, yet affordable offerings. This unique archipelago offers a rich heritage and precious ecology and environment.
From the main tourist centre of Providenciales to the quiet tranquil islands of North and Middle Caicos to the historic Capital Island of Grand Turk; each one offers a different experience and unique character but all offer the same Turks & Caicos Island all year round great climate, beaches and underwater activities.
Providenciales is the most well known of the Turks & Caicos Islands and is the centre of the tourism industry with a wide range of hotels, restaurants, attractions and facilities.
Grand Turk and Salt Cay offer history with great Bermudian architecture and a rustic charm as well as some of the best diving and probably the most “relaxing” time you will ever have.
Middle Caicos and North Caicos represent the best of the environment, with lush green woodlands, the biggest cave network in the Caribbean on Middle Caicos, cottage pond and flamingo pond in North Caicos and a vast range of plant life and birdlife.
Most of the islands are only about 10 to 25 minutes by air from Provo and most can be reached by boat too. There are also regular ferries from North to Middle Caicos.
South Caicos is the centre for fishing with lobster and conch exported from the islands, the historic Cockburn Harbour and the natural phenomenon of the boiling hole. This small yet friendly island offers a myriad of natural delights.
A great way to explore the island is hiking with a local guide along the old coastal paths that are known as the Crossing Place Trails. Once used for trade, the islanders would walk to the end of the trail near Pine Barrel Landing and wade over to North Caicos when the tide was low; hence the name. Facing north-east and towards the prevailing winds and currents, the beaches along the trail collect large amounts of interesting flotsam and jetsam including the occasional message in a bottle. A completed circuit is approximately 6 miles. After a swim at Mudjin Harbour, have a local lunch and relax in the village of Conch Bar. See craft demonstrations at the co-op and then explore the caves in the late afternoon. Good shoes, day pack and moderate energy required.
The Turks & Caicos sailing boats have always been made by hand and cut from the local forests. This practice is still common today in Middle Caicos where they make around two boats each year. The boats vary in size, the largest being about 28feet. Join the boat builders in Middle Caicos for a day. They will tell you how they construct these boats and then take you sailing for a few hours around the bay. Or enjoy a sightseeing tour by taxi around the historic and picturesque sites of Middle Caicos. Visit the flamingos at Village Pond, pass through the settlements of Bambarra and Lorimers and take a short walk to the Haulover plantation ruins and Sir Lorimer’s grave. Stop for lunch in Conch Bar and then relax and swim at the sensational Mudjin Harbour beach. Finish this day with a tour through the extensive Conch Bar caves. If that’s not enough . . . Dive ‘the wall’, this coral ridge runs the length of Grand Turk. The sponge growth and fish population are spectacular. Divers can see Manta Rays in the summer, turtles year round and whales in the winter. The cathedral-like limestone caves on Middle Caicos are worth a visit. A guided tour will highlight the fascinating under water lakes, sculptured stalagmites and stalactites. The caves were once home to the original island settlers.
Once a month, after the full moon, Provos’ waters light up with Glow worms. These marine creatures sparkle during their mating ritual. Many companies offer cruise along the calm waters to watch this beautiful natural sight.
Grand Turk is the capital of Turks & Caicos and the financial centre of the islands. Visitors will find many old buildings and ruins to explore here including the fascinating, Turks & Caicos National Museum in Cockburn Town. The Grand Turk Lighthouse was brought from the UK in pieces in 1852. It has been restored, still works and is now protected by the National Trust. The Lighthouse provides an excellent viewing spot for the whales in February and March.
Humpback whales are seen around the islands of Grand Turk and Salt Cay during late January through early April. These majestic creatures pass through the area as part of their annual migration for mating and birth.
The only Conch Farm in the world is situated on Provo. Caribbean Queen conchs (konks) are raised from eggs to adult. Watch the process and enjoy a show with the two trained and very friendly conchs.
Visitors to Wades Green, North Caicos, can see the well preserved ruins of the Great House, the kitchen and the slave houses of the former Cotton Plantation. Caicos cotton was once believed to be the best in the world. Once a prime centre for the salt industry, tiny Salt Cay is a time capsule from the days “when salt was king”. Now declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, visitors can see the well preserved industry workings.
Rare birds and butterflies are found throughout the islands. As part of the national Parks system more than twelve small cays have been set aside and protected as breeding grounds. Visitors can visit with a permit.
Festivals & Events
Summerjam Grand Turk hosts a two day festival featuring live bands, dancing and beauty contests in June.
Provo’s week long Summer Festival in July includes regattas, parades, partying, and a Miss Turks & Caicos Beauty Pageant.
The Grand Turk Carnival is a week long festival in August with reggae and dancing.
Parrot Cay and Pine Cay are privately owned islands and are home to the most exclusive resorts Parrot Cay Resort and Spa and the Meridian Club.
Where to Stay
There are plenty of hotels on Provo, though most are at the top end in terms of price and quality. By far the most popular are the all-inclusives – like Beaches and Allegro, but there are several other excellent potions dotted along the north coast.
www. beaches .com
Beaches on Grace Bay: tel: +649 946 8000; is a superb all-inclusive resort, part of the impressive Sandals chain – is aimed at families, with top class facilities for entertaining Children, including a Pirate’s Island, a Sega arcade centre and their own restaurant and disco. Rooms are spacious, colourful and evenly distributed across a wide area, all within a short walk of the glorious beach and a number of pools. Water sports facilities are top notch, while the nine restaurants are all excellent, ranging from Italian and French to Caribbean and Japanese, some catering to adults only.
Prices from US$200 to over US$250.
Royal West Indies Resort on Grace Bay: tel: +649 946 5004: is an attractive, comfortable and very popular condo resort on a great stretch of beach, with well kept gardens and a huge pool.
Prices from US$200 to over US$250.
Sibonne on grace Bay: tel: +649 946 5547; is one of the best value options on the island, this small boutique hotel sits beside a magnificent stretch of white sand and houses the Bay Bistro, one of Provo’s finest restaurants. There are 27 rooms available here, all with air conditioning and there’s a small pool.
Prices from US$130-200.
Airport Inn on Airport Road: tel: + 649 941 3514; may be far from the beach, but staff here will kindly provide a free ride there. This is the cheapest hotel on Provo, with nineteen clean and tidy rooms with air conditioning. Some rooms have kitchenettes, all have cable TV, and there’s a local restaurant and bar on site. They also provide fifteen percent discount on car rental.
Prices from US$50-75.
Caribbean Paradise Inn on Grace Bay: tel: +649 946 50 20; is one of the cheapest options in the Grace Bay area and just five minute walk from the beach and right by the Ports of Call shopping area and restaurants. There are one hundred rooms, all with a king or two double beds, plus cable TV, a fridge, telephone and air conditioning.
Prices from US$75-100.
Turtle Cove Inn Resort: tel: + 649 946 4203; is a ten minute walk from the nearest decent beach, but a relaxed and reasonably priced little place near the marina and a couple of good restaurants. The friendly Tiki Bar is popular with locals and there’s a small shaded pool. Prices from US$75-100
The small groups of Turks Islands have just two inhabited islands Grand Turk, the home of government and tiny Salt Cay, with its population of under a hundred. Both places are quiet and quaint, showcasing attractive remnants of the colonial era, with great beaches and diving to keep you entertained during the day but little in the way of nightlife.
Arches of Grand Turk on Lighthouse Road: tel: +649 946 2941; offers four very comfortable air conditioned townhouse units, a short walk from the beach and great for families. Prices from US$160 200.
Osprey Beach Hotel on Front Street: tel: +649 946 1453; is a comfortable and tranquil little place right on the beach, with 16 tidy rooms, each with a patio or a balcony overlooking the sea. There’s a small restaurant a short walk form the main hotel and a tiny pool around which the owners hold occasional barbecues.
Prices from US$100-130
Turks Head Hotel on Front Street: tel: +649 946 2466; is one of Front Street’s many charming colonial buildings from 1840s. Business travellers and tourists are attracted to the attractively furnished rooms and period charm, all just a short walk from the beach. At quiet times it can feel rather soulless, but the bar is normally busy with locals in the evening and there’s a good restaurant on site.
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Windmills Plantation: tel: +649 946 6962; is fabulous and fabulously expensive. Built like a traditional Caribbean Plantation house. Wooden walkways connect the main house with its wooden verandas and gingerbread fretwork, to the other guest rooms, all furnished with superb antiques and custom designed furniture that includes four poster beds. The restaurant is top notch and the proprietors will arrange whatever activity you need. Prices over US$250.
Mount Pleasant Guest House: tel: +649 946 6927; is superb value, this timber beamed nineteenth century salt trader’s home on the great north cost beach has been catering mainly to divers for over a decade. There’s a comfortable lounge/library for guests and rooms are colourful and quiet. The restaurant and gazebo bar are the most popular on the island. Prices from US$75-160.
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Blue Horizon Resort on the Mudjin Harbour: tel: +649 946 6141; offers a handful of large and comfortable cottages perched on the hilltops above the harbour, with fine views over the coastline. It’s a fabulous relaxed place, a short walk from a superb beach, sometimes pounded by waves, at other times blissfully calm. Staff will organise snorkelling or hiking expeditions on request. Meals available by reservation.
Taylor’s Guesthouse Conch Bar: tel: +649 946 6161; is a good place for those on a tight budget, five minutes walk from the beach. The inexpensive rooms are clean and well kept in a large attractive wooden house, all with fans and TV. There’s also a small restaurant on site. Prices from GUS$50-75.
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Most of the hotels on North Caicos are scattered along the lovely sandy beaches of Whitby; the Bottle Creek Lodge is a delightful place on the other side of the island.
Bottle Creek: tel: +649 946 7080; is a comfortable eco-friendly accommodation in two cottages and an apartment, overlooking the turquoise creek that divides North from Middle Caicos. Not ideal for the beach, but a very relaxed place offering free sailboats and kayaks for Middle Caicos and nearby cays. The owners will also arrange expeditions around the island. Prices from US$160-200.
Prospect of Whitby: tel: +649 946 7119; is probably the nicest place to stay on the island, this is an Italian run all inclusive hotel on a fabulous beach with just 23 good sized and air conditioned rooms, it is excellent and scuba diving, windsurfing and tennis included with the package. Prices over US$250.
Pelican Beach Hotel in Whitby: tel: +649 946 7112; is a laidback and longstanding small hotel with excellent ocean views from the air conditioned upstairs rooms and unpretentious but comfortable furnishings and decoration. There’s a cosy bar and you can expect to find good local food at the roomy restaurant.
Prices from US$130-$160.
Wine & Dine
There are about 70 restaurants throughout the Turks & Caicos Islands offering local cuisine, seafood, conch, lobster, and other specialities and Caribbean dishes as well as a selection of restaurants offering more Mediterranean, Italian, British and American dishes.
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Grace’s Cottage in Point Grace Hotel on Grace Bay: tel: +649 946 5096; is a gorgeous little cottage with outdoor seating on a terrace, serving wonderful food with an emphasis on the freshest catch. Expect to find dishes like pumpkin and coconut soup or jerked wahoo and to pay around US$50-$60 for two courses.
Bay Bistro in Sibonne on Grace Bay: tel: +649 946 5396; is the perfect spot to sip a cocktail at the bar and watch a fabulous sunset before settling down in this easy going bistro. The fish and lobster are superb, whether marinated in ginger and soy or simply pan-fried on the grill. Beef or lamb are also available and the lemon crème brulée is not to be missed.
Coyaba in Coral Gardens Hotel: tel: +649 946 5186; serves fabulous food in a garden setting near the beach, with seafood specialities like tuna cerviche, fish chowder, fresh snapper with orange or spiny lobster with vanilla among the highlights.
Dora’s on Leeward Highway: tel: +649 946 4558; has been run by Dora for nearly 20 years. One of the best spots offering local food it serves excellent and relatively inexpensive fare from curried chicken, lobster and goat to beef stew and Creole snapper or grouper.
Banana Boat on Turtle Cove: tel: +649 941 5706; is a pleasant family friendly place at Turtle Cove marina, with a moderately priced range of fish and seafood platters, including excellent cracked conch and snapper or grouper in spicy Creole sauce.
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Calico Jacks in Turks Head Hotel on Front Street: tel: +649 946 2466; serves tasty food from an experimental and eclectic menu, covering everything from grilled lobster and fish and chips to spicy grouper and stone crab claws. Sit out doors under the tree at lunchtime but remember the bug spray.
Regal Beagle on Hospital Road: tel: +649 946 2274; is a shack like restaurant serving up tasty and inexpensive native lunches and dinners.
Water’s Edge on Front Street: tel: +649 946 1680: offers the best food on the island, served on a pier, poking out into the gorgeous waters off the west coast and usually busy at lunch and dinner. The well tended bar is often lively and the cracked conch, conch salad and grilled fish are a treat.
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You’ll do almost all of your eating and drinking at hotels and guesthouses, where prices are reasonable. The food at the Mount Pleasant restaurant is particularly good. You should also try the ‘One Down, One To Go Bar’: tel: +646 946 6901; in Balfour Town for a drink and a game of pool and some local colour.
Given the tiny population of the island (and the fact that most of it consists of either elderly people or children), there’s nowhere much to head to for a night out, other than a small bar in the evening to drink beer and play dominoes. Plan quiet nights in your hotel, guesthouse or villa and lay on beer from the grocery store in Conch Bar.
Club Titters in Bottle Creek: tel: +649 946 7316; is a local place that offers tasty and inexpensive dishes all day including grouper with rice and peas and cracked conch and there’s occasional live entertainment at weekends.
Papa grunt’s Seafood Restaurants in Whitby: tel: +649 946 7301; serves lots of local fish and conch, along with fried chicken and burgers. Most dishes cost US$6-$10. and international food at this hotel’s eatery, with plenty of fine grilled snapper and grouper, served with rice and peas, as well as ribeye steaks and lobster salad for US$15-$20.
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