A Caribbean Paradise: Turks & Caicos

24 03 2008

When I was thinking about what to write about my visit to the gorgeous Turks & Caicos Islands, I was seriously worried that I would come across like a commercial. How can you say anything bad about a chain of islands in the Caribbean with the most beautiful uncrowded beaches and the most turquoise blue waters you have ever seen?

Half Moon Bay

Beautiful Half Moon Bay is located on an uninhabited island and was created by a hurricane. It is reachable only by boat.

Turks & Caicos

You do not need to adjust the settings on your monitor. This is how blue the water really is in Turks & Caicos.

The Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI) are a chain of islands just southeast of the Bahamas and about 500 miles from Miami, Florida. A British Overseas Territory, Turks & Caicos is part of the British West Indies.  Automobiles are driven on the left here, but the U.S. dollar is the official currency.  Although it cannot be verified, many believe these islands represented the first landfall for Christopher Columbus on his famous sea voyage. These islands were also used by pirates, although they probably didn’t look like Johnny Depp.

Grace Bay

Grace Bay

Most of the resorts line the stretch of Grace Bay Beach on Providenciales (Provo), the island with the largest population. Only about half of the main 8 islands are inhabited and there are more than 20 other small islands in this chain. There are resorts from every price range on Grace Bay, but by and large the beaches are still relatively uncrowded compared to other Caribbean islands.

Dive for Conch

The home of the Queen Conch. You will literally trip over conch every 3 feet in these shallow warm waters off Provo.

Turks and Caicos’ natural resources include the spiny lobster, conch, and other shellfish. Although conch are considered an endangered species in many places around the world, these creatures are farmed on Turks & Caicos. This is one of the only places in the world that exports conch. You may bring up to 3 conch or conch derived products out of Turks & Caicos with a free permit from the department of the environment.

Conch Shell

Conch Shell

My freshly harvested conch. It must be larger than 7 inches across. We literally picked it out of the ocean.

Half Moon Bay

Our boat tour with Caicos Dream Tours consisted of snorkeling at the barrier reef, diving for conch, and having fresh conch salad prepared from the conch we caught while we explored the deserted beach of Half Moon Bay. Many boat operators in TCI do a version of this tour. It was a lovely morning in paradise.

Conch Salad
Conch salad (similar to ceviche) is a must-eat. This bowl is from da famous Da Conch Shack.

Turks & Caicos is well known among scuba divers. The barrier reef off TCI is the third largest in the world after Australia and Belize. There are a myriad of activities to do. Besides sitting on the gorgeous beaches, you can snorkel, snuba, sail, water ski, banana boat, explore sea caves, go on a pirate tour, or just worship the sun.

Grace Bay

I can really only find one downside for Turks & Caicos, and that is the expense of the food. Since everything needs to be imported onto this desert isle, groceries are expensive. The existence of several top notch gourmet restaurants also means dinners are expensive. Fortunately, since many resorts on TCI are actually condos, you can save a lot of money by using the kitchen provided for meals. While there is a great IGA supermarket on Provo, it is also expensive so we packed lots of snacks, which saved some money.

Grace Bay

We maximized our beach time on our visit to Grace Bay.

All in all, we found Turks & Caicos to have just the right mix of pristine beaches that are not too crowded (Grace Bay is comparable to Eagle Beach in Aruba), fun water activities, friendly locals, good seafood, solid tourist infrastructure, and good public safety.  In many respects, it’s similar to Aruba based on our experience.

We stayed at the Royal West Indies on Grace Bay, a condo resort that we recommend. Review to follow!




6 responses

6 04 2008

Wonderful account and amazing photos of TCI. My wife and I are going in 2 weeks and having read your post feel even more excited about our trip. Thank you for sharing your experience. I will be cheking the rest of your blog after writing this. The funny thing too, is that we were reading down the page and looking at your photos and the last part says where you stayed–the Royal West Indies–that’s where we booked… Hopefully we will have as wonderful an experience as you had. Thanks again!

6 04 2008

Thanks for your comments, Danny. We really enjoyed our stay in TCI. The RWI was great! I am planning to post a review, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I will tell you that the rooms were nice, and the beach the best! I would check the reviews of RWI on tripadvisor.com – they have very good suggestions. Some of the tips I can think of off the top of my head are 1) if you want an umbrella for the beach, claim your loungers by 9 AM at the latest with towels and a book 2) you don’t need to bring detergent or utensils since they are provided 3) water at the IGA supermarket is cheap if you get the TCI water and 4) everything else at the IGA is expensive. Have fun!

3 06 2008

Just found your blog… we live here and have been here now for 5 years.. you have taken some lovely pictures…how lovely to hear such super comments. I hope you come back and keep spreading the word! It really is a special place – as they say, pictures really do tell the story……

19 09 2009

OK Lets get one thing streight. Aruba water is completly different it is not comparable at all Aruba water is not as clear -color is not pretty there is a steep incline making it very hard to get out of the water. Look at it this way if turks and caicos water on grace bay is a ten then Aruba beach is a 3 see Big difference
I would like someone to compare grace bay to other beaches in the carribean like grand anse in granada and all the out -beaches including christopher columbus island beach -exuma- harbor island -have you found any nicer beach then grace bay .grand cayman has alot of rocks and small eels that attack your feet – does not compare to grace bay

31 08 2010
Caicos Eagle

Provo is by far the best of the best beach and while Aruba is nice, there really is no comparison. What most people fail to do when visiting the Turks & Caicos is to explore the out islands which are now readily accessible by ferry. Day trips to explore Middle and North Caicos are just what are needed to break up the monotony of Provo which is in my opinion lifeless. Bring your snorkeling gear and see what the T & C are really about.

Middle Caicos Tours are available because of the Causeway that now links these two large and magnificent islands. Come and enjoy the friendliest people in the Caribbean… Mudjin Harbor on Middle Caicos is the most photographed beach in the entire Turks and caicos Islands. Ben Affleck got mrried on Parrot Cay but took the majority of his wedding pics at Mudjin Harbor…

9 08 2012
caicos wheels

Beautiful islands. Whoever visits them once, will visit again

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