Featured on airmiles.ca, October 2015.
How to be a traveler not a tourist in these idyllic islands.
The holiday begins midair, with that first glimpse of neon turquoise. Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI), located south of the Bahamas and east of Cuba, are famous for those azure tones – providing the perfect contrast to powdery white sand beaches.
Here, it’s like you’re swimming in a cloudless sky.
Easy and affordable for North Americans to fly to, TCI are a luxury destination once you arrive – thanks to the cost of importing virtually everything to this island oasis.
But don’t let that deter you. These islands were mostly undeveloped until the 1980s, and now offer a tranquility – and a feeling of remoteness – that you can’t find in more populated Caribbean destinations. Providenciales (or Provo, as they say here) is the main island, with its world famous 12-mile long Grace Bay Beach. And other islands like Salt Cay, and Middle and North Caicos (only a half-hour ferry ride away), seem even more removed from life as we know it.
Where to Stay
Many accommodations here are low-rise luxury condominiums, often with full kitchens, balconies and living rooms, with amenities like pools, fitness centre and WiFi. Two standouts on Grace Bay are Alexandra Resort, which is perfect for families, and Beach House Turks & Caicos – a romantic 21-suite boutique resort that’s ideal for couples.
You can also rent private villas quite reasonably in Chalk Sound, Turtle Cove, Sapodilla, Taylor or Long Bay – but you will need a rental car, as taxis are pricy.
What to Eat
If you have a kitchen, buying groceries for breakfast and lunch can be a good way to economize. Provo has an IGA, a more upscale Graceway Gourmet, and a low-budget Quality Supermarket near the airport.
Provo’s weekly Thursday night Fish Fry is crowdy and noisy – and super fun! Sample conch in all its forms and other island delicacies from local vendors. Then grab a Turks Head beer and watch a traditional Junkanoo, a parade with dancing, costumes, drumming and other handmade instruments.
Some local foodie favourites are Bugaloo’s Conch Crawl, da Conch Shack, Mr. Grouper’s Restaurant and Island Scoop (for local ice cream). If you want to splurge, try Stelle Restaurant at the Gansevoort.
What to Do
With the third largest coral reef in the world, snorkelling and scuba diving are top-notch here. Caicos Dream Tours offers a half-day snorkel and conch cruise where you can explore an uninhabited beach, get up close and personal with parrot fish, and take home your own freshly caught conch shell – but only after eating its insides in a delicious ceviche.
Silly Creek Water Sports is a Canadian-owned tour operator that can tailor four- or six-hour private excursions to visit the less travelled parts of south Provo: climb through a pirate’s cave and check out carvings from the 1800s; feed broccoli to rock iguanas; and savour a conch lunch on your own private beach.
To learn more about the area’s favourite seafood, visit the Caicos Conch Farm, the only commercial conch farm in the world. They also stock their waters with various species of warm-water fin fish and will happily showcase them on your visit too.
For more information about Turks and Caicos, click here.