Until a few years ago I didn’t even know about Turks and Caicos. Then some good friends of ours went there for vacation and came back quite happy. Then other good friends put in a good word about the place. So we decided to give it a try, and booked a few days at the Provo island during the Thanksgiving week.

Turks and Caicos Islands, often abbreviated as TCI, are a chain of islands in the West Indies, located to the East from Cuba, and to the North from the island of Hispaniola. TCI is a British Overseas Territory which is self governed, except when Great Britain temporarily takes over the control of the government due to a corruption scandal. Despite it being a part of the British world, the official currency is US dollar, and the power outlets are of the US type with 110 V. Given also that it’s only hour and a half flight from Miami, this makes TCI a perfect destination for US travelers.

tci-map

This year’s hurricanes hit the Caribbean hard. Turks and Caicos did get some damage too but it was not as bad as some other islands. The hotel we stayed in opened on the November 16, just 5 days before our arrival. We didn’t see much destruction around, at least not in the beach area, but we heard that some local towns did sustain some damage.

We stayed at one of the resorts at Grace Bay, on the north coast of the Providenciales island (usually called just Provo). We heard that Grace Bay Beach is considered one of the best beaches in the world but at first we couldn’t pinpoint what exactly was it that made it so special.

After a while though we realized that it was a super great beach indeed. It was not a single factor that made it so, but a combination or many.

First of all, this beach is wide, clean and uncrowded, with sand almost white with a touch of yellow.

Grace Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos Islands

The water is clear, transparent and of that beautiful turquoise color so coveted by the vacationeers. As one enters the water, the bottom is sandy, clear of rocks, shells and seaweeds.

Little Water Cay (Iguana Island), Turks and Caicos

There are no noisy streets, highways or unsightly buildings next to the beach. The beach hotels and resorts are unobtrusive.

Grace Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos Islands

Grace Bay Beach is a long unobstructed stretch of sand one could walk or run along for miles and miles.

Grace Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos Islands

There is an occasional abandoned pier here and there:

Seven Stars Resort, Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos Islands

Grace Bay is perfect for walking along the beach, stopping for an occasional swim or for a drink at one of many beach bars.

Seven Stars Resort, Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos Islands
Afternoon drinks at the beach bar at Seven Stars Resort, Grace Bay

If you want a more serious meal there are plenty of restaurants right there at the beach, where you can enter barefoot and in your wet swimwear.

Grace Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos Islands
A view from Bay Bistro at Grace Bay Beach

Now that I mentioned the food, it’s time to talk about local cuisine. The restaurants are in abundance and the food is overall great and diverse. The prices are on the high side. The wine lists are mostly short and not too fancy, the beer is almost invariably bottled, not on tap. The local brewery Turk’s Head offers a passable Amber and Lager in bottles.

The highlight of the local culinary scene (as well as the main article of local export) is conch – i,e. mid to large size sea snail that with a fancy shell. Conch goes into all kinds of meals: conch chowder (replacement for clam chowder), conch cakes (similar to crab cakes), conch empanadas, tapas, you name it. Raw conch is great ingredient for a salad, but only if it is fresh caught.

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Conch shells in front of a store

There is a lot of local fish in the menus, and it is mostly good. Most places have fresh catch of the day in the menu, but unfortunately sometimes they serve a fish that tastes like it was previously frozen under the name of fresh catch.

The most popular beach entertainment is probably paragliding. You’ll see an occasional boat cruising 150-200 yards from the beach with paragliding written in large letters on the board. If it is not towing a client at the time you can just waive your hands and they will pick you up.

Grace Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos Islands

Sailboats (usually tiny catamarans) are offered for hourly rent by hotels and independent companies right there on the beach.

Grace Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos Islands

At any time is is easy to find a boat that will take you snorkeling, or fishing, or just sightseeing.

Grace Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos Islands

Grace Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos Islands

The nice thing about the climate on these islands is that both air and water are fairly warm at any time of day or night, at least in late November. Swimming at sunset or at 7am can be as enjoyable as at noon.

Grace Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos Islands
Sunset at Point Grace, Grace Bay
Grace Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos Islands
Sunset at Seven Stars, Grace Bay
Grace Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos Islands
Grace Bay Beach at dawn

 

Another great advantage of Grace Bay Beach is that is has its own barrier coral reef which acts as a dampener for the incoming waves and also serves as a snorkeling destination.

It can get cloudy at any time of day without becoming cold or windy or causing any discomfort (unless it’s a storm during the hurricane season).

Seven Stars Resort, Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos Islands

Grace Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos Islands

Apart from the beach, local residential areas are either non-descript single family home suburbias, or luxury villas hiddens behind fences and acres of land. There is a small commercial urban area at Grace Bay, sometimes called Grace Bay Downtown, with many souvenir/beach shops and quite a few decent restaurants.

Grace Bay Downtown, Turks and Caicos Islands
A plaza with a fountain in Grace Bay Downtown

On one day we signed up for a group tour on a boat that first took us snorkeling up to the barrier reef, and then to the Iguana Island, which is a stripe of sand about 300m wide and a couple of miles long with yet more fantastic beaches and plenty of iguanas.

Sailing around the Cays, Turks and Caicos Islands
On the snorkeling tour
Iguanas at Iguana Island

On another day we took the local ferry boat to the North Caicos Island.

Turks and Caicos Ferry Pier, Turks and Caicos Islands
Turks and Caicos Ferry

After a smooth half an our ride we found ourselves at an island that looked almost deserted compared to the resort island of Providenciales. The population of North Caicos is probably a few hundred people, and local villages look all but abandoned.

A Store in Whitby, North Caicos Island
A store/restaurant in Whitby, North Caicos Island

The beaches on North Caicos look as great as on Provo island, only there are no resorts at there for some reason:

Beach on the North Caicos Island

Beach on the North Caicos Island

It turns out that most of the local population migrated to the Provo Island where the jobs and the money are.

We then drove down a long man-made causeway that connects North Caicos to Middle Caicos Island. Our first stop was so called Conch Cave located in the jungle away from the beach. The jungle looked quite messy and unwelcoming, and swarmed with bloodthirsty mosquitoes. Luckily the caretaker of the cave gave us some mosquito repellent.

Conch Cave on Middle Caicos Island
The jungle at the Conch Cave

The cave itself is very vast – its tunnels go miles and miles in all directions, but the part that is open to the visitors can be covered in 20 minutes. I don’t know why is it called Conch Cave. It is full of bats, and for many decades back in the 19th century is was a major source of bat guano in the Caribbean.

Mudjin Bar and Grill not far from the Conch Cave offers a nice selection of seafood (I loved their fish and chips, also ask if they have the conch among the specials), as well as great views and a few trails, some of which provide the beach access right across a small rocky island called Dragon Cay. This is one of few parts of the whole archipelago that features hills and tall rocks.

Beach at Dragon Cay, Middle Caicos Island
Mudjin Bar, Middle Caicos Island
Beach at Dragon Cay, Middle Caicos Island
Rocks around Mudjin Bar, Middle Caicos island
Beach at Dragon Cay, Middle Caicos Island
Dragon Cay and surf at Mudjin Bar, Middle Caicos Island

Where to Stay

Stay anywhere in the Grace Bay, that is on the north coast of the Providenciales Island anywhere between Turtle Cove and Tuscany Resort. There are many hotels and resorts for all tastes and budgets in Grace Bay.

Dining

On the beach:

Seven Stars Resort on Grace Bay beach offers a great beach bar with some nice seafood selection (try seafood tacos).

Bay Bistro at Sibonné Beach Hotel located to the West from Point Grace – nice setting either for lunch or dinner, try their conch chowder.

Off the beach:

Provence cafe, restaurant and bakery located at La Vele Plaza in Grace Bay, features French and Italian influence and is an excellent choice for a casual lunch or dinner.

Grace’s Cottage is one of the best places for fine dining in Provo. It is a separate cottage located at the Point Grace Resort in Grace Bay. A charming setting, excellent menu and bar, and great service. Good both for casual and formal occasions.

 

2 comments

  1. I’ve been to TCI twice and have loved it both times! I’ve only ever been to Provo, but I saw all the places we both went to like Iguana Island and Bay Bistro and it felt like I was back there again. Great pictures by the way. What camera do you use?

    Like

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