Last year, September 26 - October 10, 2015 I planned my dream vacation to Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) and wanted to share my experience with you guys (and maybe a few helpful tips!)
How could I resist Turks and Caicos?! The island of Providenciales (Provo) was rated the #1 Island in the world for 2015 (currently #3 for 2016) and Grace Bay Beach is the #1 Beach in the world for 2016 (these are from Tripadvisor!)
Before I get started here are a few quick things to know:
- Turk and Caicos is a British Overseas Territory, making it really easy to travel to - most travelers will not require any visa, just a valid passport. (You can go here for a quick breakdown of travel requirements).
- There are 40 islands and cays - only 8 are inhabited (I visited 3 of them!) All international flights go Provo, and all cruise ships go to Grand Turk. There are short flights available between some islands, and ferrys between others (if you are planning on island hopping, make sure you know the trasportation to the island you are going to and book ahead!)
- TCI uses the U.S. dollar
- The official language is English
- If you are driving there, they drive on left hand side of the road!
- TCI is just east of Cuba and North of the Dominican - it is actually in the Atlantic Ocean, not the Caribbean Sea
Part 1 - Providenciales (Day 1 to Day 4)
We flew from Calgary to Toronto, then Toronto to Provo - it is about a 4 hour flight to Provo from Toronto!
The sight coming in from the air is amazing - I have never been to the Caribbean before and have never seen water so beautiful!
Arriving in Provo was easy - everything is very western so customs, baggage, taxis are all really easy to navigate!
We stayed at the Windsong Resort, this is on the furthest west side of Grace Bay Beach, closer to what they call Lower Bight Beach (in between Beaches and the Gansevoort). It is a little off the main part of Grace Bay Beach, making it a quieter location.
It's gorgeous here - I really liked this hotel. We just stayed in a Standard Suite and the beds were comfy! We thought the staff were friendly and we were greeted with some rum punch as we arrived! There are a couple of reasons why I selected the Windsong Resort: the price was very reasonable, it was in a quieter location, has a reef to snorkel directly outside, and they are one of the only hotels to include a breakfast in the price. It may have a bit smaller beach front than some hotels, but the beach was still gorgeous and it never felt crowded at all!
We thought the food at the Windsong was good and we usually booked early so we could have a table overlooking the water for dinner (which is one of the best locations on this beach)! They usually have themed dinner night (jerk dinner night was amazing) and we ate most of our lunches in the restaurant (JoJo's).
The table overlooking the be is also a prime location for sunset watching - you look in the perfect direction and there is nothing in your way. It was amazing to have dinner this way almost every night! I found a few other places we went to did not quite offer the same view of the sunset at all!
I am a natural planner and tend to pack full vacations when I plan them; but, for TCI I really didn't want to over-plan this vacation! It was our honeymoon so we really wanted to relax and unwind after a crazy wedding planning year!
We enjoyed plenty of time on the beach - seriously, if you are going to TCI make sure to take time to spend on the beach. Grace Bay Beach is continuously the top rated beach in the world for a reason. The water is pristine and clear and the sand is perfect! Enjoy!
We did do lots of snorkelling! One of the best parts about the location of our hotel was that the Coral Gardens Reef was literally steps from our hotel and not far off from the shore at all! We saw lots of fish and a barracuda - but there have been plenty of ray and turtle sightings here too! We snorkelled around this reef very often!
We toured around the Conch Farm and enjoyed being a tourist for the day! The Conch Farm is interesting and you get to see Conch through all their life stages.
We did a little shopping and touring around, but not much as I wasn't really there for shopping and it was the low season so a few places were closed. Although, make sure you pick up some local rum, Bambarra - specifically the coconut kind is delicious!
We did take a walk up the beach one night for a dinner at Hemmingway's restaurant, which is located at The Sands hotel! The walk was beautiful and the food there was really good - I had a lobster dinner that was amazing!
Now some of the late night beach walks can lead to sand flies and bugs - make sure to bring bug spray with you! It is quite expensive in TCI and you will have to pay inflated prices if you forget (I also made that mistake with Advil).
Also, make sure wherever you are dining, you need to try eating some Conch - it is the local food and is prepared in so many ways! We had jerk conch (on jerk dinner night), conch fritters, conch ceviche, etc. It is a must try!
We had to do a snorkel tour while were we in TCI - these islands are on the 3rd largest reef in the world so they were a must see to me! We booked the morning 1/2 day snorkel tour with Island Vibes and it was amazing! The day generally consists of snorkelling, visiting a uninhabited island for lunch of fresh conch ceviche, and a little party time on the diving board and water slide! They also offer an open bar with delicious rum punch, beer and more!
The water was quite rough on the day we went on our tour (there was a storm brewing) and we could not go out to the reef to snorkel where they normally do, so we toured around the bay and were brought to the south side of the island where the water was calmer. There is actually a ship that was stuck on the Caicos bank (which is a large area of shallow water) after Hurricane Katrina. It was a beautiful snorkel site and the water was nice and clear (a few people on our boat saw a reef shark as well while we were out there - thank goodness I did not!)
After snorkelling, the tour brought us to Halfmoon Bay (a gorgeous uninhabited area - it is actually a sand bar between 2 cays), where they showed how to open a conch and made a conch ceviche salad for lunch! We had some time to walk around and enjoy the beautiful water out here as well! After that, they got us back on the boat and parked it in a quiet inlet - the music gets turned up and the tour guides get everyone to have some fun! The boat has a diving board and slide from the top deck which is a lot of fun!
When I was planning our trip to TCI, we were actually initially planning on kayaking out to Halfmoon Bay, as it was on my TCI wish list, but the people looked at us like we crazy and explained that the current can get really strong and we may not be able to get back! This trip with Island Vibes was a much better way to see it and was a really great day!
After these first 4 days of our vacation on Provo, we move on to the island of Grand Turk - the capital island!
Now, we do return to Provo for the last 3 days of our vacation, but there wasn't enough time to do everything on my Provo "wish list"! Here are a few other things I was hoping to do while on this island:
- I wanted to JoJo the dolphin! JoJo is actually a wild dolphin that has been in Grace Bay since the 1980's! He is often spotted in the area near our hotel; however, there are no planned encounters and he isn't to be touched but he would be cool to see!
- Attend the Thursday Night Fish Fry - this happens at the Bight Park (very close to the Windsong resort) and it is a weekly event that brings a lot of locals and tourists together! Lots of local food and cultural performers all come together for a very festive evening! We were not here on a Thursday to attend or we would have been there!
- Road trip to North and Middle Caicos! This was high on my list, but with the time of year we traveled at, a lot would have been closed. You have to rent a car, catch the ferry to North Caicos, and then when you have explored that island their is a road that connects North and Middle Caicos. (you can also book tours that take if the transportation). It sounds like both islands are very different - it is much more lush and rocky with beautiful coastlines and caves!
- There were lots of amazing sounding restaurants on Provo that I really wanted to eat at, but didn't get the chance - Coco Bistro (rated #1 restaurant but was not close to where we were staying), Da Conch Shack (looked amazing - but was closed seasonally), Grace's Cottage (looks like a beautiful place), and Somewhere Cafe (right beside where we were staying, but again closed)
- Go to Amanyara, have a really expensive Mojito (apparently the best!) and watch the sunset. The Amanyara is not on Grace Bay, but is on the Western tip of Provo giving it the best sunset views. This is a super exclusive hotel and you can't just show up (you need to make reservations), and there have been many celebrity sightings here. Anyways I thought it might be kind of fun, but too far out of the way for us!
- Go scuba diving! The reefs around TCI are the 3rd largest in the world and offers some amazing dives - especially off of Grand Turk and different islands! If you have wanted to try diving, here is a great place to try (I'm actually a little too scared for diving!)