Complete Turks and Caicos Guide
Paradise is a term that is widely overused, but I’m going to use it here – if you’re looking for paradise then do yourself a favor and head to Turks and Caicos. The water is as every bit electric turquoise blue as you see in the photos, the sand pristine white, and the sunsets picture-perfect.
About Turks and Caicos
What makes Turks and Caicos particularly ideal, especially with people who live on the eastern boarder of the United States, is just how easy it is. A 3-hour direct flight from New York (less than 2 hours from Miami), and you’re transported to a tropical oasis that looks and feels more like Fantasy Island than a place just a few hours from the U.S. The currency is the dollar, the people super-friendly, the language English, and the hotels all in the same general area on Grace Bay, making it a very easy island to navigate.
Grace Bay is typically the beach most people go to when they go to Turks and Caicos. It’s located on the island of Providenciales (known as Provo), which is the main island and the one, for the most part, people visit. Turks and Caicos is a group of about 40 islands and is a British Oversea Territory. It has the third largest coral reef system in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Belize barrier reef, making it a huge draw for drivers and snorkelers.
I recently went to Turks and Caicos with my two girls and some friends of ours, and everything about our stay was seamless. From the moment we stepped off the plane, the relaxing island vibe took over…from the very nice taxi driver to the rum punches awaiting us at check-in to the incredible setting on Grace Bay – consistently voted as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world – all worries seemed to disappear into oblivion.
It’s the general ease of Turks and Caicos that makes it so appealing (especially for Americans) – being able to use the U.S. dollar and not having to translate a language goes a long way . Yes, it may not be as exotic or as culture-filled as other islands, but when your main objective is to simply get away from it all and relax on a Caribbean beach in a gorgeous setting with an umbrella cocktail in hand, does it really matter? That’s the allure of Turks and Caicos. For a pure beach escape where you don’t have to put much effort into anything, Turks checks all the boxes.
About Hotels (the Ocean Club)
We arrived to our hotel – the Ocean Club – and were immediately put at ease. Located on Grace Bay and one of the last hotels down the beach, which we liked, it almost felt like we had our own little corner of the island. There are dozens of upscale hotels dotting the shores of Grace Bay, however. Whether you want an all-inclusive such as the wildly popular – and pricey – Beaches, or a smaller boutique hotel, Grace Bay has it. We opted for the more laid-back and less-expensive route, where we stayed at the Ocean Club. We loved it! There was nothing about this hotel I didn’t love and while there may have been no kids club (something we didn’t want or need) or extra frills, its setting on Grace Bay is as close to perfection as they come.
The Ocean Club has great beach appeal and is lined with light pink beach umbrellas and lounge chairs, and with a reggae music bar right behind it overlooking the water. The atmosphere is very chill, but the service excellent (most of the time). One thing I want to point out is the food – it was delicious. So much so that we ate the majority of our meals right there at our hotel beach bar and restaurant (the Cabana Bar and Grill), with amazing views of the beach and turquoise waters. Why ditch a good thing?
Typical plates included quesadillas, guac and chips, tacos, Asian chicken lettuce wraps, salads, curries, flatbread pizzas and more. It was very good. And the prices were totally reasonable. I had read so much information about how overpriced Turks and Caicos is – well, not at Ocean Club. Prices were on point and did not break the bank. The drinks were great too, and the bar scene fun.
During the day, we lounged on the beach chairs, or by one of its two pools, while the kids splashed in the water. We also did a lot of stand up paddle boarding, as it was complimentary at the hotel. I believe a lot of hotels offer free paddle board service, which is great. The calm, clear water is perfect for SUP, and we couldn’t get enough of it. In the afternoon cocktail hour would begin with one of the many tropical drinks offered at the bar, and end with sunset drinks. The setting was really ideal.
Activities and Things to do in Turks and Caicos
We pretty much wanted to have as relaxing a vacation as possible, but I’m someone who can’t go through a period of time without exercising. Grace Bay beach is perfect for long beach walks, and you can check out the various hotels along the way. Just make sure to go in the morning or evening when it’s less hot. Every morning I ran into town on the main road, and it was just a 10/15 minute run into town. There is a sidewalk on the main road, and I always passed by other joggers as well, so it is safe. There were bicycles available too, if you prefer to take a bike. I believe most hotels offer bicycles. Getting around Grace Bay is very easy.
There are so many other activities to do on Turks and Caicos as well, one of them being diving and snorkeling. Turks has an amazing coral reef system, and should be taken advantage of! I’m not a diver, but we did do some snorkeling. The ideal way to snorkel is to take a full or half day boat trip that you can book through your hotel. If your hotel does not offer this, there are several companies you can call. Silver Deep is one of them or check out this website. But the great thing about the boat trip is you’re guaranteed to go to the best spots around the island for snorkeling.
We, however, did not take a boat ride. I have one girl who wanted to and one who didn’t, so we compromised. We spoke to the hotel and asked them the best way to snorkel on island without having to go far, and they recommended heading to Coral Gardens, down the beach. It’s about a 15 minute drive (we took a taxi), and rented our gear at Dive Provo along the way. This is a pretty part of the island where you can go snorkeling along a reef right from the beach, so very convenient. It probably doesn’t have what the boat ride reefs have, but we did see a giant sea turtle and amazing looking fish, among other things. The girls were happy. So if you are in our same boat, no pun intended, consider Coral Gardens as an option. It was very easy and less costly too.
Of course, Turks and Caicos runs the gamut with all of its other water sports activities – there is kayaking, parasailing, windsurfing, tubing, jet skiing, whatever water sport you want to do it has. Ask your hotel to set you up, otherwise check out this website to help you.
Restaurants and Nightlife
Turks and Caicos is a pretty quiet island, but there are some great restaurant options.
Coco Bistro is very popular with a wonderful tropical garden, as is Somewhere Café, a Mexican beach shack in Coral Gardens. Da Conch Shack is apparently all the rage, and Boogaloos very popular as well.
Thursday Night Island Fish Fry has become a huge thing on island, with both locals and tourists attending. If you want a taste of local culture, this is the place to go. Every Thursday from 5:30 – 9:30 at Bight Park there are food vendors, entertainment, music bands and people hanging out.
Need to Know
Taxis are very expensive! They are priced per person, so if you’re like me sharing a taxi with another group, it didn’t matter.
Should you rent a car? I think that depends on where and how long you are staying. If you’re staying at an all-inclusive, then it’s not necessary. But if you’re not, and want to explore the island and go out to restaurants it’s definitely something to think about. We were there for four nights, which I did not think warranted a car rental. However, if we had stayed a week, I think it would definitely be the economical way to go. Taxis are very, very expensive.
Note cars drive on the left side! This is a British territory after all.
The water is fine to drink, but doesn’t taste that great so you will probably want to purchase water.
There is a main grocery store in town with an ATM next to it at a local bank. This was the only ATM so try to bring enough cash with you ahead of time.
I think I covered most everything. If you have any questions about anything else, please leave them in the comments below. Turks and Caicos is truly a stunning island and makes for the perfect couples, family or friends vacation.