How to Pack a Week into a Weekend in Turks and Caicos
Pristine white sand beaches, stunningly clear turquoise water, fantastic diving, and a laid-back vibe bring visitors to this archipelago just south of the Bahamas in the tropic Atlantic. The Turks and Caicos feel like they are off-the-beaten-path compared to more popular tropical destinations, but visitors can get here easily. It’s less than a 2-hour flight from Miami, a 3.5-hour flight from New York, or a 3-hour flight from Atlanta. Diving, boating, fishing, kiteboarding, paddleboarding, kayaking, and parasailing are just a few of the activities you can enjoy in these warm waters. The islands are a British Overseas Territory with a stable government, low crime rate, safe water, no vaccinations needed, and an English-speaking population, making it easy to relax and enjoy a stress-free vacation.
As soon as your flight lands in Providenciales (the nation’s largest island), rent a car or take a taxi to Da Conch Shack. This lively open-air, beachfront spot serves some of the island’s best conch, rum drinks, local seafood, and jerk chicken. As you dine under the waving palms, you can see the conch pens right offshore. Once you’ve enjoyed some delicious fare, drop your bags at your hotel and meet up with Clear Bottom Adventures. Paddle out for a two-hour sunset LED Glow Tour aboard a crystal-clear kayak. The kayaks are equipped with LED lights so you can see the fantastic underwater kaleidoscope of colors as tropical fish and coral reefs glide beneath you.
Freshen up at your hotel and head to Coco Bistro for dinner, one of the top fine dining establishments here. You’ll dine under the stars amid the island’s largest palm tree grove. The menu features continental dishes with a Caribbean flair such as Pepper Crusted Rare Local Tuna, Grilled South Caicos Lobster Tail, and West Indian Style Shrimp Curry. Stop by the Sandbar for an after-dinner drink as a DJ spins tunes for a relaxed island vibe. Some of the restaurants and resorts along the beach have live music — you can check the schedule here.
The world’s third-largest barrier reef borders this island nation made up of 41 islands and cays. Although some of the reefs are right off the beach, the best way to experience them and explore as much of the archipelago as possible is by boat. With Big Blue Collective, embark on a half-day private charter from 8 am to noon. Your trip is customizable. For example, if you want to spend more time snorkeling and less time on the beach, your captain will accommodate your wishes. You can visit fascinating ruins and dramatic caves or visit Little Water Cay, aka Iguana Island, to see native rock iguanas.
After you’ve snorkeled and explored, you likely have built up a pretty good appetite. There’s no better place to satiate your hunger than at Bugaloo’s. You don’t even need to change out of your swimsuit as Bugaloo’s has tables in the shallow water just off its beach. If you need some shade, you’ll find plenty of tables under fluttering palms or on the covered patios. As you savor conch, fish, lobster, and shrimp prepared a variety of ways, live island-style entertainment will have your toes tapping in the sand.
After lunch, it’s well worth it to take a scenic drive along Chalk Sound National Park, an incredible shallow turquoise lagoon dotted with tiny islets not far from Bugaloo’s. Motorized boats are not permitted, so the best way to explore the lagoon is by kayak or standup paddleboard. If you have the energy, you can rent kayaks or paddleboards from Las Brisas, a restaurant at Neptune Villas. If lounging on the beach sounds more appealing, stop by Sapodilla Beach on your way back from Chalk Sound. The water tends to be calm and even warmer than at other beaches due to its western sun exposure. One of the other attractive features of Sapodilla Beach is its white, very fine sand, unlike the coral and shell-based sand found on most other Turks’ beaches. There’s minimal shade, so if you plan to spend much time here, be sure to reapply sunscreen. You can climb nearby Sapodilla Hill for expansive views of the ocean and coastline.
Once you’ve cleaned up for dinner, enjoy sundowner cocktails overlooking the ocean at The Deck, a gorgeous open-air, palm-tree filled bar with comfortable lounge chairs at the Seven Stars Resort & Spa. If you’re up for a more casual, lively sunset happy hour, head to the Somewhere Café & Lounge, where they often have DJs and live music right on the beach. For dinner, the Infiniti Restaurant & Raw Bar is sure to please — the exquisite location overlooking the ocean and woven basket lights hanging from palms create a delightful ambiance. The Infiniti earns its reputation for being one of the island’s best gourmet restaurants due to its fresh ingredients and modern presentations.
The best part is once you finish dinner, walk outside to the Infiniti’s remarkable 90-foot bar that stretches across the property out to the beach, where you can sip an after-dinner cocktail. If you’re in the mood for something more ambitious after dinner, walk over to Danny Buoy’s, an air-conditioned Irish pub-sports bar where a DJ will be spinning tunes. Or you can try your luck at Casablanca Casino, a modest operation with 85 slots and several gaming tables.
The Turks and Caicos is a world-famous kiteboarding destination, so if you want to try this adrenaline-loaded sport, you’re in the right place. The whole south side of Providenciales is a kiteboarder’s dream come true, thanks to its steady northeast trade winds, empty beaches, and shallow, calm water. In your two-hour private lesson with a certified instructor, you’ll learn how to get started in this addictive sport with Big Blue Collective.
If one more chance to snorkel (or just relaxing on the beach) sounds better than kiteboarding, look no further than Coral Garden’s reef just east of Grace Bay. A well-marked snorkel trail is just offshore from the Coral Gardens Resort, where you’re likely to see sea turtles, plenty of tropical fish, healthy coral, and maybe even a barracuda. Keep an eye out for Jammin’ Gelato, an ice cream cart with incredibly delicious, original flavors that frequents the area.
If you have time, get your last taste of fresh Caribbean cuisine at Mr. Grouper’s, renowned for its authentic, exquisite island cuisine. Be sure to try their award-winning conch chowder. They have two locations, so if you’re short on time, visit the one close to the airport where you can see the airport runway.
Turks and Caicos Travel Tips
You’ll find no shortage of accommodations here ranging from moderate hotels to luxury resorts to condos to magnificent oceanfront villas. If you only have a few days, your best bet is to stay in one of the many hotels scattered along Grace Bay Beach. This is where most of the restaurants, shops, and activities are located. For five-star luxury, check out beachfront Grace Bay Club, which offers accommodations ranging from five-bedroom villas to suites to hotel rooms, plus loads of amenities. Seven Stars Resort & Spa is another good four-star choice with multiple room types and plenty of amenities. If you’re looking for a comfortable, convenient place to base your activity-filled weekend out of, consider the affordable Sibonne Beach Hotel. It’s right on Grace Bay Beach and has an onsite restaurant and a pool.
Getting around Providenciales is relatively easy as most roads are in good shape, so if you plan to explore beyond the Grace Bay resort area, rent a car. Taxis are widely available in the Grace Bay Resort area and around popular restaurants. Many drivers will give you their card so you can call them for a return pick up if you’re somewhere taxis aren’t likely to be. The government sets taxi rates, but some don’t have functioning meters. It’s best to agree on a rate before you get in. Some activity vendors offer free roundtrip transportation, so ask when you make reservations.
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