Quick Guide to Turks and Caicos
I just got back from a week long trip to Providenciales and it was the most relaxing vacation I've had in I can't remember how long. I'm working on several articles, but in this one I want to just outlines some of the basics. I'm also taking this opportunity to share some of the photos I captured from the island. Check out our Turks and Caicos restaurant guide here.
Not Your Ordinary Destination
If you ask many people to locate Turks and Caicos on a world map they may have trouble pointing it out. The Turks and Caicos Islands, also known as the British West Indies, is located southeast of the Bahamas, northwest of Puerto Rico and about 550 miles southeast of Miami, Florida. The small island nation is made of up 40 islands, most of which are uninhabited. The country's main international airport is Providenciales (PLS) and is located on the nation's most populated island Providenciales. If you've been on a cruise in the caribbean and stopped in Turks and Caicos, you would have stopped in Grand Turk, which is southeast in the island chain.
Most of the resorts in Turks and Caicos are on the five mile long Grace Bay. Grace Bay is considered by many to be one of the best beaches in the world. It's routinely ranked among the top beaches by travel publications and is the number two beach in the world in Trip Advisor's list of 2013 Best Beaches Worldwide. I've been on beaches from Florida to California, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the Mediterranean and Australia's gold coast, but I have never seen a beach as gorgeous as Grace Bay. Grace Bay is the northern side of Providenciales.
When you arrive in Providenciales your flight will pull up the airport's tiny terminal. When I say tiny, there are no gates. They wheel stairs up to your plane, you walk onto the tarmac and straight through a small building into immigration. This was a quick and painless process. Within a few minutes our bags were out and we were exiting the front of the airport. For most resorts you'll take a taxi. From the airport to Grace Bay the cab fare was $26. Don't be surprised if the taxi attendant puts you in a cab with people staying at other resorts. The taxis are vans, and in our experience would stop at two to three resorts. Most of the resorts are a ten to fifteen minute drive from the airport.
If you like to snorkel or scuba dive, Grace Bay is one of the top destinations in the world. There are numerous tour companies that will take you out to the reef a short boat ride away. However, if you want snorkeling you can walk to, check out Coral Gardens. There is a protected reef steps from the beach. While snorkeling here I saw a large variety of fish and a sea turtle.
Resorts span the length of Grace Bay, but many of the resorts are modest in size and you don't feel like the island is over developed. Grace Bay is home to a Sandals and Beaches resorts as well as a Club Med and numerous other luxury resorts. Don't expect to find the major American brands such as Hilton and Holiday Inn. For the most part the resorts in Turks and Caicos are smaller and locally managed. I stayed at the Regent Grand and was in close walking distance to the Seven Stars Resort, Grace Bay Club, Villa Renaissance and several other luxury resorts on the middle to eastern side of Grace Bay. This part of Grace Bay is also home to the shops and restaurants at the Regent Village, shopping at the Salt Mills, and several other off-resort restaurants and shops. (I'm going to cover food and shopping in another article. Link soon!)
Providenciales is not large so getting around is not too difficult. Many resorts have bicycles guests may use. If not, rental places are scattered around. Many tourists also rent cars and scooters. Just a word of warning, if you are renting a car be aware they drive on the left and speed is monitored in kilometers per hour. While there are major brand car rental companies on the island, there are many small island rental companies located next to the resorts. Expect to spend about $30 per day for a scooter and $50-100 per day for a car. Also, gas on the island isn't cheap. It was hovering around $6.40 per gallon when I was there.
One of the best ways to get around is to walk. We walked almost everywhere. Many nights, after dinner, we'd walk down the beach back to our resort. I highly recommend this mode of travel. The beach is awesome at night and many resorts put out torches in the sand near their bars and restaurants.
Good to Know
While Turks and Caicos is a British overseas territory, their official currency is the US dollar. This is helpful if you are coming from the US. Most of the tourists we encountered were from the East coast of the US or from Canada.
The official language is English so don't feel like you won't be able to understand the locals. Overall we found the people of Turks and Caicos to be extremely friendly. Turks and Caicos also has one of the lowest crime rates in the caribbean, but as always use common sense.
The water is safe to drink. Many resorts will provide guests with bottled water and many restaurants will sell you spring water, but there's no reason you can't drink tap water. If a waiter asks you if you prefer still or sparkling, make sure you specify tap water unless you want to pay for a bottle of water. Most of the tourists to Turks and Caicos are from the US and Canada so they are used to American customs.
I'll cover food more in depth in another article, but if you like seafood you're in for a treat. Turks and Caicos is known for conch and lobster. Most restaurants also serve whatever fresh fish came out of the nearby sea. There are many good eateries on this island and foodies will rejoice!
Bring bug spray! At night the mosquitos will get you. I noticed many restaurants have bottles of bug repellant, you just need to ask.
Weather and When to Visit
It's the caribbean, it's going to be warm. Peak tourist season runs December through early April. This is when you will pay the highest airfares and nightly resort rates. During this time of the year expect highs in the low to mid 80's and evenings in the mid 60's to low 70's. I was in Providenciales April 21-26 and the days were warm and the evenings were pleasant. Even on a hot day the trade winds make the heat tolerable. Expect mostly sunny days during this time period and few rainy days. During peak season expect crowds at the resorts and at the shops and restaurants. Make reservations well in advance for some of the most popular eateries.
April and May are a good bet if you want similar weather to the peak season, but want to save a little bit of money and deal with smaller crowds.
If you are looking for a travel bargain visit from June-October/November. Turks and Caicos gets hot in the summer with highs into the 90's. This is also the time of year many restaurants close down so you may find fewer options, but you can save almost 50% at some of the resorts. Also remember this is hurricane season and some of the wetter months come in the fall.
Stay tuned for additional articles including a review on the Regent Grand Resort, restaurants you must visit, and what is a potcake? Here's a hint, it's not a cake.
Make sure to check out our Turks and Caicos Restaurant Guide.
Also check out our review of The Regent Grand Resort.