Right before the holidays, when the airports were still clear and vacation rental prices low, we jetsetted to Turks and Caicos for five days. And if you are wondering what there is to do in Turks and Caicos like SVV was when I told him I booked flights sight unseen, this post is for you.
Turks and Caicos Islands (also referred to as TCI) is a British territory southeast of the Bahamas, less than two hours from Miami by plane. It has great airlift, especially if you’re on the east coast and have easy access to the airports in Charlotte, Atlanta, Miami or Newark, all of which offer direct daily flight to Turks on the major airlines: United, Delta and American.
Providenciales (also referred to as Provo) is the gateway of the 40 coral islands, only eight of which are inhabited, and it’s geographically in the Atlantic Ocean, though you’ll see it commonly referred to as a Caribbean destination. If you travel to Turks & Caicos by cruise ship, you’ll likely find yourself on the more touristy Grand Turk instead. Occasionally, smaller cruise ships (100 to 200 passengers) will dock on Provo, but I didn’t see one during our five-day trip to Turks.
Why Turks and Caicos?
Long-time readers of the blog will know Katy, my New York roommate more than 15 years ago and one of my (and the) best friends on the planet. She celebrated a big birthday this winter, and we couldn’t let her kick off a new decade without a full-blown adventure!
To be honest, the idea for Turks and Caicos came via the Going newsletter (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights). I’m a big fan of flight prices dictating my destination when it makes sense, and $250 round-trip airfare to the Caribbean definitely made sense for us. Within a few days, we had booked our trip to Turks & Caicos.
It turned out to be such an easy trip: As a British territory, Turks is an English-speaking island. There’s no language barrier, and they use the U.S. dollar so if you’re coming from America, you needn’t exchange money.
What do do on Provo Island
Our main goal for Turks and Caicos was to do little more than relax and get some sun just as winter was setting in back home. We spent most days lounging by the private pool of our villa and afternoons exploring the beaches or restaurants around Grace Bay.
While we may have been sloths for the duration of our trip, there are plenty of things to do in Turks and Caicos if you’re a more active kind of traveler.
Take a private tour of the islands. Leave from Grace Bar and take a private tour for two by boat of Iguana Island, a famous shipwreck, uninhabited beaches and more.
Go on a two-tank scuba diving adventure. We’re big divers, but opted out of diving this trip simply because of time constraints and fly time restrictions. That said, the water is so clear, you’d have excellent visibility should you decide to go diving in the national park of Turks and Caicos. From January through March, you’re likely to see dolphins or humpback whales in migration.
Kick it on the beaches. There are a lot of great beaches on Provo, the most popular being Grace Bay. We also visited Long Bay Beach, Pelican Beach and Sunset Beach, popular with kitesurfers. Taylor Beach and Sopadilla Bay Beach are the other two popular beaches on Providenciales, but there’s a lack of facilities out that way, so bear that in mind.
See a shipwreck. If you’re on the southeast side of the island, you’ll spy the famed La Famille Express shipwreck just offshore. While it’s actually two miles from Long Bay Beach, you can take a jet ski out to see the wreck up close (or paddle if you have the stamina).
Snorkel at Smith’s Reef. The cool thing about Turks and Caicos is that you can also just pack a mask and snorkel and snorkel the beaches as you go. Smith’s Reef is a popular spot, and even from above the surface, we saw turtles and eagle rays while paddling the canal. If you want to know where the good spots are, you can also book a guided snorkel tour of Providenciales or a clear-bottom kayak tour of the mangrove.
Borrow a Potcake puppy. Love you a rescue dog? So do we! Turks’ own island rescue Potcake Place K9 Rescue allows you to borrow a dog for the afternoon in order to take it for a walk and help with socialization. You can also bring down supplies or serve as transport/a courier when you’re headed back to the United States.
Other tourists will tell you to go to the weekly island fish fry at Bight Beach each Thursday, but several travel authorities told us to skip this. We did as told, so can’t give an opinion either way.
How to get around Turks & Caicos
If you’re staying on-island, you’ll want to rent a car; it’s really the only way to get around other than booking a private transfer to and from your resort if you’re going that route. Providenciales International Airport is very small, and there’s just a handful of rental counters when you exit the terminal.
We pre-booked our rental car through Discover Cars and had a great experience with them: easy-peasy, friendly service, and no surprise fees, which was much-appreciated after our overseas fiasco with Sixt last summer, in which they charged us nearly $1,000 for turning our car in early.
Note: The island roads are quite rough in parts, so I would recommend a bit of a beater over a nice car if you have the option.
Once we picked up our car, it was about a 20-minute drive from the Providenciales airport to Leeward Settlement where we were staying. It seemed like everywhere we went over the course of five days was a 10- to 25-minute drive, and I really loved that about Provo: no wasting time in transit.
If you’re American, you will be driving on the opposite side of the road from what you’re used to given that Turks is a British settlement, so bear that in mind when deciding on your driver. Provo is all roundabouts versus traffic lights, so that may be confusing for those who have never driven on the left side of the road before.
If you want to visit North and Middle Caicos, your options are to take a ferry from Provo to Belsfield Landing then rent a Jeep once you get there to get around. Bambarra back to Mudjin Harbor.
Where to stay on Providenciales
We stayed in this three-bedroom villa I booked via VRBO in the Leeward Settlement; I found similar inventory to Airbnb but the rentals I was looking at were cheaper on VRBO. If you’re looking for a quiet getaway in Turks and Caicos, I highly recommend this stunning gated community just five minutes from Grace Bay by car. If you’re traveling in a larger group, there are also numerous private villas in Provo that sleep anywhere from 10 to 20 people.
We also visited several of the Providenciales resorts, for meals or to rent umbrellas on the beach at Grace Bay (many of the bigger resorts offer beach rentals to non-guests for around $20 a chair per day). Here are the ones I’d recommend based on the beach, location and communal facilities alone:
Where to eat in Providenciales
The food in Turks and Caicos is much like other resort islands I’ve been to such as Grand Cayman: a lot of fish (duh) and plenty of contemporary American cuisine. We did not have a bad meal, though nothing was particularly extraordinary for my culinary travelers out there. The restaurant service everywhere left much to be desired.
Here’s where I recommend eating on Provo:
- Bugaloo’s for lunch upon arrival
- Rock House for lunch or dinner
- Cocovan for a grab-and-go meal
- The Infiniti Bar at Grace Bay Club for a nice dinner out
- Las Brisas for a beach day lunch
- Turk Kebab for the night you don’t want a long dinner
- Shay Cafe for breakfast or coffee
- Salt Pizzeria Napoletana for pizza
- The Palms pool restaurant on the way to the airport
TCI fans will tell you to eat at Coco’s Bistro, but we found the service to be terrible there so we didn’t pursue it. That said, we did really like Cocovan, a food truck with plenty of outdoor seating which is owned by the same company, so they got our money anyway. Other restaurants we didn’t make it to but were recommended to us include The Almond Tree and Castaways.
What to know about Turks and Caicos
A few other questions about Turks and Caicos you may have, answered:
When is the best time to visit Turks and Caicos?
We visited in November and had glorious weather: 80s all day every day with a brief rain shower like clockwork each afternoon. I would avoid hurricane season, which is typically June through early-November with the strongest storms seeming to occur from August through October.
Can I use a credit card on Turks and Caicos?
Turks and Caicos is on the U.S. dollar, so you don’t have to exchange money or carry around foreign currency. Everywhere we went accepted credit cards, so we didn’t find ourselves using cash at all.
Can you drink the tap water on Providenciales?
Yes, tap water is fine to drink in Turks & Caicos. It’s a bit salty-tasting, so we used filtered or bottled water for much of our trip.
Is Turks and Caicos dangerous?
This is not something I Googled before our trip, but now I know there have been safety concerns in parts of Turks and Caico. I never felt unsafe, though my husband is always on op-sec duty, so it’s worth noting no matter where you travel, you should be diligent and watch your back. We primarily stuck to Grace Bay and the area around where we visited.
How much time do I need at the Providenciales airport?
The Provo airport, while small, often has a long security line. Even though we were carrying on and had checked in online, it probably took us at least 30 minutes to get through security (and there’s no TSA PreCheck, obviously), so build in a buffer. Once you get through security, the airport waiting area is small with very few resources and amenities so plan your meals accordingly.