Turks & Caicos

Traveler: Danielle Gervalis

When: February 2018

Islands Visited: Providenciales

Overall Experience:

When winter closes in and it feels like it will never end, it’s time to book a flight to Turks and Caicos!  The crystal waters, powder white sand, tropical temperatures and friendly people will entice you to want to stay forever. It’s truly a gorgeous island paradise. Best of all, this trip won’t break the bank! You don’t need to stay at a fancy resort, to experience all the amazing things Turks and Caicos has to offer. Read on for our Provo travel guide!

Logistics:

Getting there: There are three different airport options in the Washington, D.C. area. If you are flexible, you can find flight times and prices that will fit your schedule and budget. I flew out of BWI on JetBlue and my return flight was into DCA on Southwest (which doesn’t charge for bags). All told flights were around $800 round trip for two people. Make sure to grab a window seat too, as flying into the island provides stunning views! You have such a clear delineation between the deep dark blue depths and the aquamarine shallows surrounding the beaches.

plane pic

Welcome to TCI!

Getting around: If you are staying on a resort and have no intentions of leaving, then you won’t need a car. However, if you want to explore the island, renting a car is your best option as there isn’t really a public transportation system. There are so many impressive beaches that I highly recommend getting out of the resort and into the wild!  There are two main roads, Leeward Highway and Grace Bay Drive, making it easy to navigate, especially with Google Maps and takes about 20 minutes to get wherever you are going. Just remember, they drive on the left side of the road and the top speed is around 40mph. Additionally, there are no stop lights on the island, only roundabouts.
provo map
Where to stay: There are many beautiful resorts in Turks and Caicos some of which are all-inclusive, however they will cost an arm and a leg and you’ll need both of those things to swim! Fortunately, Airbnb exists and is the perfect alternative to expensive hotels. We found a splendid apartment for $140 a night with a full kitchen and washer/dryer just a half mile walk from Grace Bay. Additionally, the friendly host provided us with beach towels, chairs, snorkeling gear, beach umbrella and a cooler, as well as, recommendations and a map to all the public beaches on the island. We were well taken care of!

Things to Do:

Go to the beach: Duh! Turks and Caicos is one of the most beautiful island destinations in the world, the water is calm and crystal clear and there are lots of incredible, quiet beaches that you must visit! Here are our favorites:

  1. Chalk Sound/Sopadilla Bay Beach: My absolute favorite place! It’s a beautiful lagoon with tiny, lapping waves. You can wade out 100 yards and the water is barely up to your belly button. Enjoy the whole day just sitting in the water and drinking a beer. Getting there is a snap! Pass through the industrial area from Chalk Sound Drive, turn left on Ocean Point Drive, about 300 meters later you can park along the road (you’ll see other cars parked) and there will be a path to the beach on the right. Once you’re done with your beach day, head to Chalk Sound View Point for beautiful views of the tiny cays dotting the bay area.
  2. Long Beach: Scantily occupied by beach goers but surrounded by gorgeous mansions, this skinny, long stretch of beach is aptly named. It’s a bit rocky and packed with hard sand, making it great for a run along the water. Additionally, there are an abundant amount of conch shells to play with! However, it can be a little tricky to get to. It’s off of the paved road so make sure to drive slowly. Once you make a right onto Long Bay Drive, the beach access is directly in front of you. There is a sign on a tree stating “To Da Beach” but it can be difficult to find if you don’t know it’s there (if you drive past Long Bay Beach Club, you went too far). Feel free to park along the edges of the road and enjoy your private beach! 
  3. Grace Bay: There are multiple points of entry to the famed Grace Bay. If you prefer to be near the downtown area and resorts, then beach access, as well as great restaurants and bars, with public parking can be found near the Seven Stars Resort. If you are looking for something a little less touristy, then head up Grace Bay Drive about a mile. Directly across from the Leeward Palms entrance sign will be a parking area and a rocky path which will take you to a relaxing local beach free from skyscrapers and numerous beach chairs.
  4. Turtle Cove/Smith’s Reef: Easy to locate near the marina, you’ll turn onto Bridge Road and then make a right onto Smith Reef Road. A few meters later you’ll reach a dead end where there will be parking spots next to the beach access path. Not only is this beach gorgeous, you can also snorkel! There is a reef right off the beach where you can find tropical fish, turtles and sting rays!
Kayaking: Turks and Caicos has clear and gentle waters, so it’s perfect for first time kayakers and paddle boarders. We rented a kayak from Neptune Brisas for $35 for an hour and a half.  There are quite a few little islands you can park your kayak and explore. Make sure to wear shoes as the islands are sharp and rocky and full of curious iguanas!
kayak
Day Trips: Why not explore more of Turks by going on a day trip? Check out Island Vibe Tours for half and full day snorkeling adventures, which includes food and drinks like tropical rum punch. We paid $100 per person to snorkel in the gorgeous reefs, explore Iguana Island, and  swim and play with the boat’s slide and diving board!
Not only was it fun in the sun, but we also learned about conch! Did you know you can tell the age of a conch by the back row of horns on its shell? Just remember, that they have to be at least five before you can eat them. Finally, good luck trying to win a diving competition against the first mate, Manny! He could be an Olympic contender!
Turks Head Brewery: A great activity if it’s raining or if you had too much sun, head to the only brewery on the island and take a tour. They run Monday through Friday starting at 11, 1 and 3pm as well as Saturday at noon. They have a beautiful tasting room where you can sample one of the specialty beers only available at the brewery (they only bottle three which are available throughout the island). Additionally, they have excellent bartenders (Brandy) who will lead you in singalongs ranging from Prince to Bruno Mars!
Island Fish Fry Thursdays: Every Thursday, Provo hosts a mini Mardi Gras celebration starting at 5:30 in Bight Park. Unfortunately, our trip didn’t overlap on a Thursday but countless people told us about this event. There are tons of food vendors, entertainment and cultural performers welcoming new friends to the island. You can find more information about the weekly event at the Tourist Board website!

Places to Eat and Drink:

Coffee Shops

The Shay Cafe
You’ll find this cafe via their outdoor chalkboard beckoning you to come in for your morning coffee. It’s on the main strip in Grace Bay and sells coffee, speciality lattes, bakery items and gelato. Additionally, they have a comfortable seating area where you can read one of their free newspapers.
shay
Lemon 2 Go
Lemon 2 Go looks like a Joanna Gaines coffee shop in the Caribbean. It’s adorable and easily accessible in downtown Grace Bay. Additionally, it’s connected to a florist shop and has a pleasant selection of other gifts and lotions to purchase. All this beauty comes at a cost though, as it was $6.75 for a vanilla latte.
Casual and Beachy
Skull Rock Cantina
Located in downtown Grace Bay, this colorful Mexican restaurant has a full menu of tropical drinks to get you into the island mindset. They have outdoor tables and it seems to be popular with local folks. We tried their ceviche and were not disappointed. It’s a great spot to grab lunch and then get right back to the beach.
skull rock

Love those plantain chips!

Flamingo Cafe
Directly on Grace Bay Beach, this local beach bar will keep your thirst quenched during your stay. It’s the perfect spot to watch the sunset while sipping on a tropical cocktail. The building is part of the local craft market stalls as well so you can pick up some handmade souvenirs.
flamingo

Maybe even watch a storm roll in…

Bugaloos
A little off-road driving will lead you to the famous Bugaloos, an ideal beach bar and restaurant set along the Five Cays. This restaurant came highly recommended by a few local folks, so we were determined to get there. The interior has a striking teak bar and outside you’ll find lots of palm tree shade and tables in the sand. They have a full menu of cocktails and delicious food (most dishes are around $20), featuring several conch dishes – our favorite was the Coconut Conch, it was crispy and the sauce was delightful. In the evening, they have live entertainment including fire dancing!
Da Conch Shack
What a view! Da Conch Shack is a colorful and super cool beach restaurant and bar on an incredible stretch of beach. Their website has a picture of Keith Richards wearing their T-shirt, so it’s not an unknown spot on the island. However, the food and drinks are fantastic (try the jerk chicken tacos) and reasonably priced, the service is friendly and the waters along the beach are calm and lined with conch shells for the taking!
Chinson’s Grill Shack
A blend of Chinese and Caribbean food, Chinson’s serves up excellent lunch plates for around $15 near the airport. We stopped here before our flight home and were stunned by the flavors. As we sat and ate our jerk chicken, mac and cheese, pineapple slaw and the best bread I ever had (I ordered extra for a plane snack), we saw countless locals driving up to pick up to go orders. This place is well-loved on the island! Also, get a side of the guava rum glaze, it’s delicious.
Fancy and Dressy
Coco Bistro
A fine dining restaurant set amongst swaying palm trees, Coco Bistro is one of the best restaurants on the island. Their friendly service, wine list and fresh seafood will have you coming back for more! We tried their Seafood Penne, which consisted of a generous helping of shrimp, lobster and scallops, and their weekly special which was an imaginative quinoa crusted scallops, which added a nice texture, over a fried grit cake and kale. Both were incredible and we finished every bite.
If you are looking for good food in a more laid back vibe, across the parking lot you can visit CocoVan! It’s literally an airstream food truck serving more picnic style food as well as a bar and tables.
Le Bouchon Du Village
This french restaurant is conveniently located in the downtown shopping area and while the outside feels a bit like a strip mall, the inside is floor to ceiling covered in french memorabilia. Now, let’s get to the food. This was my favorite meal during our stay, all of the dishes were superb. We started with the octopus carpaccio, which was tasty and accompanied with a zesty sauce. For entrees we had the scallops which were smothered in brown butter and done to perfection alongside a cheesy risotto and the snapper with a parsley butter cream sauce. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Mango Reef
Located on the marina, Mango Reef’s pleasant ambience seems to attract everyone on the island. You will need reservations to get a table here and entrees run about $40. This restaurant came highly recommended, however, I was not a fan of my meal. I tried the lobster ravioli which was drowned in a cream sauce with the texture of porridge. Hopefully you will have better luck if you visit!
mangoreef

Tips:

  • If you are landing in Providenciales on a Saturday give yourself an hour at the bare minimum to get through customs. The long lines can stretch out onto the tarmac!
  • Most restaurants will add a 10% tip to your bill with the option to add an extra tip depending on the service
  • There a few grocery stores located 5-10 minutes from the airport. We stopped here on the way to the Airbnb and stocked up on beach snacks, sandwich items and waters.
tco

Until next time TCI!

 

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