Enjoy several beach holidays in one in Turks and Caicos. This string of Caribbean islands is rich with nature reserves, wildlife and breathtaking beaches, not to mention a fresh and vibrant local cuisine.
Turks and Caicos – consisting of the Caicos Islands and the Turks Islands – is home to one of the world’s top-ranked beaches, as well as barrier reefs and awe-inspiring interior landscapes aplenty. Although one of the planet’s top luxury holiday destinations, an eco-tourism ethos pervades, making it possible to visit this stunning destination responsibly.
The island of Providenciales – where flights to the Turks and Caicos archipelago land – is home to the must-visit beach at Grace Bay. The islands’ many protected natural beauty spots – which also include the vibrant turquoise lagoon of Chalk Sound National Park and offshore barrier reefs – are complemented by the convenience of bars, restaurants and other infrastructure. There are plenty of hotels on the island too, many of which are decidedly high-end.
Grace Bay Beach, on Providenciales, regularly tops the world’s best beach rankings (including Trip Advisor’s). It is just a 3mi (4km) stretch – though similar beaches at either end give the illusion of its continuation – with uninterrupted flawless, white sand underfoot. An offshore barrier reef protects the beach from Atlantic swells, making it a family and watersports hotspot around which luxury hotels have sprung up. Elsewhere, the uninhabited Dickish Cay features an idyllic, casuarina tree-lined beach, as does the adjacent Joe Grant Cay.
Over 80mi (129km) of the spectacular barrier reef is accessible from Providenciales, affording visitors the chance to encounter marine life including several shark species. There are also green, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles in these waters, where perfect starfish cling to the rocks. Elsewhere, on Grand Turk, the Columbus Landfall National Park offers yet more prime snorkeling and diving territory, encompassing all of Grand Turk’s west coast beaches and the barrier reef.
Some of the small cays of Turks and Caicos are accessible by kayak, stand-up paddleboard, or boat cruise, typically from the Leeward Marina on Providenciales. These include Little Water Cay, which is nicknamed Iguana Island and where the prime activity for any time spent here is enjoying the sight of the nativeTurks and Caicos Islands Rock Iguanas. An endangered animal, these protected iguanas exude a regal air and are well worth the short boat or kayak trip to visit.
Exploring caves is a firm part of the Turks and Caicos experience and Conch Bar Caves, which you’ll find on Middle Caicos, is the largest above-ground cave system in the Bahamas-Turks and Caicos Islands archipelago. Also on Middle Caicos, Indian Cave is a large single gallery cave with natural skylights where humans once lived. It’s now home to barn owls, bats and giant blue land crabs.
Do something different and take the time to experience Yankee Town, a remote and ruined 19th-century cotton planting settlement on West Caicos evocative of a Tarantino set. Elsewhere on the archipelago, historical sites you’ll be glad you made time to experience include the Cheshire Hall Plantation (on Providenciales) and Wade’s Green Plantation (on Kew), both of which offer valuable glimpses into Turks and Caicos’ past. Contemplate what we can learn from the horrors of the slave trade in a paradoxically gorgeous location.
A sustainable, custodial approach to nature will be key to Turks and Caicos’ future – and the locals and tour operators know it. Providenciales has national parks and nature reserves covering around half its coast and it’s possible to cover some distance by paddle boarding, as well as on foot. Northwest Point National Park is remote and ruggedly romantic terrain, while the aforementioned Chalk Sound is a must-see, with its electric-blue lake. Other points of interest here include rock carvings made by shipwrecked sailors in the 19th century.
They aren’t as cute as dolphins but give them a chance: swimming safely with and feeding stingrays in the turquoise waters of Gibbs Cay – just a quick boat ride from Grand Turk – is an unforgettable experience. In winter, humpback whale-watching off Providenciales is popular whilst bottlenose dolphins inhabit the waters here year-round.
Boiled fish and grits for breakfast and conch meat – from the edible marine snail with the distinctive shell, pronounced “konk” – are among the specialty dishes you’ll come across in Turks and Caicos. Get more of a feel for local seafood at the weekly Provo Fish Fry night in Bright Park, where stalls also serve staples like jerk chicken and rum punch. Light-festooned palm trees set the scene at Da Conch Shack, a fun beachside joint on Blue Hills Road, or try elegant Coyaba Restaurant at Grace Bay.
The only locally brewed beer on Turks and Caicos is that of the Turk’s Head Brewery on Providenciales, so it’s surely classed as enlightened cultural research to visit and sample its four varieties. Visitor tours of this bright, contemporary space end with a chance to buy some beers and a bright logo T-shirt to show your loyalty. Even if you don’t make it to this behind-the-scenes experience, you will find the beers available in many restaurants on Turks and Caicos.
These recommendations were updated on September 14, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.