Turks & Caicos Travel Guide
Turks & Caicos has the perfect antidote for your hectic lifestyle; nearly abandoned, blinding-white sand fringed by shimmering azure water, colorful coral reefs, crispy conch fritters and a sleepy, light-hearted atmosphere. Even as recent years have generated more tourist activity, more chain restaurants and more commercially driven experiences, Turks & Caicos still holds tight to its reputation as an exclusive and secluded getaway. And regular vacationers to these skinny strips of white sand will tell you that ... continue»
See the Best Hotels in Turks & Caicos»
The best time to visit Turks & Caicos is April and May, a sweet spot featuring lower prices and fewer crowds. The weather is pleasant year-round with average highs that hover in the 80s, but these islands do experience a rainy season, and the threat of hurricanes lingers from June to November. Like other destinations in the Caribbean, Turks & Caicos' peak travel period lasts from December to March.Best Times to Visit Turks & Caicos»
Turks & Caicos Neighborhoods
The Turks & Caicos Islands sit just north of the Dominican Republic in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 550 miles southeast of Miami. Its 40 islands and cays (small islands formed on coral reefs) comprise Turks & Caicos, but only eight of these are inhabited. The islands are separated into two groups, the Caicos Islands (the largest group) and the Turks Islands.
The Caicos Islands
The Caicos Islands are loosely strung together to form a crescent moon-shaped archipelago, with the main island, Providenciales, occupying the western section.
Providenciales, better known as Provo, is usually the main destination for visitors. Hilly and green, Provo has ideal spots for diving and fishing. On land, Provo features the Northwest Point Marine National Park and Nature Reserve. Take in the sunset there — but also prepare for an onslaught of biting bugs. Provo is also home to the only 18-hole golf course in the Turks & Caicos Islands, as well as a couple of low-key casinos.
The small grouping of islets between Providenciales and North Caicos, Caicos Cays was once used as a safe haven for plundering pirates. Today, many remain mostly untouched and are a popular daytrip destination among snorkelers. Other area islands, such as Dellis Cay, Pine Cay and Parrot Cay, are privately owned and feature top-notch secluded resorts like the Parrot Cay by COMO.
Considered one of the lushest isles of the set, North Caicos is also hailed as the next tourism hotspot; several hotels and condominiums are in construction.
Middle Caicos is the largest island and has a variety of terrains for visitors to explore. Bambarra Beach sits near 600-year-old limestone caves, which are near green hills that rise above the waters. Although there's a causeway (as well as a ferry) connecting North and Middle Caicos, check out the Crossing Place Trail, which was used by settlers during low tide to travel between the two islands.
Nature dominates this island, which sits on the southeastern tip of the island chain. Creamy white beaches, jagged cliffs and serene bays are just some of its characteristics. South Caicos is now the center of the islands' fishing industry, with several fishing plants and seafood processing centers. It's also popular among students studying ecology and marine life; Boston University has a post here. Architecture enthusiasts will enjoy South Caicos' older Bermudian-style buildings.
Only 9 square miles, this largely uninhabited island is the future home of Molasses Reef, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve resort. Until the resort is up and running, this island is an ideal day trip for divers or picnickers in search of an especially remote location. Accessing the island is easy — catch a 20-minute boat ride from Providenciales' Split Rock. Visit the abandoned Yankee Town settlement, where a railroad and steam engine are the only signs of the small sisal (a plant used to make rope) plantation that existed here in the late 1800s.
East Caicos sits just north of South Caicos. Once dominated by cotton plantations, this island is now characterized by swamps. Home to more animals than people, East Caicos is only accessible by boat from one of the other populated islands.
The Turks Islands
Sitting several miles southeast of the Caicos Islands, the Turks Islands are much smaller and, according to some, more laidback. The larger of the islands, Grand Turk, sits approximately five miles north of the second main Turk Island, Salt Cay.
Experts say that visitors who only visit Providenciales miss out on a large portion of the islands' heritage. Home to the islands' capital, Cockburn Town, Grand Turk is the region's historical center. Despite the influence of a partnership with Carnival Cruise Lines and the subsequent arrival of a few chain restaurants, this is still a sleepy island filled with 19th-century Bermudian architecture. Like its sister islands, Grand Turk offers several snorkeling and scuba diving spots. You'll also find the Grand Turk Wall, which drops 7,000 feet beneath the water — a quarter of a mile off the western shore. On land, there is the Turks and Caicos National Museum. The nearby Gibbs Cay is a sweet spot to swim with the stingrays.
It's not hard to see why all two-and-a-half square miles of Salt Cay has been recommended as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Horses and donkeys run free and often have right-of-way on the streets. Most don't choose Salt Cay as their ultimate destination, but the island does boast several of the best snorkeling beaches.
Crime is rare in Turks & Caicos (though you shouldn't leave your valuables unattended). However, you will want to take precautions for the tropical weather. Drink plenty of (bottled) water while outside, and apply sunscreen at regular intervals. You may want to avoid strenuous outdoor activity for the first day of your trip, so that you can adjust to the heat.
The Turks & Caicos Islands are popular for diving, but there are risks. Make sure to receive proper training, check the weather conditions and never dive alone — preferably, dive with an instructor. Also, be careful when ascending from a deep dive. Decompression sickness, or "the bends," can occur when divers come to the surface too quickly. A speeding resurface can cause nitrogen bubbles to form in the blood and tissue, resulting in joint pain, swelling, confusion and shortness of breath. Ascend slowly (no more than 30 feet per minute) and take breaks when surfacing after deeper dives.
The best way to get around Turks & Caicos is either by car or taxi. There is no public transportation on the islands, and as the attractions, restaurants and hotels are spread out, walking is not an option. You can rent a car at the Providenciales International Airport (PLS) on Provo. If you choose to island hop, you'll need to head to one of the many smaller airports, like Grand Turks' JAGS McCartney International Airport (GDT). Cheaper ferries are also available by charter to travel between islands.Getting Around Turks & Caicos»