Best Things To Do in Turks & Caicos
Visitors are drawn to Turks & Caicos' promise of sun, sand and an extremely relaxing atmosphere, especially on Providenciales (more than a few travelers described Grace Bay as the "world's best beach"). But thrill-seekers can also find some great diving sites, such as Salt Cay or Smith's Reef. Sightseeing is also pretty good on Grand Turk: Recent visitors suggested the Turks & Caicos National Museum for any culture hounds or history buffs interested in learning more about the islands' past (Cheshire Hall is another must-see site). But the nightlife is scarce; besides the odd dance club here and the random beach bonfire there, choices are limited.
Updated December 28, 2018
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Vacationers are almost always pleased with Grace Bay in Provo, raving about its soft sand and turquoise water, with some even dubbing it the "world's best beach." The beach's breathtaking surf and sand, plus its proximity to a golf course and plenty of shops and restaurants, leave most guests pleasantly satisfied.
Located in an eastern crook of Providenciales, Grace Bay touts more than 3 miles of soft ashen sand and open crystalline water to placate sunbathers. There's little shade, so come early in the morning to get your choice of umbrellas. Some of the island's most well-liked restaurants, such as Solana Teppanyaki and Sushi Bar, are sheltered along Grace's shore, as are the most popular hotels. What's more, they don't mind non-guests walking up to dine.
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If you tend to interpret "taking a dip" literally, then you'll love the hundreds of yards of shallow water that make Taylor Bay perfect for getting your feet wet. With no steep drop-offs to fear, parents can relax while children play in knee-high waters. And the aesthetic of seemingly never-ending rippling sand makes Taylor Bay especially tranquil.
This beach lies on the southwest coast of Provo, just 2 ½ miles from the town of Five Cays. White sand fills the beach's crescent shape. And the bright blue water – which makes starfish visible to shallow-water swimmers – matches the allure of many of the beaches on Providenciales.
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On Grace Bay in Providenciales, you'll find a footpath just offshore near the Coral Gardens resort. Follow that path to floating buoys that will guide you on your Bight Reef snorkel. A series of signs will help you identify the different species that you find along the way. One TripAdvisor reviewer also offered the following advice: "Be sure to snorkel out to the buoys on the outer edges as those areas seemed to attract different fish."
No matter which of the reef's mini-caves and crevaces you explore, many varieties of colorful fish can be seen poking in and out of their habitat. If you're lucky, you'll even spot a sea turtle swimming nearby. And with water as shallow as 3 feet in some spots and as deep as 16 feet in others, the versatile reef suits all levels of snorkel experience. Recent travelers recommend the spot for kids due to the reef's proximity to the shore. Keep in mind that snorkeling is always better when the water is calmer, so save your underwater adventure for a fair weather day.
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Hopes of landing a hole-in-one amid palm trees and jutting limestone bring travelers to the fairways of the Provo Golf Club, the only 18-hole course on Turks & Caicos. The near-perfect weather of Providenciales makes it easy for golfers to spend the day outside mastering this lush, 20-year-old course. Turks & Caicos' indigenous plants surround the fairways and pink flamingos can be spotted near the greens.
Recent golfers say the par-72 course is well-manicured with all the aesthetic appeal of the Caribbean. But it's not only looks that make this course stand out. The staff also earns high marks from visitors.
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"Iguana Island" may sound like a scary place, but in Turks & Caicos, the moniker fondly refers to Little Water Cay, home to the islands' remaining endangered population of rock iguanas. The Turks and Caicos National Trust leads efforts to protect the habitat, which is just a short trip by boat from Providenciales' Leeward Marina. Many local companies like Big Blue Collective offer excursions to the island or incorporate the preservation site in other sailing or snorkeling outings. You can also discover Little Water Cay's islets by kayak or stand-up paddleboard. If you try your hand at a stand-up paddleboard or kayak trip through the nearby mangroves, you might catch sight of sea turtles and baby sharks.
Long boardwalks spread across the island give visitors a chance to stroll among greenery and learn more about the native wildlife and vegetation. Recent visitors said you are virtually guaranteed to see the many iguana inhabitants with ease.
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Governor's Beach is another great option for a little light snorkeling. It's located off the southwestern coast of Grand Turk not far from the harbor, and therefore sees a lot of activity on cruise ship days. At other times, this beach is a laid-back respite with an outstanding view. The stately Governor's residence is in plain view, and in spring and summer you may spot the odd flamingo. That's what's going on above the surface; under the sea there are some spectacular tropical fish and coral. Popular dive companies on Grand Turk like Blue Water Divers and Oasis Divers will help you arrange a snorkel or dive trip of the area.
Governor's Beach is one of the closest beaches to the cruise port. And recent travelers say the 15 to 20 minute walk to Governor's can make all the difference if you're in search of peace and quiet that doesn't come at the expense of beach amenities. "Overall it was a very large beach and we could easily find our own big patch of sand. The beach had bathrooms and a bar," one TripAdvisor reviewer said.
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Packed with sea life, Smith's Reef on Providenciales appeals to snorkelers at all levels. Stingrays, turtles, lobsters and lots of brightly colored fish will likely swim by during your dive near this underwater sanctuary. You can enter the reef area at three different points: north, east and central access. Recent travelers recommend finding a sandy pathway near the small parking area that will guide you into the water – rocky areas can be slippery and more dangerous (as such, many advise that you wear water shoes).
Bight Reef, at Coral Gardens, is another marine life haven popular with Turks and Caicos travelers. But Smith's larger size and more colorful animals seem to hook travelers choosing between the two.
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Salt Cay isn't the primary destination for most who visit Turks and Caicos, but it does make a mellow daytrip for those wanting to escape Provo's hustle and bustle or the cruise ship clusters along Grand Turk. It's a small island (less than 3 square miles) that beckons to low-key vacationers; top activities range from lounging to beach bumming to whale watching, and of course, scuba diving and snorkeling.
If you visit Salt Cay between December and April, you might even see some North Atlantic humpback whales migrating for the winter. Diving aficionados claim you can hear the songs of the whales from underwater. For diving trips around Salt Cay, contact Salt Cay Divers (the only dive company on the island).
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If you're looking for a unique way to experience the white sand beaches of TCI, consider a scenic horseback ride. Suitable for beginners and seasoned equestrians, horseback riding is a popular activity for TCI visitors (past travelers raved about their experiences). One highly recommended company is Provo Ponies, which offers horseback riding excursions both on land and partially submerged in the sea.
Recent riders say the horses are friendly, warm and love heading into the water up to their belly level. Be sure to wear closed-toe water shoes that won't slip off in the waves. Other travelers recommend passing your camera to the helpful guides who will snap plenty of pictures.
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If you're in need of a rainy day activity, or are just interested in learning more about the history and culture of the islands, plan a stop at the Turks & Caicos National Museum. The museum's exhibits range from showcasing the island's natural history to chronicling the lives of its former slaves to displaying information about local shipwrecks. It's located in a historic (though some say run-down) building in Cockburn Town on Grand Turk.
Recent travelers find the museum worthwhile despite its small size. There's much to see and do spread out on the museum's two floors, in addition to a museum shop and library. If you're crunched for time, visit the museum to learn more about the Molasses Reef Wreck, the oldest European shipwreck to be excavated in the Western Hemisphere, or about the sinking of the slave ship Trouvadore, the only known wreck of a ship involved in the illegal slave trade.
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If you need a break from the beach, past travelers say you should put a visit to Cheshire Hall at the top of your list. Originally owned by a British loyalist, this 18th-century cotton plantation is now mostly in ruins. But its proximity to downtown Provo makes Cheshire Hall one of the most popular historic sites in Turks & Caicos. Sparse signs on the property tell the plantation's story as visitors wind through trails of Provo history. The plantation's most notable spot, the Great House, sits atop a hill and provides sweeping views of the island.
For those who seek both history and nature, you'll get a two-for-one at Cheshire Hall, where the trail signs label native plants like guinea grass and cow bush. And for more context, make sure you have a tour guide. Past visitors said the site and corresponding tour were a must-do for anyone hoping to learn more about the islands' past and culture. However, reviewers advise planning your visit for the morning to avoid the stifling mid-day heat (there is little shade around the ruins).
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Dive companies will no doubt try to sell you on a snorkeling excursion off the shores of Pillory Beach on Grand Turk's northwest coast. By all means, let them. Recent travelers advocate for the excellent swimming conditions and bevy of stingrays, spotted drums and eagle ray fish visible just about 300 to 400 yards from the beach. What's more, the beach sits within walking distance of shops and restaurants.
If you're only on Grand Turk for the day, keep in mind that Pillory Beach – a short taxi ride from the cruise port – is quieter beach than Governor's Beach, which sees more cruise traffic. Expect to pay about $8 per person for a one-way ride.
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