A Traveler’s Guide to Turks and Caicos
Clear-bottomed kayak tours. Toes-in-the-sand dining. A splashy new beachfront hotel. There’s never been a better time to escape to this always-sunny island chain.
At first glance, many tropical islands appear quite similar. But take a closer look, and you’ll notice some locales where the water is a tad more brilliant blue and the beaches a bit more secluded, with sand lighter and finer than you can imagine. Did we just describe Turks and Caicos, a collection of 40 islands and cays 575 miles southeast of Florida, only a handful of which are inhabited? Yes, we did.
Providenciales is the most developed island in Turks and Caicos and home to Grace Bay Beach, named among the most beautiful in the world many times over. At just 3 miles long, the shoreline features sand that is unbelievably soft and cool. An offshore barrier reef protects the shore, so waves are minimal, but the swimming, paddleboarding, and kiteboarding conditions are divine.
Speaking of aquatic pursuits, snorkeling and diving are practically rites of passage here, and Big Blue Collective offers a variety of tours for both. The eco-focused company was one of the first to use biodegradable sunscreen on all of its excursions, taking great care to preserve the reef. On the “Edge of the Banks” tour, guests explore remote cays and isles where the only residents are iguanas. For families, one of the most scenic ways to explore the area’s inner lagoons and wetlands is via Clear Bottom Adventures’ kayak tour, during which you can glide through the mangroves spotting baby sharks, turtles, and stingrays.
While the islands are still a British Overseas Territory, friendly locals will tell you that independence may be just around the corner. To get a glimpse of their history, visit Caicos Heritage House, modeled after 1800s-era family homes on the islands, or tour the ruins of Cheshire Hall Plantation, where American colonists that were still faithful to England fled during the last days of the American Revolution (now that’s a retreat).
Conch is the signature dish of Turks and Caicos, and da Conch Shack is the best place to find this local delicacy (you can even watch as local fishermen bring in their hauls). In addition to a plethora of conch dishes—conch fritters, conch salad, conch chowder, you get the idea—the menu features ribs, jerk chicken, steak, and the famous “Johnny Fries” enhanced with Turks and Caicos salt and black bean sauce. The laid-back beach setting allows you to dine with your toes in the sand and a rum punch in your hand.
For more-upscale fare, Grace’s Cottage at the Point Grace hotel offers a gourmet French-leaning menu (think Chateaubriand and lobster Thermidor) in a New Orleans–style setting with gazebos, twinkling lights, and the musical stylings of the talented Raju Saunders.
Looking for a nightcap? Head to the Mediterranean-inspired Aziza Restaurant + Lounge for live music and dancing. Traditional British pub Danny Buoys, meanwhile, is a Providenciales institution and is particularly rollicking on karaoke nights.
The Saltmills Plaza in Grace Bay has a little bit of everything under the sun, including Anna’s Art Gallery, featuring paintings and prints by local artists, as well as jewelry and sculptures. For the best in beachwear and accessories, Konk Apparel is a locally owned shop specializing in clothing inspired by (what else?) the conch shell.
Opened in May 2022, Grace Bay Resorts’ newest boutique hotel on the island is Rock House, which boasts 350 feet of private shoreline (with complimentary kayaks and paddleboards for guests, naturally) and 46 oceanfront villas, including one-bedroom and two-bedroom accommodations, some with private infinity splash pools. Inspired by the classic resorts of the Mediterranean, the property was innovatively built into a limestone cliff and offers seductive 180-degree views of the coastline and the island’s barrier reef. On-site amenities include in-suite spa services; the Cave Bar, which serves up snacky bites like crab poppers and prosciutto pizza; and Vita Restaurant, where guests can enjoy traditional Italian cuisine with a Caribbean twist and rock ’n’ roll–inspired cocktails like the “Highway to Hell.”
JetBlue offers weekly nonstop service from Boston Logan to Providenciales on Saturdays, whisking you away to paradise in just four hours.
First published in the print edition of the March 2023 issue, with the headline “Boston Traveler: Turks and Caicos.”
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