Turks & Caicos: The Calm Amidst the Chaos



Our world is experiencing something right now that is absolutely unprecedented with the COVID-19 outbreak. While its easy to say that "we will get through it" (and we will), not everyone is fortunate enough to get to work from home or keep their jobs to support themselves during this time. My family, friends and I are the lucky ones who are able to do so, but my heart truly breaks for those who own and work for small businesses that cannot survive this fire, for those laid off from their jobs, and for those who put themselves at risk everyday to keep the public safe. Having a mom who works at a hospital in NYC, I sympathize and worry along with those who are in a similar position. Thank you to the healthcare workers (including my amazing mama) who are working tirelessly to treat patients and fighting to combat the outbreak. We couldn't do anything without you.


While I work from home and spend time back in New Jersey with my family during this quarantine period, I will be recapping my trip to Turks and Caicos from just a couple weeks ago. I had planned this vacation with my sister at the end of 2019 and had been looking forward to spending some quality time over her Spring break. Things had just started to not look so good in the city, but we already left by the the time severe non-essential travel warnings and subsequent closures had ensued. While there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in TCI at the time, it was my priority to keep us healthy and to distance ourselves from others while we were the there. Conditions have certainly worsened since, and I highly encourage everyone to stay home and keep those around us as safe and healthy as possible by doing our part in social distancing and quarantining.


While our situation right now is quite bleak, I am taking this time as an opportunity to reflect on how grateful I am for the simple things and to spend some quality time indoors.. It's a time to appreciate things we simply took granted for before, especially our health and the health of the people we love. I look forward to traveling again and visiting friends across the world soon, but for now, I hope this post inspires you to also look forward to those future trips as well.


Turks and Caicos is an incredibly beautiful place with some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen in my entire life. It's easy and quick to get to, perfect for a long weekend or even week-long getaway, and a tranquil paradise to truly relax and rejuvenate.


Where to Stay

Turks and Caicos is a British Overseas territory in the Caribbean with over 40 islands and cays. The Turk islands and the Caicos islands are separated by the Turks Island Passage, and many are of them are uninhabited. However, there are still plenty of options to choose from in terms of where to stay on the island. The most popular and populated is the Caicos island of Providenciales , where Grace Bay Beach and the Bight Settlement are great options with plenty of accommodations available and a central location for many amazing restaurants, shops and access to grocery stores. Many international flights will fly straight to Providenciales International Airport (PLS), so staying on the island is very convenient since you won't have to take a ferry after landing.


If you're looking for a more quiet and intimate experience, consider staying outside of Providenciales, like in the neighboring island of Pine Cay. This privately owned island is occupied by homeowners and The Meridian Club Resort. I've had a couple of friends go with this option and they highly recommend it for honeymoons and couples. Similarly, North, Middle and South Caicos are also great, but less popular options.


Since it was our first time in TCI, I went with Grace Bay Beach because it was the most accessible in terms of excursion pick-ups and proximity to nearby restaurants by foot. The Royal West Indies Resort is an incredible resort option in GBB. The grounds are perfectly manicured, customer service is incredible, there are free paddleboards and bike rentals, and it's a beach front property to top it all off. Not to mention the Pelican Bay Restaurant on the property was great for those nights when we didn't want to venture out in the dark for dinner. It's not the most budget-friendly option, but definitely reasonable and a great bang for your buck. Highly recommended for both couples and families.


Driving Around Providenciales


Renting a Car

It's totally possible to get away with an amazing vacation in Turks and Caicos without a car. Many excursions and tour companies will offer a shuttle service or beach pick-up for free or for a fee, and you can always call a Conch Cab (TCI's Uber equivalent) to get you around the island.


For the most optimal experience, I highly recommend renting a car or scooter for the ultimate flexibility and freedom to explore whatever island you're on, especially in Providenciales. Compact cars are fairly cheap to rent (~$60USD/day), so it's really the most economical option, especially when you're traveling with one or more people.


There are quite a few car rental options on the island to choose from. I had a great experience with Grace Bay Car Rentals. They are very responsive via email and phone and also honor walk-ins! They are located right at the airport and also in Grace Bay if you choose to return and pickup from different locations. Similarly, Avis is also a more familiar option you can go with and has multiple locations on Providenciales.


Tips:

- They drive on the left side of the road here as they are a British Oversees territory. Definitely a daunting and unnatural experience considering I'm not the best driver, but I'm an expert now!

-There are no traffic lights on the island...only traffic circles. Stay vigilant on the road :)


Taylor Bay Beach

One of our first stops with the car was a drive through Chalk Sound Drive at the the south coast of Providenciales. Here you can find some of the most beautiful beaches on the island, including Sopadilla Bay Beach and Taylor Bay Beach. Taylor Bay is not a very large beach and is quite narrow, but was calm and beautiful nonetheless. It's also the most shallow beach I have ever been to; I probably could have walked out a mile without water going above my waist.


Tip: Taylor Bay is found off of Ocean Point Drive in the Chalk Sound region of Providenciales. Parking is not ample, but should not be too difficult to park along the road.


Reef Snorkeling at Princess Alexandra National Park

There are plenty of snorkel excursions available in TCI, but an easily accessible, free option is to head to the Bight Reef (also known as Coral Gardens). This reef begins very close to the beach, which is awesome because you don't need to head out on an excursion via boat to see some beautiful fish and coral.


Tip: Bring your own snorkel gear, or rent equipment right on the beach!


Saltmills Plaza

One of the main shopping districts in the heart of Grace Bay tourism district is Saltmills Plaza. There are dozens of shops and restaurants all within walking distance, and is a great area to stay close to for accessibility to food and entertainment. We found ourselves here on quite a few occasions either to browse the souvenir shops or to eat. We loved the ice cream over at Island Scoop, and the conch fritters are a must-try at Fresh Catch.


Another one of our favorite places was this soap shop below selling homemade soaps in over 50 scents and colors. It definitely had that Caribbean Lush vibe!


Jack's Fountain

We spent the first two days on the island without a car at our disposal, so Jack's was the quickest option in Grace Bay outside of our resort for a quick lunch. They have a fully stocked bar and great happy hour specials for later in the evening. Their lunch menu was also pretty extensive with many Caribbean and seafood options, including fish and chips, mussels, shrimp and clams.


We both agreed that the fish tacos here are one of the best things we ate on our entire trip!


Bugaloos Conch Crawl

On an island like Turks and Caicos, its really not that hard to find beachfront restaurants with delicious seafood to match the view. Bugaloo's is an institution in Five Cays and is a definite must visit while in Providenciales. As you would expect from it's name, they have an extensive menu of conch options and seafood dishes to choose from. We tried the conch burger and coconut shrimp, both exceeding our expectations. They also have one of the best drink menus we have seen, with plenty of smoothie and virgin drink choices for the DD.


One of the defining features of the restaurant are the tables in the water, which depending on the tide, can be a potential option for in-water dining. It's also just a great photo-op and we saw plenty of people take photos while we dined.


Entertainment here includes fire dances and live music from a Dominican band. They also offer activities like horseback riding and outdoor games on the beach. While we only came here for lunch, it certainly seems like a lively place to be in the evening with friends and family.


Da Conch Shack

Our last meal on the island was at the iconic Da Conch Shack, which serves up traditional and modern island food with a fabulous beach view. They have a large menu with fresh seafood, but also serve ribs, chicken, and steak with an island flare.


An absolute must-try is the cracked conch, which tastes a little bit like calamari or fried clam strips. We also had the fish tacos, which came deconstructed for a fun build-your-own experience.


Da Conch Shack has live music on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays so make sure to check out the lively entertainment and dip your toes in the water with a piña colada in hand.


Bay Bistro

Seafood?✔ Beach Side?✔ Sunset? ✔


When it comes to the ultimate beach-side dining experience, you can't get better than Bay Bistro in the Bight Settlement of Providenciales. This beautiful restaurant on Grace Bay Beach has an extensive menu, including delicious seafood options like almond crusted grouper and pecan crusted conch. We ordered smoked conch chowder, a blackened shrimp tart, and shared the fresh blackened snapper with chili shrimp.


Tip: Book a reservation in advance and choose a time slot about an hour before sunset so you can watch as the sun goes down over dessert!


Snorkeling Day Trip with Island Vibes Tours

Island Vibes Tours offers a variety of catamaran excursions to sail the seas and explore all that Turks and Caicos truly has to offer. Choose between a half day or full day snorkel tour or a dreamy sunset cruise (Private options are also available).


Our half-day afternoon snorkel tour started off with a beach-front pick-up from our hotel. Island Vibes Tours operates a variety of different sized catamarans. Ours had a capacity of around 50, but our boat was about half full. We continued to cruise the waters and head toward the reefs to snorkel for about 30 minutes before heading toward Little Water Cay (Iguana Island) to relax for the afternoon. The ride there was extremely fun and my sister and I got to hang out and straddle the front of the boat which was an awesome experience.


We spent about an hour docked on Iguana Island so we could explore and check out Half Moon Bay, one of the most stunning beaches in all of Turks and Caicos. The ride back was filled with fun music, rum punch and hanging out on the lovely rooftop deck. The captain even made a 20 minute pit stop to anchor down in Grace Bay Beach so guests could use the slide and jump off the diving board on the roof!


Our time with Island Vibes was awesome and I highly recommend them not only for their excursion but also their incredible customer service. We had a little bit of a drone fiasco the day of our trip, which meant we actually went on the same excursion again the next day to go find it again. No complaints here though as IVT was extremely accommodating and day 2 was just as fun as the first :)


Provo Ponies

One of the most unique experiences we had in Turks and Caicos by far, was our pony excursion with Provo Ponies. This small business has been operating for over 15 years, offering group/private rides and lessons for all ages and levels. I have no idea how to ride a horse. As a matter of fact, the last time I was on one before this trip was when I was 6 years old. But even with no experience, my sister and I both successfully guided our horses on our own for over two hours both on land and in the sea. The guides here are extremely knowledgeable and know the horses personalities inside and out, and they are there to help you every step of the way.


Our group ride started with pony assignments for each person based on height, weight, and riding experience. We were then each given a 1-1 lesson on how to guide our horses before we all headed toward the beach. We spent about 20 minutes riding in a single file line on the road, which was definitely nerve wrecking as we were riding alongside cars. Luckily, Patches behaved very well and I even learned how to trot! After basking in the sun for another half hour in the water in Long Bay Beach, we headed back in the same direction toward the stable again. It was truly a surreal and unforgettable experience and I am so happy to support the amazing work that they do at Provo ponies to raise and care for these majestic creatures. I know Patches and Apache really enjoyed their rides!


The guides are also fabulous photographers and will grab your phone from you mid-ride to capture the beauty!


Check out their website here for operating times and prices.


Key to the Sea Parasailing

To cap off all the new experiences of this trip, parasailing was something I really wanted to check off my bucket list. I couldn't think of a more beautiful place to do it than here in Turks. Key to the Sea Parasailing was my pick for this excursion due to their wonderful, perfect 5 star online reviews. They were extremely responsive for the months leading up to our ride and they came to pick us up right on the dot of our appointment at the beach behind our hotel.


The entire experience only took about 25 minutes: 5 minutes for pickup, 5 minutes to put on the parasailing gear, 10-15 minutes in the air and 5 minutes for the drop-off. Even though the time flew, by it was an incredibly calm and beautiful experience for a view that can only be captured via drone or helicopter. There's really nothing like seeing TCI's turquoise beauty from a bird's eye view.

While 2020 so far has been a crazy ride that no one was prepared for, I know that things will be normal again soon and we will come out of this on the other side with greater appreciation for family, friends, conversations, and travel. Until then, stay safe and use this time to reflect on all the little blessings in life.

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