Turks and Caicos – Paradise on Earth
The first question I always get when I tell people that we went to Turks and Caicos is, “Where is that?” Turks and Caicos, or TCI as they call it on the island, (stands for Turks and Caicos Islands) is located in the Atlantic Ocean. It is a chain of small
islands north of the Dominican Republic, East of Cuba, and Southwest of The Bahamas. It is a British territory consisting of 40 low-lying coral islands. Providenciales (called Provo) is the gateway island. It is home to their international airport and Grace Bay Beach, among other destinations. On Grace Bay you will find some very elaborate vacation homes and luxury resorts, shops, and restaurants. Divers enjoy the 3rd largest barrier reef in the world, stretching 14 miles along the north shore. Along the reef, there is a 7,000 foot underwater wall off Grand Turk Island where you will find some of the most beautiful ocean life like colorful fish, sea turtles, and an occasional black tip shark. TCI has a very interesting history dating way back before Christopher Columbus…But you can Google that if you are interested in learning more.
To travel into TCI, you will need “travel authorization.” You must have a negative PCI COVID test within five days of departure from the United States. The antigen (“rapid test”) will not do, it must be the ore comprehensive PCI. The good news is, the Centers for Disease Control approved a rapid PCI test in February, so you can get results back within 24 hours. Once you get your test results, you must go to the TCI website (https://travelauthorisation.turksandcaicostourism.com/public/) and complete an authorization request. Provide your health information, upload your test results, and submit. Our authorization was approved within about a half hour. Be sure to check their website or your helpful travel agent (shameless plug) for updates or changes to these requirements.
Okay, now you know where it is and how to get there. Once we arrived, immediately we felt the cool wind and warm sun on our faces. There is little to stop the ocean breeze on a small island so, while the temperature was around 90 degrees, it was nice and cool. Either the humidity was low or you barely noticed it because of the breeze. We landed in Providenciales which is where most of the tourists go. At the airport, there are a few rental car places. I recommend Grace Bay Car Rental, located immediately outside the door of the airport baggage claim area. They are super friendly, efficient, and the cars are nice. Check in and out was a breeze (get it? – breeze?). I have heard from some frequent travelers to TCI that some of the chain car rental companies have limited inventory, so you may or may not get the car you requested. We chose a Jeep Wrangler for the island and got a virtually new one. Our Grace Bay rep even took the time to show us how to remove the top (the jeep, not hers).
The island is small. From the highway, in several spots you can see ocean to your left and ocean to your right. Speaking of left and right, being a British colony, they drive on the left side of the road. It seemed odd to me that this was the only noticeable relation to Europe. While locals drive from the right side of the car, the rental cars have the steering wheel on the left side like in the US. The speed signs are in miles and not kilometers, fuel is sold by the gallon and not by the liter. The currency in Turks and Caicos is the US Dollar.
Most visitors stay in the resort areas of Grace Bay. Here you will find resorts, boutique hotels, homes for rent, restaurants and bars, excursions, all the things you want for a vacation in paradise. And paradise it is. We stayed with some friends who own shares of Equity Estate Fund, a financial organization that invests in luxury homes in exotic locations. Our lodging was amazing! We had 10 people there, including us, but there was plenty of room. The infinity pool appeared to end where the ocean begins. There was a small beach below. The best part of this was, we were about 10 minutes from the tourist area and could easily take advantage of all of the activity. Yet we were far enough away to spend a quiet evening by the pool. The sand is white and powdery, the kind that barely sticks to your feet. And the water…oh the water. I could sit and look at it all day (one day I practically did). It is the most beautiful, clear, teal blue water I think I have ever seen. You can see the bottom as well as any chlorinated swimming pool. Many parts of the ocean surrounding TCI are very shallow. I was told by our boat guide that in one area, you can walk 72 miles from one island to the next without the water being over your head. It is the largest stretch of shallow, ocean in the world. He joked that his grandfather used to tell him, “If you meet a girl on the other island, make her meet you half way.”
While on the island, I highly recommend Island Vibes Tours for excursions. They have a variety of watercraft for parasailing, tubing, sightseeing, snorkeling, diving, you name it. They can customize an excursion to suit whatever you want to do. They can even pick you up at some of the Grace Bay resorts. Our boat was equipped with a slide that started on the rooftop lounge and dumped you into the ocean. All alcohol, and a lunch is included. Our captain was a local named Delray, accompanied by his deck mate and guide, Lex… as in Lex Luther – his words. These guys were amazing. They really know their island and are highly recommended if you can get them. This being my first time in TCI, we asked to go snorkeling, see a shipwreck, and take a tour of the shoreline.
As we cruised the shoreline, we were treated with a brief history lesson by Lex, who is clearly proud of his heritage and his island home. He was born there and his family is from there. He pointed out several different homes along the beach and told us about their significance. Most notable is the vacation home that we often see on TV, where the Kardashians vacation. No celebrity sightings (would you call them a celebrity?). Speaking of sightings, for a while we were visited by a momma dolphin and her two little ones. These are so beautiful to see in the open ocean, where the water is so clear you can see them swimming alongside the boat. They were not interested in visitors, just watching the boats. When someone from another boat jumped in to try to swim with them, they calmly swam away. As we passed giant luxury homes and resorts, Lex pointed out that 40 years ago the island didn’t even have paved roads. In that timespan, all of what you see now was developed; shoulder to shoulder resorts and luxury homes. It is clear this growth hasn’t stopped. New construction can be seen everywhere. Lex pointed to a home and told us, “A house like that, a 4-bedroom, 4-bath house on the beach with a pool could be purchased for about $6 million.” I gasped. He said, “But you can rent it and make your money back in five years!” After seeing rental prices, I believe it. Not to mention, property values continue to skyrocket there. Also, bear in mind, it is not the same as buying a $6M house in the US. Turks and Caicos has no property tax or income tax. However, you’re going to need a partner. A resident has to own no less than 51% of the property.
We visited a shipwreck known as La Famille Express located two miles off the shore of Long Bay Beach. The old cargo ship was grounded there during Hurricane Francis. It’s a great snorkeling spot, or while it is not recommended, you can climb aboard and jump off of its deck. We moved on to the reef and snorkeled off the boat in the some of the most beautiful water in the world. All sorts of fish swam all around us. We were later dropped off on a small, uninhabited island, where we chilled on the sandy beach and explored the shoreline. Unfortunately, I am claustrophobic and cannot scuba (don’t judge me). I hate this about me, but it is my curse. A couple in our party did several dives during the weeklong stay though, one along the underwater wall. The pictures and video they shared were incredible.
Some of our dinners were at very nice restaurants, most of them connected with a resort. The food there is outstanding. You can get just about anything from pasta to beef, and of course fresh seafood. My favorite was a dinner on the beach, with fireworks going off across the water. We also ate at a couple small beach bars. They are scattered along the shoreline. You can’t go wrong. One afternoon we felt a little adventurous and drove in the opposite direction of Grace Bay, to the end of the island. No literally. The road ended with no signs and dropped off to the ocean. Beautiful spot on Chalk Sound. We stopped for lunch at Las Brisas Restaurant at Neptune Villas. Very nice spot, especially if you like quiet. I had the most amazing crab cakes.
Food is very expensive on the island. So is just about everything else. You have to remember, this is a small island. Everything is brought there by boat or plane. They don’t produce a lot. Gas was $5.63/gallon. I paid $40 for 7 gallons of gas. A tube of toothpaste at the grocery store was $7.00. However, I bought a cool PROVO ball cap souvenir from the same store for only $12.00 (would have cost $20 back home). Dinner and drinks at nice restaurants tends to run about $200-250 a couple. Dinner and drinks at the beach bars tend to be around $100 or so.
All in all, this was an amazing trip. The water is so beautiful, you cannot capture it with a camera. You just have to see it for yourself. Would I go back again? Abso-freakin-lutely! I will need to save some money to go back. Like I said, it’s expensive. But I would love to explore some of the lesser traveled islands and go back to Grace Bay for another boat trip with Delray and Lex. Hopefully soon. Definitely one of my favorite islands.
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