We rang in 2019 on Turks and Caicos Islands’ famed 12-mile white sand Grace Bay Beach, with elaborate fireworks being launched from the strip’s many resorts. As I sat there with the people I love most, taking in the pyrotechnics and Junkanoo parade, I took a moment to remember how incredibly fortunate I am.
I often find that New Year’s celebrations disappoint. This one did not.
We ended up in this most desirable of Caribbean locations because of a tradition I started four years ago. Every other year, my boys spend Christmas with their father. Those years, when they return to me several days later, the belated Christmas celebrations lack a certain je ne sais quoi. Christmas has come and gone. Presents have been opened. Everyone is basically over the holiday. So, I decided that instead of focusing on gifts, we would take the opportunity to share experiences–to travel together. I wrap a few gifts for the boys that are essentially clues they must use to guess our destination.
And this year’s destination was a spectacular one—the island of Providenciales on Turks and Caicos, a British Overseas Territory just southeast of The Bahamas (don’t pack your British pounds though; the official currency here is the U.S. dollar).
Providenciales is known for its luxury resorts along world-famous Grace Bay. All resorts here are required to have public beach access, so you do not have to stay at a Grace Bay hotel to enjoy all that area has to offer (The folks at www.wherewhenhow.com/ have a handy map of all the access points).
I’m not much of a resort person, so I booked a beautiful two-bedroom house in Cooper Jack Bay (through Airbnb), with a private pool, dock, kayaks, and more. This allowed us to spend our days on the island’s best beaches (in addition to Grace Bay, check out family-friendly Turtle Cove where the water remains shallow for hundreds of feet or Half Moon Bay, accessible by boat) and then retreat to our private oasis. It was perfect.
A note about driving:
It takes all of 15 minutes to travel from one end of the island to the other, so wherever you find accommodations, you will never be too far from the action. It is important to consider though how you will get around. Should you rent a car? Yes, but…
Most major resorts offer airport transfers, but having a car allows you to explore other parts of the island (there is no public transportation or Uber; and taxi fares are quite expensive—a single round trip from your hotel to a restaurant will likely cost more than renting a vehicle for the day). Be prepared to drive on the left side of the road (British style–when you get to the roundabouts, just follow the car in front of you). I did occasionally turn on the windshield wipers when I intended to use the turn signal (yes, those are reversed), but live and learn.
Remember how I said, “yes, but…”? Here’s the “but”: There are very few road signs, and the standard map given out by rental companies has a certain Disney-esque quality and is lacking in trivial details, like street names. (True confession: it took us longer to find our Airbnb than it took to fly from Fort Lauderdale to Providenciales). Getting hopelessly lost is actually quite a pleasant experience and ironically helps to familiarize you with the island. A mere 24 hours after our arrival, I felt as though I had fully mastered navigation, so no harm done. So, I wouldn’t hesitate to rent a vehicle, unless you are arriving after sunset. If that is the case, save yourself some frustration: take the hotel shuttle and pick up your rental car (shout out to locally owned Scooter Bob’s) the following day.
We chose to fill our days lounging on the beach, taking a snorkeling tour, lunching at various resorts’ beachside restaurants, and walking puppies for local charity Potcake Place. The ocean revealed to us more shades of blue than we knew existed, and people could not have been more hospitable (case in point: we arrived at the beach one day and asked to rent an umbrella; none were available at the time so, unbeknownst to us, a staff member went to the store, purchased an umbrella, and set it up for us to use.)
Turks and Caicos would rank at the very top of the Caribbean islands I have visited (Bahamas, Barbados, Cozumel, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Croix, and St. Thomas). While I am generally not one to return to the same destination over and over, I look forward to many mores trips to Turks and Caicos (Sailrock on South Caicos just found its way onto my wish list).
Have you been to Turks and Caicos? What did you love most? Let us know in the comments! If you are so inclined, please follow us! Happy travels!
Hemingway’s at The Sands
Cocovan (casual) or the more formal Coco Bistro
The beachside restaurant at the Seven Stars Resort
Grace Bay Beach
Half Moon Bay (created by Hurricane Donna in 1960)
Caicos Dream Tours
Island Vibes Tours
Grace Bay Rentals