Turks and Caicos Islands

Exploring Turks and Caicos Islands feels like tripping down Alice’s rabbit hole: It’s under British rule, but the currency is the American dollar. Traffic moves on the left, but most rental-car steering wheels are on the right. And you won’t find a single McDonalds or KFC. What you will find is one of the world’s most stunning shorelines, Grace Bay Beach. The 12-mile porcelain-white crescent of sand is fronted by turquoise and beryl-hued waters. The color and clarity come partially from the crushed pink coral sea bottom, found only in this part of the South Atlantic. A protective barrier reef enables safe lagoon swimming for kids, easy snorkeling, and excellent diving and bonefishing. But should you wish simply to relax, the vibe is all about tranquility—more beach chic exclusive than overdeveloped. Although numerous resorts have opened on Providenciales (really the only island developed for tourism), the hotels here blend into their natural environs.

Sail boat on the ocean in Turks and Caicos

Photo By jpbarcelos/Shutterstock


When’s the best time to go to Turks and Caicos Islands?

Technically in the Atlantic hurricane belt, Turks and Caicos’ location often spares it direct hits from major storms—though Hurricane Ike did pummel the outer islands of Grand Turk and South Caicos in 2008. If you travel during the off-season (June–October), you can score serious lodging deals and likely have great weather on Providenciales. Expect prices to skyrocket during the high season, December to April. The average temperature is between 85 and 95 degrees in summer, falling to 80 in winter. With abundant sunshine throughout the year, the islands are a year-round destination.

How to get around Turks and Caicos Islands

The Turks and Caicos have three international airports, but most foreigners go through Providenciales International Airport on Providenciales (Provo) the main developed island. Most flights go via Miami, and there are limited flights within the Caribbean from Turks and Caicos—so if you plan to island hop, you will likely find yourself backtracking through Florida. The airport in Provo has a tourism booth for arriving passengers, and a restaurant, but little else. The Grand Turk International Airport and South Caicos International Airport are local airstrips used mostly by private charter flights.

It’s easy to get around Provo either by taxi or rental car. If you plan to explore beyond Provo, however, it’s best to rent a car, even if just for a few days, as taxi fares add up quickly. And a car is necessary if you’re staying in one of the villa rentals on the island. Most rental companies offer free drop-off and pickup from your hotel. You can also rent scooters. Note that driving is on the left-hand side.

Food and drink to try in Turks and Caicos Islands

Fresh fish and shellfish are staples in Turks and Caicos. The islands’ geography doesn’t lend itself to growing much in the way of fresh fruit and vegetables, so a traditional local dinner would involve fresh seafood accompanied by peas and hominy. Conch is on nearly every menu and served dozens of ways, with fritters probably the most common. Rum and local beer are the popular alcoholic beverages, although one can find just about any mixed drink at a restaurant.

Culture in Turks and Caicos Islands

Turks and Caicos have a mixed population. They are still governed by Great Britain, and this fact has caused contention in recent decades. Many residents are descendents of African slaves and have been living on the islands all their lives. These residents are known as “Belongers.” The island nation is also known as one of the world’s best tax havens, and as such it attracts a sizable wealthy population of expats hailing from across the world.

Junkanoo has been celebrated in Turks and Caicos since the 16th century, when slaves were given one day off around Christmas to spend with their families. Today the event is celebrated at midnight on January 1, when revelers take to the streets with homemade costumes and instruments and party until dawn. Cinco de Mayo is also celebrated with gusto in Provo.

Local travel tips for Turks and Caicos Islands

Turks and Caicos is not a nightlife destination. You won’t find much open past 10 p.m., making it perfect for honeymooners, couples, or families looking for a quiet getaway. Food and drink here can be pricey, so if you plan to consume a lot of both, look into renting either a villa or a residence-style hotel room with a full kitchen to cut down on costs. One of the world’s most beautiful beaches, Grace Bay is also a great place to learn your chops with a mask and snorkel, as you can literally walk out to snorkeling spots. The coral and fish here are abundant and colorful.

Guide Editor

Becca Blond is an award-winning freelance travel writer based in Denver, Colorado.

Read Before You Go
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Sometimes the most challenging thing you can do on vacation is absolutely nothing. Our intrepid editor reports from the beaches of Turks and Caicos.
Resources to help plan your trip
When traveling with family or friends in Turks and Caicos, a private villa rental often works out to be cheaper than sleeping in a hotel. Staying in a private villa also offers more privacy and flexibility when it comes to meals and experiences. From bare-bones to full-service with butler, maid, and chef, villa rentals in Turks and Caicos cover all budgets.
Turks and Caicos has numerous outdoor experiences to enjoy, beyond simply spending a week lazing on the beach. From DIY snorkeling to food tours, and from taking a homeless “potcake” dog for a walk to riding a pony through the surf at sunset, Providenciales, the main tourist island in Turks and Caicos, is filled with opportunities for outdoor fun. Here are our favorite adventures on the island.
There is so much to fall in love with in Providenciales, the only touristy island in the Turks and Caicos, but there are certain experiences you just must do. The Turks and Caicos are a true paradise, and Providenciales (Provo, to locals) is home to one of the world’s most stunning shorelines, the 12-mile Grace Bay Beach. Other top experiences in the Turks and Caicos include DIY snorkeling, an island fish fry, or taking a homeless “potcake” dog to the beach.
Turks and Caicos is a great honeymoon destination, especially if you just want to spend your days lazing on the beach, sipping rum from a coconut, and enjoying romantic private time with your sweetie. Here are our favorite hotels and villas (for all budgets) for honeymooners in Turks and Caicos, where you can get pampered like a celebrity, snorkel or skinny-dip in paradise, and spend your evenings stargazing together from the pool.
The Turks and Caicos Islands are a Caribbean hotspot thanks to gorgeous beaches, excellent snorkeling, and some of the region’s best hotels. Hotels range in mood from desert-island solitude and high-glam celeb digs to luxury resorts, so find your flavor and relax.
Nobody would fault you for plunking yourself down in a beach chair at one of Turks and Caicos uber-relaxing resorts and staying put for the weekend. But if the spirit (or your growling stomach) moves you to go out and taste and see and do, the islands offer more than their fair share of good food and great experiences. From playing a round at the Provo Golf Club to taking a stroll on the white sand of Grace Bay Beach, Turks and Caicos serves up delight (and a lot of conch fritters too).
Whether you’re up for some day drinking (no judgment here) or you want to enjoy a sundowner cocktail to sip as the sunset finishes and the stars come out to play, the open-air and restaurant bars of Turks and Caicos are a delight. Sip a beer from local Turks Head Brewery or pair a fruity tropical drink with that view of the Caribbean waters.
These gorgeous islands are surrounded by the turquoise waters--and pink flamingos--of your Instagram dreams. From scuba diving on Grand Turk to horseback riding on the white sand of Long Bay Beach, you’ll spend plenty of time enjoying life in and near the water. But you’ll also find a fascinating National Museum, shopping in and around the capital of Cockburn Town, the craftsmen of Conch Bar and, speaking of conch, a deep dive into farming that favorite local delicacy.
Conch is the quintessential local food in Turks and Caicos. The mollusk isn’t for everyone, but seafood lovers will dig its chewy goodness and myriad serving styles. We’ve gathered a list conch shacks, a weekly fish fry, and some watering holes that locals favor, to give you a taste of TCI.
Fish fanatics beware: vacation in Turks and Caicos and there’s a good chance you’ll start dreaming about living on the islands forever. Conch and grouper are often the stars of the menus so you’ll have plenty of chances to try them served all kinds of ways. But, really, chance up your order a bit here and there. After all, there’s a lot to be said for a lobster dinner at a fine dining restaurant overlooking the water or for hanging out at the touristy but fun Thursday-night fish fry off of Grace Bay Beach.
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