Turks and Caicos Islands

Turks and Caicos Islands

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With water so turquoise that it glows, you may find it difficult to stray far from the beach in the Turks and Caicos. You may find no need for museums, no desire to see ruins, or even read books. You may find yourself hypnotized by the water’s many neon hues. And since the beaches are among the most incredible you will ever see, don’t be surprised if you wake up on your last morning and realize that you didn’t find a lot of time for anything else.

Although ivory-white, soft sandy beaches and breathtaking turquoise waters are shared among all the islands, the landscapes are a series of contrasts; from the dry, arid bush and scrub on the flat, coral islands of Grand Turk, Salt Cay, South Caicos, and Providenciales to the greener, foliage-rich undulating landscapes of Middle Caicos, North Caicos, Parrot Cay, and Pine Cay.

A much-disputed legend has it that Columbus first discovered these islands in 1492. Despite being on the map for longer than most other island groups, the Turks and Caicos Islands (pronounced kay-kos) still remain part of the less-discovered Caribbean. More than 40 islands—only eight inhabited—make up this self-governing British overseas territory that lies just 575 mi (925 km) southeast of Miami on the third-largest coral reef system in the world.

Turks and Caicos Islands Reviews

The Turks and Caicos can be a fairly expensive destination. Most hotels on Providenciales are fairly expensive, but there are some moderately priced options; most accommodations are condo-style, but not all resorts are family-friendly. You’ll find several upscale properties on the outer islands—including the famous Parrot Cay—but the majority of places are smaller inns. What you give up in luxury, however, you gain back tenfold in island charm. Though the smaller islands are fairly isolated, that’s arguably what makes them so attractive in the first place.

Resorts: Most of the resorts on Provo are upscale; many are condo-style, so at least you will have a well-furnished kitchen for breakfast and a few quick lunches. There are two all-inclusive resorts on Provo. A handful of other luxury resorts are on the smaller islands.

Small Inns: Aside from the exclusive, luxury resorts, most of the places on the outlying islands are smaller, modest inns with relatively few amenities. Some are devoted to diving.

Villas and Condos: Villas and condos are plentiful, particularly on Provo and usually represent a good value for families. However, you need to plan a few months in advance to get one of the better choices, less if you want to stay in a more-developed condo complex.

Grand Turk

Just 7 mi (11 km) long and a little over 1 mi (1½ km) wide, this island, the capital and seat of the Turks & Caicos government, has been a longtime favorite destination for divers eager to explore the 7,000-foot-deep pristine coral walls that drop down only 300 yards out to sea. On shore, the tiny, quiet island is home to white-sand beaches, the National Museum, and a small population of wild horses and donkeys, which leisurely meander past the white-walled courtyards, pretty churches, and bougainvillea-covered colonial inns on their daily commute into town. A cruise-ship complex that opened at the southern end of the island in 2006 brings about 300,000 visitors per year. Despite the dramatic changes this could make to this peaceful tourist spot, the dock is self-contained and is about 3 mi (5 km) from the tranquil, small hotels of Cockburn Town, Pillory Beach, and the Ridge and far from most of the western-shore dive sites. And the influx has also pushed Grand Turk to open up a few new historic sites, including Grand Turk’s Old Prison, and the Lighthouse.

Little Water Cay

This small, uninhabited cay is a protected area under the Turks & Caicos National Trust. On these 150 acres are two trails, small lakes, red mangroves, and an abundance of native plants. Boardwalks protect the ground, and interpretive signs explain the habitat. The cay is home to about 2,000 rare, endangered rock iguanas. Experts say the iguanas are shy, but these creatures actually seem rather curious. They waddle right up to you, as if posing for a picture. Several water-sports operators from Provo and North Caicos include a stop on the island as a part of their snorkel or sailing excursions (it’s usually called “Iguana Island”). There’s a $5 fee for a permit to visit the cay, and the proceeds go toward conservation in the islands.

Middle Caicos

At 48 square mi (124 square km) and with fewer than 300 residents, this is the largest and least developed of the inhabited islands in the Turks and Caicos chain. A limestone ridge runs to about 125 feet above sea level, creating dramatic cliffs on the north shore and a cave system farther inland. Middle Caicos has rambling trails along the coast; the Crossing Place Trail, maintained by the National Trust, follows the path used by the early settlers to go between the islands. Inland are quiet settlements with friendly residents. North Caicos and Middle Caicos are linked by a causeway; since they are now linked by a road, it’s possible to take a ferry from Provo to North Caicos, rent a car, and explore both North Caicos and Middle Caicos.

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