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Turks and Caicos is the kind of place that inspires you to get out of bed early just so you can draw back the blinds and take in the view. Its waters are a magnificent display of vibrant blues, perhaps only rivaled in beauty by the colorful Moroccan city of Chefchaouen. And while there are many Caribbean beaches worthy of a visit, the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) offer unique experiences — both luxury and local — that can’t be missed. Here are six things to know before you go:
1. It’s Easy to Get There From the US
When your flight touches down, you’ll land on the gateway island of Providenciales — or Provo, as the locals call it — which will serve as your entry point to the archipelago. Providenciales International Airport (PLS) is the islands’ only international airport, with daily and seasonal nonstop flights arriving predominantly from the US and Canada — JetBlue, Delta, United, American and Air Canada are among the most commonly used carriers, and Southwest will be adding nonstop flights from Ft. Lauderdale this fall. Note that a valid passport is required for all travelers coming from the US; some international travelers may also be required to present a visa.
2. Don’t Forget to Visit Both Bays
Many travelers heading to Turks and Caicos will spend their time on Grace Bay, known for its tranquil waters and beautiful sunsets. Many of the islands’ luxury resorts and shops are located along Grace Bay Beach as well, while some restaurants, like Solana, are just steps from the white sand and offer the option to dine al fresco. Perpendicular to Grace Bay is up-and-coming Long Bay. While lesser-known but equally stunning, Long Bay Beach presents the ideal conditions for water sports thanks to its trade winds and shallow waters.
3. Treat Yourself and Stay at a Beachfront Villa
With a variety of options ranging from budget to luxury, I chose to stay off the beaten path at the newly built Long Bay Beach Club. Live like a king (or queen) at this trio of modern, beachfront villas that offers perks like airport pick-up and 24/7 staff, as well as additional luxury services like your own private butler, on-call chef or in-villa spa treatments. Guests can also take advantage of those aforementioned Long Bay trade winds and take the club’s kayaks, paddle boards and kite boards out for a spin. Or, if feeling the breeze in your hair from the comfort of the pool is more your speed, each villa is equipped with a private infinity pool. The villas offer three- to five-bedroom accommodations, so they’re ideal for large families or group getaways, like bachelor and bachelorette parties. From $2,000 per night for a three-bedroom villa or from $2,400 for a five-bedroom villa, each with a three-night minimum stay required.
4. Consider Casual Dining
While there are a number of great fine dining options to try, the best food experiences I had in TCI were on the casual side. For starters, make sure you pencil in the weekly Fish Fry, which takes place every Thursday at Provo’s Bight Park and is your opportunity to sample fresh cuisine prepared and served by the locals themselves. Note that credit cards are accepted by some vendors, but bring some cash along just in case your favorite food stand doesn’t do plastic.
For the best conch in the islands, visit Da Conch Shack, a TCI staple that offers casual dining directly on the beach, or on the porch if you’re seeking shade, while the conch you ordered is harvested from the ocean right in front of you. No matter how you ordered it, as fritters — my fave! — on a salad, in chowder or ceviche-style, pair it with a glass of rum punch. My local friends assured me that Turks rum is the best locally sourced souvenir to bring home, so here’s your chance to sample it — trust me, you really only need just one.
5. Be Prepared to Drive — or Pay for Rides
If you didn’t take my advice on ordering just one rum punch, you’re going to need some help getting back to your digs and your first inclination might be to call a taxi. But if you chose to take one from the airport to your hotel, you already know how expensive this option can be. The local taxi union has an exceptionally strong presence and therefore, rates are fixed and drivers are well-protected.
Private cars are also available for hire, but should be arranged in advance — your hotel concierge can help you with that. Unsurprisingly, Uber hasn’t made its way to TCI yet, so for a more cost-efficient means of getting around, your best bet is a rental car (as long as someone in your group avoids the rum punch). Just be aware that many of the roads outside the main towns are unpaved and can make for a slow and bumpy ride.
6. Where to Party With the Locals
Once you’ve arranged your car and had your fill of conch, you’re probably ready for a big night out. Locals and tourists alike favor nightlife hotspots Danny Buoys and the Sand Bar for their dancing and drinks. The two bars are located across the street from each other, so when one spot dies down, don’t fret, just head across the street to the other — just like the locals do.
What are some of your favorite things to do in Turks and Caicos? Tell us about them, below.
Featured image by Justin Okoye/EyeEm/Getty Images.
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