Peel back the glamour of Turks and Caicos, and you will find an island that is as naturally beautiful as it is glamorous. I am lucky to travel all around the world as owner of Exceptional Villas, and I can honestly say that Turks and Caicos is one of my most favorite destinations on the planet. Not only are the Turks and Caicos Villas some of the best in the world, but these incredible archipelagos of islands also have some of the world’s best beaches. I feel that there is so much to uncover that it is time for a comprehensive Turks and Caicos travel guide.

There are two main groups of islands in Turks and Caicos. The two sets of islands split into two by the Columbus passage which is a twenty-two-mile strait which creates a clear divide between The Caicos Islands and The Turks Islands. The passage is fascinating as it acts as a transit for migrating Humpback whales, Rays, and Turtles. All the islands are surrounded by one of the world’s most extensive coral reef systems which is why it offers some of the world’s best beaches, diving, and snorkeling.

Turks and Caicos Travel Guide map

Turks and Caicos comprise 40 different islands and cays. The larger Caicos Islands are to the north-west, and the much smaller Turks Islands are to the south-east of the region. The most recent poll put the total population of all the islands at a tiny 31,458 people.

The 40 islands are part of the British Overseas Territory. Of these 40 islands, just 8 of them are inhabited, but it is also possible to visit many of the others. No matter which island you go to, the one sure thing is that there are hundreds of stunning beaches that could all potentially be in the world’s top 10.

The reason the beaches of Turks and Caicos are so pristine is thanks to the fact the islands are surrounded by the third most abundant reef system in the world. Turks and Caicos also have some of the Caribbean’s best and most luxurious villas and vacation rentals as well as some of the best restaurants and naturally beautiful scenery.

Grace Bay Beach on Providenciales in Turks and Caicos is probably what first comes to mind when you think of Turks and Caicos. This famous beach is absolutely and utterly stunning. It is where many of the Turks and Caicos rentals can be found. Grace Bay has been voted the world’s number one beach on many occasions by many different sources. But it would be a great disservice to Turk’s and Caicos to think this is the only stunning attraction

We are pleased, as part of our essential Turks and Caicos Travel Guide, to give you an overview of the eight inhabited islands, as well as some of the best uninhabited islands to visit


The Caicos Islands

Providenciales and Parrot Cay

Although Providenciales, often abbreviated to Provo, is not the capital of the region it is the most populated having 23,769 residents out of the total of 31,458.  Provo is also where the main international airport is located (Providenciales International Airport). For this reason, Provo is the Island most visited by tourists as it is the easiest to reach.

The island of Provo is a tiny 98km2 (38 sq. miles) in area. It is possible to drive around the entire circumference in less than 2 hours. But for its size, it throws a massive luxury punch regarding Turks and Caicos villas, fabulous beaches, and breathtaking natural beauty.

Provo also has some of some the world’s most beloved beaches. As I mentioned, the most well-known is Grace Bay Beach which is officially 3 miles long. But the beach is equally beautiful on both sides. To the east is Leeward Beach and to the west is Bight Beach. Bight beach is the best spot on Providenciales for snorkeling. Every inch of a 12-mile distance has pristine white sands and crystal clear blue waters which are perfect for swimming and water sports of all kinds.

A couple walk along Grace Bay Beach

Another favorite beach of mine in Provo is Long Bay Beach. Long Bay Beach is where the beautiful new Shore Club is. The beach here is equally impressive to Grace Bay, just not as well-known and much quieter as a result.

The beach at the Amanyara is also gorgeous.  The Amanyara Resort is another location where you will find many more beautiful Turks and Caicos rentals. The beach at the Amanyara is called Malcolm Beach. The drive to Malcolm beach is long (6 kilometers on a dirt track), but when you get there, you will feel like you have arrived on a private island.  It is worth the trip. The waters are crystal clear, and the sand is white and soft. It is a perfect spot for swimming and snorkeling, and you will see loads of wonderfully colorful fish.

But Malcolm beach and the Amanyara Villas are not the only reason to visit this area. There is a fantastic Nature Discovery Centre, a full selection of watersports and a turtle conservation. There are also plenty of facilities in the resort to enjoy such as tennis, a full-service spa, gourmet restaurants, yoga, Pilates, meditation and table tennis.  If you are lucky, you might even see the humpback whales just offshore from the Amanyara during the migration season.

Many of the most luxurious villas in the Turks and Caicos Islands are on the island of Providenciales.   Some of my top 5 Turks and Caicos villas include The Beach Enclave, Tip of the Tail Villa, Villa Stark, Triton Villa, Amazing Grace and Islander Villa.

Parrot Cay is just offshore from Provo and is one of the most exclusive and beautiful private islands in the world.  The island is very close to Providenciales and reached by a short 35-minute boat ride. Parrot Cay is just 1000 acres in size and roughly one-mile long.  It has a stunning beach that goes the entire length of the island.  Donna Karan owns a beautiful home on this beach and is available for rent.

North Caicos

North Caicos is the second largest of all the Turks and Caicos Islands. It lies between Parrot Cay and Providenciales to the west and Middle Caicos to the east. It is often called The Green Island because it is so incredibly lush. North Caicos has a population of 1,400 people, and most of them live in an area called Bottle Creek Village.

North Caicos

Getting to North Caicos is easy.

There are daily connecting flights from Provo as well as ferry and boat charters. If you love to explore off the beaten track places when you travel, then this is a great option. The island is lovely with a vast native flock of pink flamingos.

It is worth a visit just to see these beautiful birds, but the island is also great for cycling and nature lovers.  There are extensive nature reserves and sanctuaries full of tropical birds, ospreys, Iguanas, and flowers.

Middle Caicos

Middle Caicos is the largest of all the islands and comprises of 48 square miles in total. It is unbelievably naturally beautiful with dramatic coastlines, long sandy beaches, and tropical agriculture.

Middle Caicos

Middle Caicos is full of beautiful inlets, marshes, mangroves which are also an incredible natural haven for an abundance of tropical birds. The island has a tiny population of only 275 people is spread between three main settlements. These are Conch Var, Bambarra, and Lorimers.

There is also a fascinating history and culture on the island as there are several impressive plantation ruins. It is possible at low tide to walk from Middle Caicos to North Caicos along a marked trail.

Getting to Middle Caicos is easy enough. There are daily flights from Providenciales as well as a TCI boat ferry and boat charters.

South Caicos

South Caicos is the seventh largest of the islands. It is just over 8 square miles in size. The islands primary income comes from fishing, and this is where most of the other island such as Providenciales get their fantastic fresh seafood.

The main center of the island is called Coburn Harbor, and it was at one point the most active commercial community of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Today it is quiet. The architecture is fascinating as it is very reflective of its British and Bermudian heritage.

Like all the Turks and Caicos Islands, South Caicos has some incredible stretches of unspoiled and virtually deserted beaches.  One of the most exciting places to visit on South Caicos is the iguana preserve which is on Long Cay.

South Caicos

South Caicos is also one of the Turks and Caicos Island’s most favorite diving spots. The area has crystal clear waters, breathtaking sea walls, and a vast variety of coral and sea life that rival those anywhere else in the world. It is also likely that deep sea divers will see a variety of giant sea creatures such as sharks, stingrays, turtles, and octopus.

An iguana poses for a picture at the South Caicos Iguana Reserve

But the best part of visiting South Caicos is without a doubt that some of the best Turks and Caicos Villas are at the brand-new Sail Rock Resort. We are delighted to feature some of these in our handpicked Exceptional Villa collection.

West Caicos

As the name suggests, this is the most westerly of all the islands.  It is also the island with the most beautiful diving spots.  The island is small and comprises just 9 square miles.   There is a unique nature reserve which has a vast variety of bird life. The areas include Lake Catherine which is stunningly beautiful and full of Pink Flamingoes, turtles, and other indigenous wildlife.


The Turks Islands

Grand Turk

Grand Turk Island is the largest of the Turks Islands, and it is also where the capital called Cockburn Town is. Grand Turk is the most cultural of all the Turks and Caicos Islands.  Grand Turk is where the islands historic, cultural and financial center lies and it is here that Christopher first made landfall in what he called the New World in 1492. The island has the second largest population of approximately 3,720 people.

From a tourist attraction point of view, Grand Turk is where you will find a fantastic selection of historical and colonial buildings and ruins. The main island museum is here and has many interesting artifacts and points of interest.  The capital island of Turks and Caicos is also the location for the new luxury cruise ship center.

Offshore, from Grand Turk, you will find an incredible protected coral reef which drops 8,000 feet. It is a big attraction for experienced divers. Other favorite activities on Grand Turk are kayaking and whale watching. It is one of the best places in the Caribbean to watch the substantial humpback whales migrate to The Dominican Republic for the birthing season.

As well as having great diving and wonderful culture, the natural beauty of Grand Turk is one of its best-kept secrets.

Salt Cay

Salt Cay is the second largest of the Turks Islands.  It is still a tiny island with an area of just 6.74 square kilometers and a permanent population of only 186 people who all live in the capital town called Balfour. It is one of the most southerly of all the Turks and Caicos Islands is 80 miles east of Providenciales.  It is straightforward to take a flight from Provo to Salt Cay Airport (SLX)

Salt Cay at North Caicos

From a tourism point of view, Salt Cay is the place to visit if you want to have zero distractions from the outside world. It is the perfect place for people who like to get off the beaten track and have an adventure that not many others will get experience. Salt Cay has a couple of restaurants, is entirely safe and is the perfect back to nature island where you get to reconnect with yourself and your loved ones.

It is also probably the best spot in The Caribbean to view the Hump Back Whales migration in season.  But last and not least is the fact that Salt Cay has perhaps the most beautiful beach that I have ever come across on my travels around the world.  It is called North Beach, and it is real Robinson Crusoe picture-perfect stretch of beach and ocean. Our photo speaks a thousand words.


Getting to Turks and Caicos

The main gateway to all the Turks and Caicos Islands is the international airport at Providenciales. There are direct flights from all over the world including Miami, London, New York, Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Nassau, New York and many others.

From Providenciales, it is possible to get either a boat or plane to all the other Turks and Caicos Islands.  The concierge department at Exceptional Villas will be delighted to give you a full list of connections.


Eat, Drink And Be Merry

One of the best things about Turks and Caicos is the food!  You will be able to get everything from international Michelin standard, and Zagat rated fine dining to the authentic Caribbean and Creole cuisine.  Some of my favorite local specialties include fresh lobster, conch salad, jerk chicken blackened fish and fried plantain.  You will also find some of the finest seafood on the planet in Turks and Caicos; snapper, tuna, and Grouper are among the most popular.

Fresh, succulent lobster served with a lime garnish - one of the many fine dining treats delivered by the restaurants in Turks and Caicos

A personal Foodie and party highlight for me is a visit to the Fish Fry.   The Fish Fry is where you will see the locals hang and it is one of the most fun nights you will have on the islands.  In Providenciales, The Fish Fry takes places every Thursday from 5.30 pm to 9.30 pm at the Bight Park.  There are dozens of local food vendors some of the freshest fish and other delights. You will find plated loaded with crab n rice, conch salad and one of the firm favorites; lobster mac n cheese!

You will also see some of the best local casual restaurants here such as Froggie’s on da Beach, Kay Jo’s, Miss Moonies, Upstairs Bar & Grill, Hole in the Wall, Smokey’s on da Bay, Cactus Bar & Grill and Uncle Dough’s Salad Bar.

Each of the restaurants offers up their specialty menu items and the opportunity to try one or all.

Also, there are a variety of fun entertainers, live music and cultural acts to enjoy.

Our primary job as Villa Inspectors at Exceptional Villas is to both stay and visit all the luxury villas we represent.  But we also get to experience all the things to do in Turks and Caicos.  And one of my personal favorite of these is finding all the best restaurants so that we can advise our discerning clients!

Here are a couple of my favorite restaurants in Turks and Caicos.

Da Conch Shack and Rum Bar

Da Conch Shack and Rum Bar is possibly my all-time favorite restaurants in Provo. Conch is a favorite food of the islands, but at Da Conch Shack, you will find conch cooked in some amazingly creative and delicious ways!

Fresh Conch Salad at Da Conch's

Da Conch Shack is on Blue Hills Road to the east of Grace Bay.   It is a gorgeous stretch of beach and much quieter than its neighbor. Every Wednesday and Saturday, there is live music at Da Conch Bar, and the vibe can get very lively.  Da Conch Bar was voted by CNN, BBC and the New York Times as one of the world’s best!

Hemmingway’s

Hemingway’s is another of our clients’ favorites (and one of my favorite) restaurants.  It is a beautiful beachside restaurant with a lovely romantic atmosphere located at the Sands Hotel.  Hemingway’s has a laid-back atmosphere and serves casual and beautifully cooked food.   Some of the favorite dishes are fish tacos, spiced fish, and shrimp salad.

Stelle Restaurant

The Stelle Restaurant is one of the coolest and contemporary restaurants in Provo.  This excellent restaurant in the super modern and beautiful Gansevoort Hotel where some of our luxury Turks and Caicos Villas are.  The food has an Asian fusion theme cleverly combined with some local flavor.  If you like to party, it is an excellent late night spot with a live DJ and refreshing cocktails for later in the evening.

Seven Restaurant

Seven Restaurant is one of my must-visits whenever I am on the island of Provo.  The Seven Restaurant in the beautiful seven stars resort and spa.  The room is gorgeous, and the food is spectacular.  The menu has lots of local seafood catch such as lobster and mahi-mahi, but there is also a good selection of other delicious entrees as well as a fabulous tasting menu.  It is a real Foodie delight.


Getting Around

Each of the 8-inhabited island in Turks and Caicos is relatively small, but I highly recommend that no matter where you are staying you hire a car to explore the islands. Some of the beaches and restaurants are quite spread out, and there is very little organized public transport in Turks and Caicos.  Taxis are available, but there is not a vast amount of them and can be quite expensive.


Watersports

The Turks and Caicos Islands have some of the most beautiful crystal clear waters surrounding them, so it is only natural that the islands are also a haven for watersports of all kinds.

Diving

Diving is one of the most popular activities, and both beginner and experienced divers will delight in the magnificent marine life and incredible delicate coral reefs that surround the Turks and Caicos Islands.  The three most popular diving islands include Providenciales, Salt Cay, and Grand Turk.  They each provide different experience but what they all have in common is that you will get to experience some of the world’s most beautiful underwater scenery and marine life.

A diver marvels at the, frankly, weirdly beautiful looking reef life at Turks and Caicos

Sailing

Sailing is another popular sporting activity, and the islands are paradise for avid sailors. There are so many uninhabited islands and cays to explore, and the chances of spotting dolphins, humpback whales, turtles, and rays are very high.

A catamaran sails gracefully through the evening sun at Turks and Caicos

The Turks and Caicos Islands are also perfect for kayak and paddleboard enthusiasts.  They are both simple and easy ways to explore the gorgeous islands.  The waters are often calm.  Kayaking and Paddleboarding are two of the most accessible water sports to learn.

Fishing

Fishing is another favorite pursuit of the islands of Turks and Caicos. The island offers all types of sports fishing.  The depts of the Atlantic Seas make it great for deep-sea fishing while the shallow banks surrounding the Caicos Islands are excellent for bonefishing.
Fishing in Turks and Caicos

Snorkeling

Last but not least the Snorkeling around the islands is some of the best I have ever come across.  The waters around the Turks and Caicos Islands are calm and crystal clear. The calm waters combined with the fact that the islands are surrounded by an extensive barrier reef makes for perfect snorkeling conditions.
Snorkeling at Turks and Caicos

The in-house concierge department at Exceptional Villas will be delighted to organize and recommend any of the watersport options for you.


Golf

Golf Provo Golf Club has been dubbed ‘the jewel in the Turks and Caicos crown’ and is one of the top ten courses in the Caribbean. The 18-hole championship course offers a stimulating range of challenging holes with four tee options and stunning views across the emerald greens and vibrant fauna that grows in abundance. The club also comprises a pro-golf shop with Taylor made clubs for hire, practice greens and the Fairways Bar and Grill.


Turks and Caicos Travel Guide

I am lucky enough to travel all over this remarkable planet of ours with my job.  Few destinations tick all the boxes for sheer natural beauty and luxury in the same way as the Turks and Caicos Islands do.  The island is refreshingly unblemished and unspoiled in comparison to some other tourist destinations.  Turks and Caicos is the ultimate destination for an ultimate Caribbean holiday.

I always welcome readers ideas and comments so please do contact us with either questions or ideas you might like to add.  We look forward to hearing from you.

About Alexandra Baradi

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