By: Chris Miller
Constant breezes from the east. Sands and beaches that make you want to walk them every day, and water so clear and blue it doesn’t seem real. Those are the things I immediately remember now when someone mentions the Turks and Caicos Islands. Until you experience them first hand—most people will give a confused look in return. Everyone seems to have heard of them but cannot tell you exactly where they are. I can even recall seeing the island’s name when browsing for cruises or looking at maps of the Caribbean. However, I still could not tell you exactly where they were.
In February 2018, I decided to take the leap and spend time in this cluster of forty islands just to the southeast of the Bahamas. For an even better reference, it sits right above the Dominican Republic on the map. Flights were easy to find with many carriers going there including American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines. I was able to select from some options of where I wanted to fly; therefore, making planning easy.
While they are a British Overseas Territory officially, they take US Dollars and use our same plug types for power. There is no need for currency exchange or power converters. I am not saying things are the same prices—you will pay a bit more than average while there. On an island where the residents pay no income tax, I expected it. They do move on island time often—meaning prepare to relax and just enjoy the day.
Finding exactly what you want in a hotel or resort is easy with many options and budget levels. There are all inclusive options all the way down to Airbnb availability, and you’ll pay more to get more. If you want to stay oceanside in a suite with a butler, it is an option. All the way down to a rented small room close enough to the beach to walk with a limited view.
While I normally try and pick all-inclusive for ease of stay, I wanted to explore the island and restaurants, so I chose to find a resort on the beach that was midsized. I wanted a nice pool, short walk to the sands of Grace Bay, and a decent on-site restaurant—in case I was too happy to move.
I managed to walk the beaches enough to explore a few resorts and hotels. From the ultra-luxurious Beaches family extravaganza to high end chic spots like Gansevoort and small single condo rental units. I was trying to get a rounded-out idea of accommodations for writing this article. I wish I had time while there to go inland and see more of the locals housing, but food was on my mind.
Dining on the island is nothing short of amazing for so many reasons. I can summarize it by having you imagine a location with no fast food, about seventy-five restaurants, tons of small snack type shops and waterside seating at most places. I haven’t even gotten to the fresh seafood like conch, red snapper, local lobster and grouper.
My first stop to eat was an oceanside, two-story restaurant called Somewhere that served Mexican inspired food. Open air rooftop bar, small tables and homemade salsa awaited. The seasoning on the chicken in the quesadilla was outstanding and the spice in the Jalapeno Mango Margarita made watching the sunset from the rooftop even better. Did I forget to mention the great walk on the beach to get there?
If I walked you through every meal I had, it will have me back on a flight before I can even finish writing this article. It was just that good. I do not think a bad meal or an item in any of them was served. Let me bring you along the rest of the food journey in a quick summary.
For breakfast daily, I chose a continental option of fresh fruits, yogurt, oatmeal and juices. I was saving up for lunches and dinners and small snack shops. Jerk chicken was a staple all around and I made sure to try it more than once. Each seasoning was slightly different, and you could say they were all the best. I cannot pick a winner. However, the Conch Risotto Balls were a highlight. The Spicy Lobster Curry with giant pieces of lobster was incredible. Though, the seasoning on the grilled red snapper at Da Conch Shack made the week. Oh, I tried cracked conch and jerk chicken there too, but that red snapper keeps reminding me of sitting on the waterway with that breeze.
I would be wrong to not mention Thursday nights. The entire island comes together every Thursday night for a beach party. About twenty-five restaurants set up tents. Live music is played and tourists and locals all party together. An amazing experience and it happens every single week. Amazing to think they do this constantly.
You can rent a car but being a British Overseas Territory, they do drive on the left. If you have never done it, I would not suggest making this your first attempt. I decided I wanted to spend more time walking the beach than driving, so I opted for no car. Individually owned cabs are the way I got around. One thing you should know is that the travel is basically divided in zones. The further you are going into another zone the more you pay. But travel anywhere in that zone and the fare is always the same. Makes knowing what cash you need for the roundtrip very easy, but not cheap. A couple miles can be $23 flat for two people.
What is nice is when you find a driver you really like make sure to take their card. All of them will want to hand you one. I liked all my drivers, but when you find that one driver that you really like, keep calling them. Deals can be made, and it seems they are never more than a few minutes away from getting you. I used the same two drivers the rest of the stay after the first day.
As we pulled into a restaurant with the first time we had a driver, he turned back and said you really want to go here? I replied it was just an option. He immediately put the van in reverse and said no way and took us basically two blocks away to another oceanside location that blew me away. Keep in mind it was the same zone, so he made no more money changing locations anyway. In some cities the drivers have agreement to get people places. In the Turks and Caicos, we found that the people just want you to have wonderful experience. He was one of my two drivers the rest of the week.
Beaches, Sand, Ocean, and Weather (Oh My)
Until you put your feet on the sand of Grace Bay Beach, walk to the water and stare at the clarity of it, I just cannot make you understand how it should change you. Grace Bay Beach is voted one of the best in the world and is miles long. It did not disappoint in that designation. The sand is not a powder but super fine. It just always stays cool. While so many beaches are hot to walk on, the sand here wanted you to dig in and walk forever.
The ocean was crystal clear as far as you could see. This allowed people to snorkel everywhere looking at the huge reef, tons of sea life and just see the ocean. One thing that was pointed out to me was that the water had no smell. Of course, it is salt water, but it was missing the fish odor you find in so many places. It was just clean. There was limited seaweed, the opposite of Cancun, and I do not recall seeing any trash as I think back.
Snorkeling and scuba diving are two top activities that bring travelers. For the middle of the road adventures you will find just about all motorized and non-available. Parasailing, paddle boats, Tiki-style party boats, fishing tours, dolphin and whale watching and scuba/snorkel excursions. Most every hotel offers free gear to hit Turtle Cove and the reefs to stare at fish.
The weather is a constant as I hinted at early on. The breeze is always blowing keeping you even cooler. And yes, everyone can get a sunburn there. Think I am kidding and watch. Do not send me an email/DM or snap when you did not listen to me. Even the locals will tell you. Quick rain showers are common and vanish as fast as they blow in. I only experienced one and had sun every other day. They do have a hurricane season late fall. They did suffer damages in the last hurricanes and my heart goes out to those that were still working away on rebuilding. But everywhere had power and water—and I didn’t see too much leftover damages.
Yes, you need a passport. Yes, you should look at tons of packages, hotels, deals and flights. Yes, you should bring friends or make it a romantic getaway. Yes, you should be doing that now instead of reading the end of this article.
Seriously, the Turks and Caicos have won me over. The 34,000 residents welcome you, and the food is amazing. The weather is awesome. Not to mention, the beaches and water are stunning. Still, my words on it are useless. You must see this for yourself.