Things to Do in the Turks and Caicos Islands

Where When How - Turks & Caicos Islands - January / February 2016 magazine cover.Where When How Turks & Caicos Islands January / February 2016

Or Just Relax and Unwind

Story By Kathi Barrington
Photos Provided By Our Advertisers

Is too much, too much, when you’re on vacation? Providenciales offers so many ways to entertain yourself and your family and friends that it’s difficult to know where to start. As an upscale eco-destination, we take great pride in our pristine waters and coral reefs, and the abundant marine life they support. It is no wonder that the majority of our attractions, excursions and sports take place in, on, above or beneath the surface of the gin clear, warm waters that surround our islands.

A photograph of Snuba TCI, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.SNUBA - Diving for Beginners. Photo provided by SNUBA TCI

Several species of humpback, right and pilot whales, dolphins, sting rays, majestic manta rays and several species of reef and deep ocean sharks call our waters home for much of the year. That translates into totally amazing sightings of these wild, free, marine visitors, by thousands of vacationers and residents who get in or on the water.

In addition to the myriad attractions involving our marine environment, you will also enjoy diverse, interesting and just downright delightful land based activities, including great golf and tennis too.

You need not be a certified SCUBA diver or ardent kiteboarder to enjoy the fruits of the sea or sand. We’ve got qualified, experienced people to show you how to master the many sports and activities available here in paradise. If you’d like to learn to ply the wind or waves, ride a pony, or breathe under water, there are accomplished instructors on island to help you.

A photograph of Silly Creek Wartersports, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands. Explore the deserted beaches on the southside of Providenciales. Photo provided by Silly Creek Wartersports

If you are visiting our shores to relax and unwind, we also have many experts to help you de-stress and detox body, mind and spirit. Our spas and fitness centers win awards again and again, so be assured you will find a practitioner whose style and discipline works for you.

Whether your perfect vacation is an attempt to relax and recharge emotional and physical batteries, or a quest for adventure, excitement and discovery, in the Turks and Caicos, they are NOT mutually exclusive. It’s quite simple and convenient to pamper yourself and satisfy your inner adrenaline junkie during your stay.

History, culture, flora and fauna are important to us, and we offer interesting opportunities for you to learn, even while you are on a sunset cruise or a sightseeing tour on land. Our excursion guides know a lot and they’re happy to share.

We have glowworms, historic loyalists plantation ruins, and endangered giant lizards. These are just a few to-dos that you and your kids will think are pretty cool. Find these excursions and more, within these pages.

Have you ever imagined riding down a beach at sunset? Horseback riding is very popular with visitors and residents. Your well-trained horse will carry you along quiet country roads and bush trails, and ultimately down a fabulous beach in Long Bay Hills or Grace Bay. Novice or expert equestrian, young or still young at heart, enjoy that ride into the sunset.

A photograph of kids kayaking, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Kayaking and other programmes for the children. Photo provided by SURFside Ocean Academy

We are a family destination, and most of our excursions are kid friendly. Travelling with children and teens who need to be active and engaged? Surfside Ocean Academy is the answer. They have fabulous interactive programmes for your kids. While having a blast, led and supervised by professionals, they’ll learn about the island environment, including marine life, plants and animals. There are opportunities to share amazing eco-adventures with the entire family, beach BBQs, camping, and swimming. They also provide professional nanny services.

A photograph of parasailing on Grace Bay, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Parasailing over Grace Bay. Photo provided by Sky King Parasail

THE MAIN ATTRACTION

The ocean is the star of the show, from above and below. Sailing and powerboat charters are comfortable options to enjoy the sea, view the coastline, and explore an uninhabited cay.

The waters surrounding our islands are shallow and sprinkled with coral heads. For this reason, most boat rentals include an experienced captain familiar with our underwater topography. If you are an experienced and confident captain, it may be possible to rent a small boat on your own. Alone, or with a group, stop for lunch or a romantic stroll on a deserted island.

Half day, full day, sunset cruises, glowworm cruises, and private charters are available aboard a variety of boats, with a host of itineraries from which to choose. If you're looking to create a special experience, your captain will be able to help you with catering requests and give you advice on everything from where to take the kids to find the best seashells, to where you're most likely to get an answer of, “Yes!" after a shipboard proposal. Your resort may offer Hobie Cats, a great option if you prefer to sail Grace Bay on your own. Jet-Skis are also an exciting way to explore the south shore. (These personal watercraft are not allowed in the National Marine Parks.) You can book a guided tour so you don't miss any of the most interesting sights.

A photograph of standup paddle boarding, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Standup Paddleboarding in the mangroves. SUP Photo by Lynn Robinson, Big Blue Unlimited.

Fishing is very popular in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Try your hand at bottom, bone, fly or deep sea fishing. Most fishing operators will organise a fishing license for you. If you intend to fish on your own, you can get a license from the office at Turtle Cove Marina. Please note that it is critical that you do not fish within a protected area. The fine for fishing in any of the marine parks is very steep, and it hurts our environment.

Deep sea fishing in the Turks and Caicos is said by many to be the finest in the Caribbean. The Atlantic's premiere big game trophy fish - the Blue Marlin - is plentiful all year, although the peak season is summer. Bottom and reef fishing are most likely to produce plenty of strikes and a large catch. Those in the know come from across the globe to fight the wily bonefish on the warm shallow flats of the Caicos Banks. Even a small one feels like a monster on the end of your line.

A bird’s eye view of Providenciales and the Caicos Cays provides a whole new meaning to the term ‘Beautiful by Nature’. TCI Helicopters offers a variety of tours depending on how long you want to ride, and your budget. It’s totally different from a fixed wing flight and a great way to capture amazing photographs of paradise.

A photograph of luxury private cruising, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Onboard “Lady K” luxury private cruises the day is yours. Photo provided by Caicos Adventures

Parasailing is another way to check out Grace Bay from above. Rides usually last about I5 minutes and you can fly up to 300 feet. Call a parasailing operator to book in advance, and they’ll pick you up from the beach in front of your resort.

Kiteboarding is the perfect activity for an adrenaline junkie, and Providen-ciales is one of the best locations in the world to learn this exciting sport. Beginners and experienced boarders love our shallow, calm water combined with our nearly year-round trade winds. There's no better place to be a novice, and if you're an expert kiteboarder, the Turks and Caicos is the destination of choice.

Windsurfing made its debut here in the mid 1980s and our calm water and steady breezes provide optimal conditions. Waterskiing here is also stellar. Lengthy runs and glassy water make it a great place to learn or master the sport, and you can try Wakeboarding, Wakeskating and Wakesurfing. If you're not quite that adventurous, although it looks edgy, Stand Up Paddleboarding is easy to learn on the calm waters surrounding Providenciales. It's a great way to get an in-depth look into our clear waters without disturbing our birds and marine life.

Is snorkelling your passion? There are several snorkelling spots accessible from north shore beaches. Coral Gardens’ reef is mere feet from the beach. On any given day you’ll spot rays, turtles and all manner of reef fish. There's also Smith’s Reef, just off Turtle Cove. Another interesting spot is the Junior Park Wardens’ manmade reef just offshore from the Children’s Park. You can pick up guidebooks and identification cards at Unicorn Books or any of the dive shops.

A photograph of deep sea fishing, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Catching Mahi Mahi onboard Gwendolyn. Photo provided by Grand Slam Fishing Charters

In order to preserve our underwater world for others, it is important to avoid touching delicate corals. If you are not a strong swimmer, flotation devices can be used. Please note: Nothing may be removed from the marine parks and reserves, and nothing should be left behind. Underwater cameras are a popular way to record your sightings. “Take only pictures, leave only bubbles!"

The waters of the Turks and Caicos Islands are world renowned for their clear visibility, comfortable temperatures, and the abundance of marine life, including dolphins, sharks, rays and whales. From our shallow inland waters transition in depth from around 40 feet to an estimated 7000 feet. The sudden drop provides what is undeniably some of the planet's best Wall Diving. The third largest barrier reef system in the world protects the north and western shores of Providenciales. Marine parks and nature reserves have been established to protect the reefs and walls and a mooring system is in place to protect the reef from anchoring damage at popular dive sites. TC Reef Fund has repaired moorings and installed additional large boat moorings in prime dive/snorkel areas. You can actually get started as a SCUBA diver with just a few hours training on a Discover SCUBA course, or you can take a few days of your holiday and be certified as an Open Water Diver.

A photograph of SeaDoo jetski rentals, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Take a guided SeaDoo jetski tour. Photo provided by Sun & Fun Seasports

If you're not quite ready for SCUBA, why not try SNUBA? Fun for ages 8 and up, SNUBA stands for surface nexus underwater breathing apparatus. The tank of air from which you breathe stays at the surface while you cruise around at a depth of about 20 feet.

If you love the fish but hate the water, not to worry. You're in for a treat as Providenciales is home to the Undersea Explorer Semi-Submarine that will allow you to check out the reef and all the reef's residents from a perfectly dry seat, in air-conditioned comfort. The added bonus of the semi-sub is that a guide will entertain you, identify the turtles, fish and corals and describe everything you're seeing, as you're seeing it. There’s also a very good chance you will meet a real, live mermaid. When Bella the mermaid is not entertaining Undersea Explorer guests you many find her holding freediving courses or conducting snorkelling tours.

Eco-tourism is perhaps the fastest growing sector of our economy, which means you have a wide choice of guided eco-encounters, with many water sport providers. Kayaking, or Stand Up Paddleboarding in the mangroves is an excellent way to explore the inshore eco-system. The twisted, woven roots of the mangrove forest are anchored in shallow water, providing a safe nursery for baby sharks, turtles and other marine life. Watersports rental outfits will provide instruction, equipment and even guides. The TCI is a water wonderland and we encourage you to get your feet wet or dive right in.

A photograph of Ocean Outback, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Explore the pirate cave and deserted beaches along the southside of Providenciales. Photo provided by Ocean Outback Adventures

FOR THE LANDLUBBERS

Birders will be pleased. With over 150 species known to frequent these Turks & Caicos, you will surely count coup while here. View species rarely seen on land, as pelagic birds sometimes use our islands as rookeries. You can book Bird Watching tours or plan private guided excursions that allow you to explore historic sites, remote landscapes, geological rarities and natural wonders.

The 18-hole championship Provo Golf Course is consistently rated as one of the best in the Caribbean. The Club’s Golf Club Ambassador, David Feherty, juggles hosting “Feherty,” golf tournament coverage for NBC Sports, and speaking engagements, to visit the Provo Golf Club.

Tennis is another great way to stay in shape while on island. Provo Golf Club, and many resorts, have tennis courts and usually provide racquets and balls.

Sign up for a Scooter Tour and roam the island on sporty motorised ponies, with the warm breeze in your face. You’ll get to see some sights, visit the National Trust, sample island food and hospitality, and you’ll gain a feeling for island life.

A photograph of Sail Provo, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Half day, full day and sunset sailing. Photo provided by Sail Provo

Cycling lends itself to our eco-tourism brand and you can rent touring- bicycles and mountain bikes, especially in the Grace Bay area. Many resorts provide bikes for their guests. The Grace Bay area is flat and easy to cycle. It's acceptable to ride on the sidewalks in the main tourist area, as long as you are mindful of pedestrians. You can also book guided cycling tours to some of the outer islands. Check for eco-tours on North and Middle Caicos. They have far less traffic than Providenciales, making them ideal islands to tour by bicycle.

Whether you're a die-hard sporting fan, or you've never seen a Cricket or Rugby match, you might enjoy watching a National event, should one coincide with your time on island. Many of the bars and restaurants feature live satellite feeds of major sporting events, so don’t be concerned that you’ll miss your team’s big game.

A photograph of Hobie Cat sailing, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Take Hobie Cat sailing lessons on Grace Bay. Photo provided by Waterplay Provo

Though not a sport, exactly, Shopping is certainly a popular activity here! We have three main retail areas on Providenciales: Ports of Call, The Saltmills and The Regent Village. You will also find unique items in the lobby boutiques at many of our resorts. If you're visiting Grand Turk on a Cruise Ship day, the terminal has many wonderful shops for everything from diamonds to key chains. Find out more about shopping on the Islands in our Shopping Section.

Should you wish to explore more of the country, it's easy to arrange day trips, or multi-day explorations beyond Providenciales. Learn about history and agriculture on North Caicos, or kayak and fish in Bottle Creek, or the mangroves where the flamingoes hang out on the south coast. Visit one of the Caribbean's most spectacular cave systems on Middle Caicos, and be sure to travel part of the Crossing Place Trail for fabulous photo ops. Check out the architecture and the National Museum on Grand Turk, and hike around the ‘island that time forgot’ – tiny, beautiful Salt Cay.

A photograph of pontoon boat cruise, Providenciales (Provo), Turks and Caicos Islands.Drive over to Sapodilla Bay and take a Pontoon Cruise or kayak on Chalk Sound. Photo provided by Las Brisas at Neptune Villas

FROM DUSK TIL DAWN

Dining at one of our world-class restaurants is a legitimate ‘activity.’ Many resorts and restaurants feature live music or great DJs. Schedules tend to change regularly; check around when you reach the island to find out who is playing where. Choices vary: traditional island ripsaw, acoustic, rock ’n roll, reggae, blues and smooth jazz.

Casablanca Casino is always engaging, whether you're a high-stakes poker pro or have never set foot in a casino. Casablanca staff will give you pointers. If you've never tried your hand at Blackjack or Craps this is the place to learn. There are also nightly poker tournaments.

Is that enough to keep you and your family engaged and entertained during your stay? And an incentive to return? The best way to answer those questions is to get out there and enjoy. Don't forget the sunscreen!

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