Things to Do in the Turks and Caicos Islands
Where When How Turks & Caicos Islands November / December 2017 – January / February 2018
THINGS TO DO - FIND YOUR LEVEL OF ACTIVITY
Most people who book a vacation to a tropical island are looking for the same thing – sand and sun – yet how much of said sand and sun they want often varies.
The great thing about vacation is your time is your own – despite what certain family members may say.
The amount of time you spend lying on our world-class beaches, while gazing at the crystal clear turquoise ocean and miles of white sand is totally up to you. In the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), freedom is truly yours.
Let Panoply plan your luxury cruise to secluded cays. Photo provided by Panoply Luxury Tours.
Okay, okay. Just in case you want to log more than 100 steps for the week on your Fitbit, we’ve got you covered. But don’t worry, we’ll ease you in to this “TCI vacation thing.”
So let’s start off slow. In fact, you can probably see a number of these from your horizontal vantage point on the beach.
Spas… we have almost as many stellar spas on the island as grains of sand. Each features a vast array of treatments and regimes to help you unwind.
Next take a stroll down the Grace Bay strip and get your arts and craft fix. You’ll stumble upon Driftwood Studio, Atelys Jewelry, Art Provo, Making Waves Studio and Paradise Arts – all fantastic studios and galleries featuring some of our finest local artists.
Be sure to pick out some local souvenirs to appease the people you didn’t bring with you to our beautiful islands. Most likely, they’ve been shoveling snow out of your driveway every bloody day you’ve been away. It’s probably best to err on the side of generosity. The main shopping areas on Providenciales are, Caicos Café Plaza, The Saltmills, Ports of Call, The Regent Village, and Le Vele Plaza.
All that shopping will render you in need of some fuel. At least the liquid variety. Turks Head Brewery produces the country’s native beer. (And yes, it’s equipped with a tasting room!) Beer tastings and brewery tours are available weekdays, three times daily.
The Heritage House next to the Provo National Museum in Grace Bay Village. Photo by Lisa Adara Photography.
For the history buffs, be sure to check out Providenciales National Museum – quaint, and centrally located in The Village at Grace Bay. Then there’s the Caicos Heritage House, which is right next door to the museum. The architecture depicts a typical Caicos dwelling, aimed at shedding light on the very roots that have grounded today’s island culture. Cheshire Hall Loyalist Plantation is also a must-see. The ruins of this 18th century plantation are well maintained by the National Trust, with landscaped paths. The site is open Monday to Friday, with guided tours available. The carvings located on Sapodilla Hill are pretty fascinating too. You’ll find messages dating back to the 1650s, from shipwrecked sailors to centuries of travellers. The Turks and Caicos National Museum on Grand Turk is rebuilding. Visit www.tcmuseum.org to find out how to help.
And nature lovers, we’ll never forget about you. The TCI is “beautiful by nature” after all. We’ve got herons, hummingbirds, pelicans, bananaquits – the bird watching here is fantastic. Head to Northwest Point National Park for coastal birdwatching, West Harbour Bluff for white tailed tropicbirds, and Frenchmen’s Creek coastline for birds from egrets to ospreys.
Visit Little Water Cay to see our endangered Rock Iguanas. Photo provided by Grand Slam Charters.
And there’s the formidable Iguana Island. Officially known as Little Water Cay, Iguana Island lies just 400 metres from Providenciales, and is a prime isolated habitat for indigenous rock iguanas.
But wait – what’s that in the water? Three to six nights after the full moon, the stunning bioluminescent glowworms bring flashes of light to the water’s surface, resembling a starry sky. Glowworm cruises offer the chance to enjoy the sunset, before watching this natural spectacle come to life 15 minutes later.
Try a sunset glow worm tour by kayak with Big Blue Unlimited. Photo by Lisa Adara Photography.
Okay, okay. So now you’re “zenned out,” and feeling so cultured you’re borderline pedantic – at least according to certain family members. Don’t worry, we still love you. But let’s get movin’, shall we? At least, if you brought your kids (and we hope you did!), let’s give them a chance to expend some energy and hopefully, go to bed early tonight.
Now let’s kick things up a few notches. Or a few “knots,” rather. Sailing along the shores of TCI is the perfect way to explore the waters. You can even take lessons on a Hobie Cat, enjoy a group sail, or even charter a private luxury sailboat, complete with gourmet snacks – sunset cruises are a favourite.
You can also visit the string of cays between Providenciales and North Caicos via a beach cruise and snorkel tour. A typical cruise visits Little Water Cay and its resident iguanas, Half Moon Bay and Fort George Cay, with snorkelling and beach combing.
A beach cruise coupled with a snorkel tour is one of the top things to do here in the TCI. Be whisked away to a secluded island by boat that drops you off on a remote beach with a pair of beach chairs, a parasol and a cooler full of treats. A romantic way to spend a day in paradise or a fun option for a group of friends and family.
Explore the south side of the islands on a jet ski tour. Photo provided by Caribbean Cruisin'
Southside excursions will allow you to access fantastic spots for exploration and snorkelling, surrounded by the stunning turquoise waters of the Caicos Banks.
You can also take a discovery tour to North and Middle Caicos – two of our sister islands. Your day will include a TCI Ferry boat ride and a guide to the main attractions, such as the Conch Bar Caves on Middle Caicos and then Cottage Pond and Wades Green Plantation on North Caicos.
January to March give Whale Watching a try. Photo by Philip Shearer, Big Blue Unlimited.
But wait. Now you see something in the water?! Between January and late March, an estimated 3,000 – 5,000 Humpback Whales migrate through the Silver Bank waters, marking one of the most phenomenal natural events to pass by the TCI shores. Needless to say, a whale-watching tour this time of year is a must.
For the fishing inclined, charter types are varied and vast. Deep-sea fishing, bottom and reef fishing, as well as bone fishing, cater to the excellent variety of fish in the sea.
Enjoy a deepsea fishing charter. Catch a Mahi Mahi. Photo provided by Grand Slam Charters.
Back on land, the TCI Safari land tour includes visiting hotspots such as Pelican Beach, Long Bay, The Hole, Blue Mountain, Da Conch Shack Restaurant (you’ve gotta try our conch!) and Sapodilla Bay.
Did you bring your clubs? If not, we’ve got you covered. You can rent a set at Provo Golf Club – an 18-hole championship course interspersing lakes, fairways and outcroppings with a tranquil setting. It’s a bucket list course for the golf enthusiast in you.
When you’re done cruising around in the golf cart, Vespa scooter tours are a fun way to explore the island. Tours and rentals are available.
And everyone and their dog should do this… Ack. It’s probably actually best to leave your dog at home for this one, but we think the idiom’s cute, so just go with it. There are a high number of homeless dogs on the island. You can stop by Potcake Place in the Saltmills and take a puppy to the beach for a walk.
Hit all the hot spots, take a tour of Providenciales. Photo provided by Turks and Caicos Safari Tours.
Okay, okay, after all that activity, we know you’re hungry. The Fish Fry on Thursday nights in the Bight Park merges local food, Caribbean music, Junkanoo dancing, local craft artisans and rum-filled coconuts into one memorable tropical experience.
Now let’s take a detour – a deep dive, if you will… It’s time to take a closer look at a couple of major underwater sports you can take part in here in the TCI.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention snorkelling the coral reefs is hugely popular. It’s essentially a lens into the life below, with many coral heads lying just metres off of the shoreline.
Fusing snorkelling and scuba diving into one aquatic whole, Snuba gives non-certified divers the chance to explore the island’s coral reefs from greater depths. Certified? What? True story. You need certification to scuba dive, but don’t let that stop you from trying it. Lest we forget, freedom is yours in the TCI.
Diver at the wall with deep water gorgonians. Photo by David Volkert.
Discover Scuba Diving (DSD) is an introductory course to diving. Certification isn’t gained, but it’s a fantastic way to test drive the sport.
Booking a DSD course or a resort course is a simple matter. Just contact a PADI dive shop while you’re here. Regardless of your physical condition, or the limitations you may believe you have, a qualified instructor can teach almost anyone to dive.
If you’re not certain scuba diving is the activity for you, the DSD course is a great way to dip your toe into the proverbial water of the sport without a huge commitment. The DSD is a PADI approved course, and it can be counted toward your certification, should you choose to continue on to the Open Water Diver course.
During a DSD course you spend the first part of the day by the pool learning theory and important technical details. You’ll also learn useful signals for things like, “My ear hurts” and, “I’ve run out of air.” (Be assured this is incredibly rare and should never really happen, but still a good signal to learn.) Once you have the signals, you jump in the pool.
Normal equipment consists of: a wetsuit, a Buoyancy Control Device (or BCD, which is a vest you inflate and deflate with a couple of buttons. It’s a floatation device on the surface and a buoyancy control device as you’re diving), mask, snorkel, fins, a weight belt, an air gauge and compass and the all-important tanks and regulator.
A humpback whale is spotted by Flamingo Divers.
The bonus of the DSD course is it includes a beautiful boat ride in paradise. Once on board, and after roll call, your dive master will sit with you for a review of the material you have learned.
At the dive site you’ll be strapped into your gear. A staff diver is always first in the water, followed by the experienced divers. Then, once everyone else is away, your dive master will ‘walk’ into the water to watch you take one giant step into your first open water dive.
To make that giant step into the water, you put one hand on the buckle of your weight belt and one hand on your mask and regulator to hold them in place, then simply step off the back of the boat. It couldn’t be easier, really.
Diving the wall at West Caicos. Photo by David Volkert.
Scuba diving is an amazing experience. It’s pretty much like swimming in an aquarium. Curious fish will approach you – you’ll see coral that looks as though it’s been hand painted, and the feeling of flying over the bottom of the sea simply cannot be explained in words.
Not every site is suitable for a DSD course as you are limited to a 40-foot descent depth. If you have your heart set on a wall dive, you can complete your full certification in a few days and be ready to go. If you know that’s what you’ll want to do, contact a dive operator before you hit the island and get started with your book work online.
And for those of you dive enthusiasts already certified, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention a major draw here – a 7,000-foot sheer drop off to the deep…
When we said we hope you brought your kids before, we really meant it. Really.
Many resorts on island have a kids club to keep your children and their boundless energy entertained, and contained. The highly regarded SURFside Ocean Academy is an innovative program with several ways to keep your kids busy and happy during your visit.
Kids Camps are fun and educational. Photo provided by SURFside Ocean Academy
Okay, okay. The kids are alright and now it’s really time to play. You’ve seen some things, met some great people and have tasted our amazing island food. You could really get used to this island thing. You’ve even circled a few of the real estate listings on page 160 in here. It’s okay. We understand – everybody wants to live in the TCI.
Take the Undersea Explorer Semi-submarine Tour over Smiths Reef. Perhaps sea Lynnsea the Mermaid. Photo provided by Caicos Tours.
We locals live for our Sunday Fundays, so if you can handle a Sunday-Funday level of fun on a Tuesday, we’ll know you’ve got what it takes to keep up with us island folk.
It’s time to get pumped. Put simply, kiteboarding is our jam. If you’ve ever wanted to learn the sport, this is the place. Trade winds and shallow waters render Long Bay Beach a mecca for kiteboarders from around the globe. If your core’s good enough to kiteboard, then you’ll definitely love Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP, for short).
Parasail with Captain Marvin’s Parasail.
Parasailing here is pretty incredible too. Being towed behind a boat, connected to a parasail kite 500 ft. above the water, overlooking the island’s coast. Thrill seekers, your cup runneth over.
Holy Moly! After all that it’s safe to say you’ve got yourself a good handle on this whole “TCI vacation thing.” Even that Fitbit’s telling you to lay down and get some rest. Don’t worry, your towel’s still lying there on the beach where you left it, with your body groves still perfectly etched in the sand – the quintessential Caribbean La-Z-Boy.
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