Far-flung getaways don’t get much better than Turks and Caicos. With its miles of pristine, powdery white sand beaches, electric blue waters, rainbow-colored fish, and breathtaking coral reefs, it’s a little slice of paradise. Sure, it might not have the shopping malls, the museums, and the amusement arcades you’re used to, but its idyllic charm, its plentiful wildlife, its abundance of watersports, and its unique culture more than makes up for it. If you’re planning your very first trip to the islands, don’t miss some of these top things to do in Turks and Caicos for first-time visitors.
20. Anna’s Art Gallery
If you’re looking for somewhere to head indoors during the odd rainy day, you won’t be disappointed with Anna’s Art Gallery. As much shop as it is gallery, it’s a treasure trove of paintings by local artists, beach accessories, locally made crafts, handmade jewelry, and quirky little gifts. If you want to take home some mementos of your vacation in Turks & Caicos, you’ll find no shortage of ideas here.
19. Conch Bar Caves
Cut deep into the limestone rock beds at the heart of Middle Caicos island are the Conch Bar Caves, a fascinating labyrinth of tunnels and chambers that are well worth a visit. As well as being intriguing for their natural beauty, the caves hide a few equally interesting man-made touches; namely, the occasional scattering of graffiti bearing the names of some of the islands' very earliest visitors. Who knew Victorian’s were so into street art?
18. Ramsar Nature Reserve
The largest protected area in the Turks and Caicos is Ramsar Nature Reserve, a 144,846-acre expanse that’s home to many of the island’s native species, including giant blue land crabs, conch, turtles, sharks, green herons, tri-colored herons, yellow-crowned night herons, reddish egrets, great blue herons, mangrove cuckoos, and Antillean nighthawks. Although the reserve isn’t served by any tours or organized trips, it’s accessible by paddle boarding and kayaking.
17. Provo Golf Course
If you want to take in a few rounds of golf while you’re in Turks & Caicos, there’s only one place to head - Provo Golf Course (literally, as the only 18-hole course on the islands, it’s not exactly got much to worry about in terms of the competition). Surrounded by limestone outposts and palm trees, the location is superb (although the passing pink flamingos might prove the occasional distraction). With well-manicured grounds, golf lessons from PGA teaching professionals, exceptionally friendly, efficient staff, and the change to rent equipment if you’ve forgotten your own, there’s little to fault at this excellent club. The panoramic views from the Fairways Bar and Grill’s wraparound porch, meanwhile, are worth the trip even if your interest in golf is less than zero.
16. Turk’s Head Brewery
If you want to learn more about the history of beer making on the islands while indulging in a few samples of its finest creations at the same time, a tour of the Turk’s Head Brewery comes highly recommended. Learn the basics of the brewing process as you walk the catwalk built specially to give visitors a bird’s eye view of the brewery, before trying the goods for yourself at the custom-made bar. If you want to pick up some quirky little mementos of your visit, there’s even a little gift shop to browse.
15. Chalk Sound
Chalk Sound may not be the most accessible lagoon around, but with its electric blue waters and breathtaking views, it’s more than worth the drive. Families will particularly enjoy the calm, shallow waters – perfect for the kids to enjoy while the grownups soak up the sun on the soft, ashen white sands.
14. Island Fish Fry
As turks-and-caicos.org says, no trip to T+C is complete without attending the iconic Thursday Night Fish Fry in Bight Park. As well as bringing you some of the best local food on the islands, it’s a superb chance to soak up some local culture and flavor. With local bands, 12 tents from some of the island’s best restaurants, entertainment, and dancing, it’s a big, joyous celebration that’s as popular with locals as it is with tourists. As it fills up fast, be sure to turn up early if you want to grab a table.
13. Horseback Riding
If you’ve ever wanted to gallop along the beach on horseback, you won’t find a better place to indulge your fantasy than in Turks and Caicos. Numerous companies offer visitors the chance to take part in a horseback excursion across both land and sea, and while it’s not always cheap, the experiencing of riding through the waves makes it worth the splurge.
12. Omar’s Beach Hut
According to reviewers at Trip Advisor Omar’s Beach Hut is the number one spot in Turk and Caicos for authentic local food, a welcoming vibe, and some fabulous cocktails. If you want to understand why, just check out some of the glowing reviews. ‘Omar was amazing and the food was amazing. We should up at 7 pm and they had closed at 6 but still had a party finishing up so he told us to sit down and he fed up even though they were closed. The conch crack is amazing and better than any calamari I’ve ever had,” says one, with another quips “Omar's was everything you're looking for on an island vacation. Stunning view of expansive Five Cays bright blue water, the friendliest owner and staff, and an authentic, delicious, and fresh meal made to order! Omar greeted us personally and warmly upon arrival. We ordered jerk shrimp wraps with fried plantains and sweet potatoes. The plantains were done perfectly! The wrap was delicious and was perhaps the freshest, most authentic meal we had on the island! Omar made our visit special and memorable. The virgin Pina Coladas were delicious and refreshing too! A must visit when on the island!”
11. Turks & Caicos National Museum
If you want to learn a little more about the culture and history of Turks & Caicos, the Turks & Caicos National Museum is a great place to while away a few hours. Despite its small size, there’s plenty to see and do over the two-story building. Learn more about the local shipwrecks (including the Molasses Reef Wreck, the oldest European shipwreck to be uncovered in the Western Hemisphere) and the history of the island’s former slaves.
10. Cheshire Hall
No matter how beautiful and plentiful the beaches are in T+C, eventually, you might want to do something else. If that day comes, don’t miss a visit to Cheshire Hall. What was once a palatial 18th-century cotton plantation is now mostly ruins, but the history still lingers. If you can, take a guided tour to learn more about the island's past and culture. If you’d rather go it alone, you’ll find plenty of trail signs dotted around to tell you more about the native species of plants you’ll stumble upon.
9. Leeward Beach
Let’s face it, if you don’t like beaches, Turks and Caicos is probably not the destination for you. if you do, you’ll find few better than Leeward Beach. With its sky-blue, crystal clear waters, miles of sugar-white sand, and dramatic raised rock platforms, it looks like it’s been transported straight from the pages of a tourist brochure. Watch the windsurfers, wander the beach combing for conch shells, paddle in the calm waters, or simply lie back and soak up the sun – as picture-perfect beach locations go, it’s hard to beat.
8. Salt Cay
If you want to escape the crowds at Provo, a few hours at the deliciously peaceful Salt Cay should suit you down to the ground. Located around 80 miles from Provo, the tiny little island is an untouched slice of natural beauty, and the perfect place to enjoy a bit of authentic Caribbean beach life. Just be aware that facilities are limited, so be sure to bring your own.
7. Smith’s Reef
Regardless of how experienced a snorkeler you are, the huge array of lobsters, turtles, stingrays, and rainbow-colored fish at Smith’s Reef is certain to delight. Just be aware that while the reef is shallow, the waves can get pretty high. If you’re snorkeling off the east access point, take US News’s advice and be careful not to run into any boats making their way to and from the canal.
6. Governor's Beach
T+C has 101 opportunities for a little light snorkeling, but Governor's Beach has to rank as one of the best. Stick your head below the surface and you’ll be greeted with the sight of hundreds of rainbow-colored tropical fish and coral; emerge into the daylight and you’ll be rewarded with the equally spectacular sight of the majestic Governor's residence. If you’re lucky, you might even spot the odd flamingo or two.
5. Little Water Cay
Little Water Cay (or "Iguana Island", as it’s referred to by locals) is home to T+C’s last remaining population of endangered rock iguanas. Along with the iguanas, the area boasts plenty of other native species of flora and fauna to enjoy. A basic $5 fee will get you entrance, but it’s well worth splashing out an extra $10 to take advantage of the guided tour and chance to explore the extended trails across the nature reserve.
4. Bight Reef
Located just in front of the Corral Gardens Hotel and The Somewhere Café is Bight Reef, the most beautiful (and accessible) spot for snorkeling on the island. If you prefer, you can stick to the shallow waters surrounding the shoreline. If you’re happy to venture further afield, swim out by around 50 feet to find depths of around 10-15 feet. The beauty, of course, is in never being quite sure what you’ll chance upon, but angelfish, turtles, eagle ray, manta ray, stingrays, butterflyfish, parrotfish, and trumpet fish are all known to hang around the reef. With little to no waves and plenty of shallow water, it’s an unbeatable way for kids and novices to experience some snorkeling fun.
3. Long Bay Beach
The Crazy Tourist ranks Long Bay Beach highly amongst its list of the best things to do in Turks and Caicos, and so do we. Located just opposite Grace Bay, this scenic stretch of shore is the perfect place to indulge in one of the top activities in T+C – kitesurfing. With calm, crystal clear waters, it’s a great spot for novices to try their hand at the sport for the first time. More experienced surfers, meanwhile, will get a kick out of the bigger swells around the many lagoons and cays that litter the area.
2. Taylor Bay
Taylor Bay may be a little tricky to find, and it may not have all the facilities of some of the other beaches in the area, but it more than makes up for it with its gorgeously tranquil vibe and amazing scenery. The crescent-shaped bay is lapped by some of the clearest, brightest blue water you’ll ever see – which makes the occasional starfish sighting all the more vivid. With no sudden drops and a vast expanse of shallow water, it’s ideal for kids, while the limited crowds and blissfully quiet surrounds will let you relax in peace.
1. Grace Bay
There are nice beaches and then there are heart-stopping, jaw-droppingly beautiful beaches. With its miles of sugar-white sand and crystal-clear turquoise waters, Grace Bay in Provo most definitely falls into the 2nd category. Regularly ranked as one of the best beaches in the world, it’s heaven for the sun, sea, and sand crowd. If you do manage to get bored of the beach eventually, you’ll find plenty of distractions in the score of shops and restaurants scattered along the front. There’s even a nearby golf club if you fancy getting active. If you can, come as early as possible to grab a spot in the shade – the sun can get relentless by midday.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn