Pristine white sand beaches, the clearest turquoise water, verdant coral reefs, and a deep ocean trench make Turks and Caicos the perfect destination for a beach vacation for those who want to relax on the beach or explore underwater. But there are also many other things to do in Turks and Caicos beyond scuba diving and beachcombing.
Where is Turks and Caicos?
Turks and Caicos consists of eight main islands and is located in the Atlantic Ocean at the edge of the Caribbean Sea. The islands are part of the Bahamas island chain.
Turks and Caicos is close to Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. This British territory boasts some of the most pristine beaches and clear turquoise waters in the world.
The most touristed island in Turks and Caicos is Providenciales, home to world-class, family-friendly resorts including Beaches Turks and Caicos. Which is where we stayed during our visit to Turks and Caicos thanks to their offer to host us.
Do You Need a Passport to Travel to Turks and Caicos?
A valid passport is required to enter Turks and Caicos. Visas are not required for U.K., U.S., and Canadian citizens and residents, along with a list of select countries who also do not require a visa.
There are other entry requirements currently in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- All visitors 16 and above must show proof of vaccination.
- Children 10 and up and adults must obtain and show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of arrival. Only certain test types are accepted.
- Travel insurance that covers COVID-19 medical costs and full hospitalization, doctors’ visits, prescriptions, air ambulance, and quarantine. Visitors are fully responsible for the cost of quarantine in the event they test positive during their stay. If you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort like Beaches Turks and Caicos, your reservation includes this insurance.
- Travel authorization from TCI after completing a health screening questionnaire. As COVID-19 procedures change often, be sure to visit the VisitTCI website for the most current information.
Is Turks and Caicos Expensive?
The simple answer is, yes. Of course, don’t rule it out. Hotel prices are about the middle of the pack as compared to other Caribbean island destinations and there are always bargains to be had.
There are two ways to vacation in Turks and Caicos – stay at an all-inclusive resort or rent a villa on your own and take care of your own transportation, food, and outdoor activity costs.
While the upfront costs of staying at an all-inclusive resort might feel high at first glance, it allows you to stick to your vacation budget and enjoy every moment without feeling the pain of each purchasing decision.
For example, at the all-inclusive Beaches Resort Turks and Caicos, all your food and drinks (including alcoholic beverages) are included, and all your water sports including scuba diving and sailing are also included. We’ve seen the low range of a stay at this resort start at around $250 per person per night.
If you choose to rent your own villa, you’ll find that food, gas, and any tours are expensive on Turks and Caicos. Fortunately, if all you really want to do is hang out on a beautiful beach most of your days, the beach and the ocean are free to enjoy.
The time of year also determines how much you spend. Resort prices fluctuate greatly throughout the year.
Christmas, New Year’s and Spring Break will see the highest prices. These times are also the driest season in Turks and Caicos. Late January and September to November (hurricane season) are the best times to book if you want to find the biggest discounts.
Best Things to do in Turks and Caicos
Enjoy the Beaches
When you think Turks & Caicos, you think beaches. Beautiful and wondrous beaches against the magical backdrop of the pristine sea.
The sand on the beaches in Turks & Caicos is white to a light peach and consists primarily of shells and coral. The incredibly fine sand is a delight to walk barefoot on. Here are some of the best beaches in Turks & Caicos.
Grace Bay Beach is located on Providenciales Island (locally known as Provo). Grace Bay Beach is part of Princess Alexandria National Park and is also home to many luxury resorts, including the extensive Beaches by Sandals Resort.
The white sand and crystal turquoise water are legendary. The bay has great scuba diving sites and is protected by a barrier reef that is teeming with sea life.
Leeward Beach is situated to the east of Grace Bay and is a quiet and secluded beach. Kayaking, standup paddleboarding, and wakeboarding are popular here.
Mudjin Harbor is located on Middle Caicos and features limestone cliffs, white sand beaches, Dragon Cay, and the Conch Bar caves. The caves are the largest dry cave system in the Bahamas.
Long Bay Beach is the place for kiteboarding in Providenciales, with constant tradewinds, it’s the place to shred for pros and beginners alike. It’s also a great place to go horseback riding on the beach. At Long Bay, you can also see the ghost-like shipwreck of the La Famille Express, which sits about two miles offshore.
Sapodilla Bay Beach is on the southwest side of Providenciales and is known for its incredibly calm water which is sheltered between the hills.
Half Moon Bay is located between Water Cay and Little Water Cay (also called Iguana Island). It’s about a mile from Provo and has a beach and a sandbar lagoon.
It’s a destination for boaters and you can even kayak over from Providenciales. You’ll find the Turks & Caicos Rock Iguana here, as well as lemon sharks, and palm trees.
North Bay Beach is on the island of Salt Cay and is a day trip from Providenciales. It’s got small reefs for snorkeling and a little bit of surf for standup paddleboarding.
Governor’s Beach is located on the island of Grand Turk near the Cruise Center and Cockburn Town. This beach is sheltered from the tradewinds and features a long white sand beach, shallow water, and thickly shaded trees. There aren’t many rocky areas here, so it’s really not the best place for snorkeling.
Pine Cay Beach is a two-mile beach located on the small private island of Pine Cay, which is home to a number of Caicos Pine trees. Pine Cay was also reputed to be a base for pirates.
Cedar Point Beach is remotely located on the eastern side of Middle Caicos and is best accessed via 4×4 vehicles for the adventure-hardy.
Scuba Diving & Free Diving at the Wall
The clear, warm waters of Turks and Caicos make it one of the best places to scuba dive. The archipelago of islands sits on top of a huge underwater plateau.
Near land, the sandy ocean floor is about 40-50 feet below sea level with vertical walls that drop off the shelf. On any given dive, you can explore distinctive spur and groove formations, sand chutes, canyons, and cracks.
The coral reefs are healthy, with colorful Caribbean reef fish darting around vibrant coral and sponges. It’s likely you’ll also see a variety of sharks and rays while scuba diving in the waters around Turks and Caicos.
From Providenciales, you’ll get access to a wide variety of dive sites but some of the best are an hour boat ride away and usually require large boat charters.
French Cay, West Caicos, and Northwest Point are some popular spots. Nearly all popular dive sites in the country are located in protected nature reserves and national parks.
Book this popular Edge of the Banks Tour which takes you to West Caicos or French Cay.
Many all-inclusive resorts, such as Beaches Resort Turks and Caicos, include scuba diving in their packages and offer dives options for first-timers as well as advanced divers.
If you’re new to diving, resorts offer a PADI Discover Scuba Course (for a fee) and other PADI certification courses for additional fees. Kids eight and up can even get their feet wet with the PADI Bubblemaker Experience or PADI Seal Team Experience.
Snorkeling in Turks & Caicos is a treat, as it is home to an incredible barrier reef system. The best places to snorkel are located in Providenciales, Grand Turk, and Salt Cay.
Some locations are easier to get to than others. Fortunately, if you’re staying at one of the all-inclusive resorts like Beaches Turks & Caicos, your stay will include unlimited use of snorkel gear and snorkel boat rides.
Two of the most popular snorkeling spots with kids on Providenciales are Bight Reef and Smith Reef. Both are about a 10 minute walk from Grace Bay.
Go to Bight Reef for a good chance to swim with hawksbill turtles, parrotfish, stingrays, trumpet fish, and barracudas. The coral reef system here is between 15 to 20 feet from the surface of the water.
Head to Smith’s Reef for an array of tropical fish, eagle rays, moray eels, and lobsters. This large reef system starts off shallow and then extends deeper as you get further away from the shore. This area includes a nice variety of hard and soft coral-like sea fans.
At the aforementioned locations, you can easily snorkel right from the shore, but taking a snorkeling cruise offered by your resort or a private boat tour will allow you to get to some of the best spots where the water is clearest with peak reef conditions. On a charter you are more likely to see a wider variety of fish and larger creatures.
Families enjoy this catamaran and snorkel combo cruise from Grace Bay.
While most snorkel cruises include equipment rental, the quality of the equipment can vary, and if your kids have small faces or bodies, it is a good idea to bring your own equipment and flotation device to ensure a good fit. There is nothing worse than snorkeling with a child who has saltwater seeping into their mask the whole time.
Paddleboarding & Kayaking
Most all-inclusive resorts and villa rentals will include kayaks and paddleboards as part of your stay.
You can even experience the wonders of a glass-bottom kayak by renting a clear kayak from one of several kayak rental companies such as My Time Tours.
Clear kayaks allow you to see right below your kayak through the clear waters of Turks and Caicos. You might spot sea stars, stingrays, turtles, baby sharks, and reef fish.
On Providenciales, Grace Bay is very protected and is a great spot to launch a kayak or paddleboard right off the beach. However, another location that is accessible and provides a different experience is Mangrove Cay.
Rent a kayak or paddleboard from the Big Blue Collective located at Mangrove Cay and explore the red mangrove estuaries of Princess Alexandra Nature Preserve. You’re likely to spot herons, egrets, sharks, conch, starfish, stingrays, and young sea turtles.
This area is connected via channels to Little Water Cay where you can see endangered rock iguanas and the spectacular views of Half Moon Cay.
On North and Middle Caicos, the extensive wetlands and shallow waters offer some of the best kayaking and paddling locations on the islands. Tour companies offer half, full, and even overnight kayak expeditions.
Every Flavor of Watersport – Parasailing, Jetskiing, & E-Foiling
With miles and miles of turquoise blue waters dotted with picturesque views, it’s hard to resist the opportunity to get a birds-eye view or test your skills at a new watersport.
If someone has dreamed up a way to play in the water, it’s available in Turks and Caicos. Providenciales offers the most options to play on the water.
Fly up on a parasail to get a bird’s eye view. Speed through the wake on a jet ski or wakeboard. Hang on tight for the bumpy ride on a wake tube pulled behind a boat, or try your hand at kitesurfing or windsurfing.
Or maybe you’re feeling extra adventurous and want to test your balance on a flyboard. If you’ve never heard of flyboarding, imagine having your feet attached to a fireman’s hose that propels you out of the water and into the air.
If it sounds insane, it kinda is, but exactly the kind of thing your adrenaline junky teen would probably enjoy.
Kiteboarding locations can be found on Providenciales and South Caicos. November to May offers the best winds for kitesurfing. Provo has several places that offer lessons and rentals. Long Bay Beach is the most popular location for kitesurfing on Providenciales.
Glass Bottom or Semi-Submarine Boat Tour
For young kids or adults who are not comfortable snorkeling, a glass-bottom boat tour or a semi-submarine boat tour is the best way to get a view of the wonderful aquatic life.
A semi-submarine will partially submerge its see-through hull into the water to provide both a from-the-top and front-facing view of aquatic life.
Some all-inclusive resorts include a glass-bottom boat tour, additionally, the Caicos Tour’s Undersea Explorer is a semi-submarine tour company operating out of Turtle Cove in central Providenciales.
Got a kid who believes in mermaids? You might want to check out their mermaid encounter as well.
Most glass bottom boat and semi-submarine tours visit Smith’s Reef and Grace Bay. Other destinations include the Caicos barrier reef and the offshore edge of Princess Alexandra National Park.
Eat Some Conch Fritters
One of the most tasty things to do in Turks and Caicos is eat conch fritters. Conch is prepared as fried conch fritters, raw in conch salad like a ceviche, or simmered in a conch stew.
You’ll see conch on menus of local restaurants and at resorts, but if you’re looking for a local restaurant that specializes in conch, try Bugaloo’s Conch Crawl or Da Conch Shack.
The local fish fry on Thursday Nights is normally popular with locals and visitors, but due to COVID restrictions, it is currently not gathering.
Jerk and BBQ on the Beach
Caribbean-style barbecue features patiently roasted meats barbecued on greenwood fires. Whether you’re staying at an all-inclusive resort or on a boat tour, you have to pop a beer and enjoy some BBQ or spicy Jamaican jerk (chicken, beef, pork, fish) which has found its way to the tables of most Caribbean islands.
If you’re staying at Beaches Resort Turks and Caicos, visit their famous Jerk Hut for at least one meal during your stay. This Jamaican-owned resort takes pride in its jerk.
Jeep or ATV tours to the Wild Side
Getting on the back of an ATV or Jeep will allow you to explore the wild parts of Providenciales, Grand Turk, and Salt Cay.
On Provo, ATV tours explore Northwest Point National Park, Malcolm’s Road Beach, and West Harbour Bluff. In these protected areas on the west coast, you’ll see lots of shorebirds like ospreys, pelicans, egrets, herons, and even flamingos.
On Grand Turk, the tour begins north of the cruise center past the Hawkes Nest Salina, travels past the Mercury Friendship 7 space capsule, through the historical oceanfront of Cockburn Town, and up North Creek, a popular birdwatching and kayaking spot, and up to Grand Turk Lighthouse.
Horseback Riding on Long Beach
If turquoise water and white sand on horseback sound dreamy to you, Providenciales has three small riding stables.
At Long Bay Beach (south side of the island) you’ll find Provo Ponies. Young children can also take guide-led pony rides. Long Bay Beach is less developed and located on shallow Caicos Banks.
There is also a stable at Blue Hills Beach in central Provo. Five Cays Beach also has a stable near Bugaloo’s restaurant.
Explore the Historic Sites on Providenciales
It is easy when visiting Turks and Caicos to spend your entire time within the walls of your beach resort, but it will give you little sense of the culture and history of the people of Turks and Caicos.
Renting a car or taking a history and culture tour allow you to visit a couple of important historic sites.
Cheshire Hall Plantation was the largest cotton plantations on Providenciales. The Sapodilla Bay Hill Rock Carvings date back to the 1700-1800’s when the area served as a port serving the cotton industry. Waiting sailors carved symbols and messages into the rock as they awaited for their new assignments.
The National Museum and Heritage Site on Providenciales has a few outdoor exhibits – a reproduction of an original dwelling and the Caicos Sloop, a small ocean vessel that was used in the islands for centuries.
Reef, Shore, Bone, and Deep Sea Fishing
What’s your flavor of fishing? Reef and bottom fishing in the shallow waters require less skill. Bonefishing requires a little more skill and is a little bit like the flyfishing of the Caribbean.
If you’re interested in catching bigger fish, there are deep-sea fishing charters out of Providenciales. Visitors can purchase a day pass. Fishing in nature preserves and popular beaches is not permitted.
Fishing charters operate out of Blue Haven Marina and Turtle Cove Marina. On the reef, you might fish for red snapper, mutton snapper, grey snapper, Nassau grouper, yellowtail, and jacks.
On deep-sea fishing charters, you’ll be aiming to catch sailfish, blue marlin, white marlin, swordfish, shark, yellowfin tuna, blackfin tuna, bigeye tuna, skipjack tuna, mahi-mahi, and wahoo.
As you can imagine, exploring by boat is popular on Turks and Caicos. After all, many of the 40 islands and numerous cays can’t be accessed any other way.
Boat tours come in many different varieties. Sunset and glowworm cruises, snorkeling charters, beach hopping and BBQ’s boat trips, and party boats.
For most visitors staying at Providenciales, most boat tours will visit a string of small cays and islands between Providenciales and North Caicos, an area about nine miles long.
A popular destination is the iguana nature sanctuary of Little Water Cay. Half Moon Bay Beach is another popular spot for its beautiful views.
Island hopping by sailboat has more of a laidback and romantic feel. Catamaran powerboats offer more of a party vibe with slides and trampolines, something that kids and adults alike can love.
Sunset cruises off the northeast of Provo often encounter Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. If you’re lucky enough to be in Turks and Caicos about 3-5 days after a full moon, you might have the opportunity to observe the bioluminescent glow-worm.
This mating dance of the female glow-worm creates a mysterious light display just beneath the surface of the water about an hour after sunset for just 15 minutes. The best place to see these glow worms is in the shallow waters of Caicos Banks south of Providenciales.
Day Trips and Island Hopping
If you are arriving in Turks and Caicos by plane, you will land at the Providenciales International Airport. From Provo, you can take a flight on a domestic airline to Grand Turk, South Caicos, and Salt Cay.
From Providenciales, you can travel by ferry to Middle Caicos and North Caicos. There is also a ferry from Grand Turk to Salt Cay. Private boat tours will pick up guests from resorts and villas.
North Caicos and Middle Caicos
A full-day tour to North Caicos and Middle Caicos from Providenciales will usually begin with a 30-40 minute ferry ride and then transportation by car or bicycle. Remote areas might be accessed by kayak or stand-up paddleboard where you can see a plethora of wildlife.
Middle Caicos is home to the Karst cave system, which includes the Conch Bar Caves with miles of tunnels. These caves are only accessible by guided tours. On North Caicos, you’ll find Cottage Pond, a small sinkhole pond, with an impressive depth of almost 300 feet.
A day trip to the small island of South Caicos begins with a flight, ferry, or private boat charter. Upon arriving you’ll have to rent a car in advance or plan to bicycle to see the sights.
ATV and Jeeps are also available to explore the sights, beaches, vistas, and wetlands of the South Caicos.
The wetland and abandoned salinas from the sea salt industry are great for birdwatching Caribbean flamingos, egrets, herons, and pelicans.
A day trip to Salt Cay requires a flight from Providenciales or a ferry ride from Grand Turk. On this small island, the transportation of choice is an off-road golf cart to explore the unpaved roads and trails of Salt Cay. Bicycling is also popular for exploring Balfour Town and South District.
Salt Cay is the destination for serious scuba diving. From January to March, you can even snorkel with humpback whales. This small, tranquil island also has some old salt salinas you can visit.
If you are cruising to Turks and Caicos, you’ll land at Grand Turk island at the nation’s capital of Cockburn Town with its historic colonial-era buildings and the Turks and Caicos National Museum.
If you fly from Providenciales, it makes for a full-day trip to explore Grand Turk’s historic sites and natural beauty. If you’re not cruising, it’s best to check the cruise ship schedule and avoid visiting on those days.
On Grand Turk, Gibbs Cay is a popular attraction for its wild and human-friendly stingrays. Tours to Gibbs Cay often include diving for conch, snorkeling, and a barbecue lunch on the beach. The Grand Turk Lighthouse and the old U.S. Navy NAVFAC 104 Base are also some historic attractions to visit.
*Disclosure: Our visit to Turks and Caicos was hosted by Beaches Turks and Caicos. However, these recommendations and opinions come entirely from us. We are also grateful to VisitTCI for their excellent source of information which we referenced to fill in the gaps.