Turks and Caicos has long been on my bucket list. Known for its singular turquoise waters, unspoiled beaches, and laid-back vibe, these 40 islands and cays (only eight of which are inhabited) are located 550 miles southeast of Miami in the Atlantic Ocean. I finally got a chance to visit last year—and now, after experiencing a small slice of Turks and Caicos beach heaven last year, it is on my must-revisit list. The clarity of the multi-hued, blue-green water is dazzling; the beaches are among the most beautiful I’ve seen; and there are many opportunities to explore the islands’ waterways and restaurants. I started to relax the minute I landed at the airport in Providenciales—the busiest and most developed island, but still relatively low-key. I can recommend it as a terrific tropical escape for modern families seeking unparalleled beaches, tranquility, water-sports, delicious food, eco-tourism, and a fun island culture.
REGENT PALMS RESORT & SPA
I stayed at the five-star Regent Palms, located on the powdery white sands of famed Grace Bay Beach—both the resort and the beach are highly ranked as among the world’s best and most beautiful island destinations. With 72 oceanfront suites, Regent Palms offers an exclusive yet friendly retreat. I was impressed by the attentive service, the delicious cuisine, and the exceptional spa. The resorts’ low-rise buildings clad in coral stone, inviting open air lobby, and colonial-style design reflect a storied yet relaxed elegance. The guest suites are super-comfy, with residential styling lightened by a white palette well suited to the island location.
The luxurious Regent Palms Spa, with more than 25,000 square feet, is one of the largest in the Caribbean. It has a lovely outdoor reflecting pool and courtyard lined with white-tented cabanas, where clients enjoy a range of high caliber treatments and products on par with anything you’ll find on the mainland. If you’re a spa person, you’ll love spending time in this oasis of pampering—a destination worth visiting even if you’re not a hotel guest. It’s a perfect place to wile away several hours of relaxation, restoration, and revitalization. I indulged in a signature, two-hour treatment called Seascape Journey. Starting with a full body exfoliating scrub, followed by a detoxifying seaweed bath, and ending with an energizing massage and feel-good facial infusion, the treatment lived up to its name. I was a happy noodle with glowing skin when I left.
Home to the third largest coral reef system in the world, Turks & Caicos is known for excellent scuba diving and snorkeling. There are also water adventures from stand-up paddle boarding to yacht excursions, and land activities from bicycling to hiking. A popular cruise sails to uninhabited and strikingly beautiful Half Moon Bay, where you can enjoy a gourmet picnic on the beach while observing Caicos Rock Iguanas. I had a fabulous time on a half-day, multigenerational eco kayak tour with Big Blue Unlimited. We explored the undeveloped coastline, stopping at the Iguana sanctuary of Little Water Cay and a spectacular secluded beach before crossing open waters to serene Mangrove Cay—where I held a nonbiting mangrove jellyfish in my hand. Note to paddlers with back issues like me: You will appreciate that Big Blue uses Necky recreational touring kayaks with full back support seating.
Turks and Caicos has been investing in its local culture and developing a more robust arts scene. “Our culture has not been as ‘in your face’ as other islands, but now we’re bringing it forward to tourists,” says the charismatic Director of Culture David Bowen. You might see him, along with other locals, visitors, and ex-pats, at the popular Thursday night Island Fish Fry nearby the Regent Palms, where local restaurants cook up Island specialties such as jerk chicken, conch fritters (Turks and Caicos is home to the world’s only commercial conch farm), and fresh-caught snapper; local artisans sell their wares; entertainers dressed in colorful national costumes take the stage with folkloric storytelling and skits; and different bands perform each week. You’ll hear the foot-tapping local music called Ripsaw, also known as Rake ‘n’ Scrape, that originated in Turks and Caicos. Many sounds come out of the flexible saw, often accompanied by a harmonica, goatskin drum, hand accordion, hand-made maracas, and acoustic guitar. “This isn’t reggae or generic Caribbean music,” notes Bowen. “Every tune is a local folk song that tells a story.”
IF YOU GO
Turks and Caicos is a British Crown Colony with an American economy. English is the official language and the U.S. dollar is the official currency—making it easy for visitors from the U.S. There are two international airports, but most flights go to Provo airport—a clean, modern facility on Providenciales where you can easily take a commuter flight to the other islands. The official tourism site of The Turks and Caicos Islands is a good place to start researching travel information.