Looking for a vacation featuring picture-perfect beaches, great seafood, and plenty of outdoor adventure? You might want to visit Turks and Caicos. This island nation isn’t as well-known as some of its Caribbean neighbors, but that’s part of its appeal. The Turks and Caicos Islands have enough tourist infrastructure to make a stay comfortable and relaxing, but lack the crowds that would ruin its laid-back vibe.
But first: Where is Turks and Caicos, anyway? It’s a chain of dozens of islands and cays—only eight of which are inhabited—southeast of Miami, near the Bahamas, Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. The two main islands are Providenciales (a.k.a. Provo), where you’ll find most of the resorts as well as the main international airport; and Grand Turk, home to the cruise port and the islands’ capital city.
Although Turks and Caicos (like the Bahamas) is technically located in the Atlantic Ocean rather than the Caribbean Sea, the islands offer the same relaxed vibe, sunny weather, and stunning beaches that you’d expect when planning a Caribbean vacation.
It’s Convenient for U.S. Travelers
You can fly directly from Miami to Providenciales in less than two hours, and from New York City or Chicago in less than four hours. American, JetBlue, and Delta are among the airlines offering nonstop flights from the United States.
Despite being a British Overseas Territory, Turks and Caicos uses the U.S. dollar as its currency, and power outlets there operate with American-style plugs and voltage—so you don’t need to worry about changing money or packing adapters.
It Has Some of the Caribbean’s Best Beaches
If your vacation wouldn’t be complete without spending hours on the sand, you’ll want to visit Turks and Caicos. The islands are fringed with one drop-dead-gorgeous beach after another, starting with the pristine white sand and calm, clear waters of Grace Bay—which made SmarterTravel’s recent list of the 10 Best Caribbean Beaches.
Other beaches worth checking out include Governor’s Beach on Grand Turk, Leeward Beach on Providenciales, and the remote Sandy Point Beach on North Caicos.
It’s Got Excellent Diving and Snorkeling
Whether you’re a certified diver or you prefer to float along the surface while snorkeling, you’ll see plenty of colorful sea life in Turks and Caicos’ clear waters, which shelter one of the world’s longest barrier reefs. Creatures to look out for include sea turtles, parrotfish, wrasse, angelfish, trumpetfish, small sharks, and many more.
You can snorkel right off the beach in spots like Smith’s Reef on Providenciales, but most travelers choose to take a boat tour for access to more extensive reefs. One popular tour—especially for cruise ship passengers—is to swim with stingrays and then snorkel along a nearby stretch of coral. Providenciales and Grand Turk have the most snorkel and dive cruise options, and some local companies even offer nighttime excursions.
You Can Have an Outdoor Adventure
High-energy travelers can try a different activity every day of the week in Turks and Caicos. On day one, you can kayak peacefully through a maze of mangroves. On day two, saddle up for a horseback ride along the beach. On day three, try your hand at kiteboarding—Provo is one of the best spots in the Caribbean for it. On day four, rent a Hobie Cat and sail along the coast for a few hours … you get the idea.
Other options include windsurfing, parasailing, sport fishing, golf, tennis, and stand-up paddleboarding. You can even visit a cave on Middle Caicos or hike that island’s scenic Crossing Place Trail.
You Can Savor Great Seafood
After all that activity, you’ll want to refuel with some good eats—and Turks and Caicos offers plenty of them. From high-end fare at luxury resorts to Provo’s popular Thursday night Fish Fry, the islands serve up the best of the ocean’s bounty. Your plate of tangy conch salad or butter-drizzled lobster may well feature seafood caught earlier that same day.
Consider visiting Providenciales in November for the Conch Festival. It’s a great chance not only to sample the island’s signature food but also to meet and interact with the locals.
It’s Got a Friendly, Uncrowded Vibe
Travelers looking for a laid-back, get-away-from-it-all escape will love Turks and Caicos. While Grand Turk does welcome cruise ship visitors, it’s easy enough to avoid the day trippers by staying on other islands.
Nor is Turks and Caicos particularly known for nightlife, so it’s an ideal spot for visitors looking to avoid a spring-break party atmosphere. If your idea of a great vacation involves friendly locals, uncrowded beaches, leisurely seafood dinners, and an easy-going vibe, Turks and Caicos will be a good fit.
More from SmarterTravel:
- Which Caribbean Island Is Right for You?
- Top 25 Ways to Save on a Caribbean Vacation
- 5 Caribbean Resorts That Should Be on Your Bucket List