Turks & Caicos

DSCN0764The Turks and Caicos consist of 40 flat little islands surrounded by coral reefs. The most popular island is Providenciales (“Provo”). Grand Turk on the far eastern edge of the Turks and Caicos is the only island visited by cruise ship and a separate review for Grand Turk can be found here. A handful of islands can be visited by the Turks & Caicos ferry such as North Caicos, Middle Caicos, and South Caicos. The others are only accessible by private boat.

For our trip we stayed in Provo right on Grace Bay Beach at the Ocean Club Resort, but we also took a day-trip to North and Middle Caicos so we can now say that we’ve been to 4 of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Unique to Turks & Caicos:dscn0528

  • Grace Bay Beach, beautiful white sand beach
  • 3rd largest coral reef in the world (supposed to offer great diving)
  • Semi-Submarine the Undersea Explorer
  • Conch Farm
  • Shell Diving Excursions
  • Some of the best dining in the Caribbean

img_0975Adventures:

Undersea Explorer Semi-Submarine – Turks and Caicos is home to the 3rd largest coral reef in the world and is known to be a great spot for divers. Since we’re not divers, I was thrilled to find the Undersea Explorer, Semi-Submarine to give us a chance to see the coral up close. The submarine is not big and it only seats about 20 people, 2 per bench (see picture). But, we had a great time as submarine appeared to skim right above the coral and just below the surface. We especially loved the last 5 minutes of the tour where we went looking for turtles (we saw 5!) My only complaint, is that while the guide does a great job pointing out the different types of img_0981fish and coral, it seemed like we zipped past them quickly and photo taking was a bit difficult. I definitely wouldn’t expect to take pictures as good as those on their website and think they are a bit misleading. Everything else about the tour I loved and think it’s a great value. http://caicostours.com/wp/

DIY Day Trip to North and Middle Caicos – We decided to take 1 day and visit North and MIddle Caicos. After looking at some of the tours online, we decided to venture by ourselves and save some money. It also allowed us to explore the island at our own pace. That being said, if we’d have taken a tour, it might have been a bit more organized. First, we coordinated with the TCI img_1093Ferry and requested a rental car by email. When we arrived at the port in North Caicos our rental car did not arrive. We were very fortunate to run into a lady at the port whose husband owned Silver Auto Rental and she loaned us her own vehicle. (By the way, the people in Turks & Caicos are amazing!). It wasn’t a fancy car (I don’t think any cars on the island are), but it was wheels and we had a great time anyways. If you are visiting the island, I recommend contacting the rental car company directly and making arrangements since the Ferry did not work for us. Our plan was to head all the way to the farthest point at the bottom of Middle Caicos (Tip: Get a free map from the TCI ferry office before leaving Provo) and journey back towards the ferry port over the course of the day. We also found there to be a lot of road signs that directed us to everything we wanted to see. These maps are excellent references for planning from home.

Below are some of the sights we saw (in chronological order) and our thoughts. Note that many of the sights were a bit disappointing. We had a good time, so I can’t recommend not visiting North and Middle Caicos, but I do think it’s appropriate to manage expectations.dscn0580

Lorrimar Landing – It’s just a small boat ramp into a river type area. Not really worth visting.

Wild Cow Run – Also not worth driving to. We didn’t see a sole on this stretch and I was sure our car was going to break down and strand us. Once we arrived as the “scenic beach” we found it was covered with trash. It was very sad.

dscn0654Haulover Plantation – Supposed to be a nice place for hiking but it was very overgrown. Since we were concerned about brush (note mosquito breeding grounds) we just climbed to the top of the lookout tower and moved on.

Bambarra Beach – Again, the “tiki huts” were pretty sad and rundown. But the actually beach was really nice. It it wasn’t so windy and cool, I think we could’ve had a nice swim. (see beach picture above).dscn0662

Craft Market in Bambara/Daniel’s Cafe – closed. Not sure if they are closed permanently, but in November they were closed.

Mudjin/ Dragon’s Cay – By far the best stop of the day. Dragon’s Cay and wandering through the cliffs was awesome. Following the paved path takes you to a stairway through a cave to a hidden beach. Following the unpaved path dscn0638takes you to a cave. We also had a great lunch at Mudjin Bar & Grill and it’s a place to use the restroom.

Indian Caves – Only takes about 5 minutes. We stopped and took pictures of the holes in the ceiling (See picture). (Note, there’s a picture of a palm tree on Pinterest that says it’s from the Indian Caves, it is not. The caves are too far inland to see the ocean.)dscn0703

Conch Shell Caves – It’s worth it to pay a guide. The guide provides flashlights and points out all the areas that are slippery to walk on. And there are lots of places where people could fall. He also pointed out the areas where the bats were sleeping. It was an interesting short tour. (See picture of Brian looking at bats)dscn0732

Causeway – You actually drive across it twice because it’s the road connecting North and Middle Caicos. I’m just noting here that the causeway is much nicer than we expected based on other internet reviews. It looked like it had been recently paved.

dscn0751Horsestable Beach – We took a nap here next to a rusty old dock, but the beach was beautiful. Again if it hadn’t been cold and windy, I think I could’ve swam for a couple of hours.

Flamingo Overlook – Supposedly there are thousands of flamingos here and you are supposed to bring binoculars. In November we did not see any.

Other Beaches – The 3 Mary’s Cays Beach and Pumpkin Bluffs. We didn’t see since we were ready to head home. Can’t comment.

When heading back towards the Ferry port in North Caicos, I recommend sticking to the dscn0546highway and not going the route past Pumpkin Bluff Pond and Cottage Pond. We went that way and it is very overgrown to the point where the brush touches the car on both sides. Also the pond we drove past for most of the way is a muddy pink color and not attractive at all. This was another place where I was sure our car would breakdown and leave us stranded!

img_1055Bike Riding – We borrowed our resort’s free bicycles and rode them all around the Grace Bay Beach area. It was fun to souvenir shop and go to the market. We loved it. We only had 1 incident where the key bent in the lock and we couldn’t get it unchained. Luckily it was a short walk to the resort to have someone rescue us!

Conch Farm – We even biked all the way to the conch farm (it’s a pretty flat ride) to find out it dscn0530was closed. Someday I’d like to see it. No big loss though.

Casino – We went to the Casablanca hotel near Coco Bistro one evening because it was raining. I can’t recommend it. It’s a very tiny casino (1 room about 1000 square feet) and most of the customers looked like locals instead of tourists. It made me a bit uncomfortable to support gambling for people who didn’t look like they could afford it. That being said, the casino has a free shuttle and the workers are incredibly nice.

Next time I visit Turks & Caicos: 

  • Snorkeling tour to go diving for shells (Ours got rained out)
  • Check out the Conch Farm (Note the day after Thanksgiving is a holiday in Turks & Caicos)
  • Go to karaoke at Danny Buoys

Transportation:

We took a cab from the airport to the hotel (approx $25/per person, not per cab). Then relied on bikes, walking, and the free hotel shuttle. They drive on the left in Turks and Caicos.


Lodging:img_1104

Ocean Club Resort – We booked a package through Cheap Caribbean to stay at the Ocean Club Resort and I really liked it. For one thing, most of their guest rooms have screened in porches which we loved. I loved sitting in our room with the big patio door open and letting in the fresh air. It was lovely the day that it rained. We just lounged around our room and listened to the drizzle. Also they left us gave us a bottle of champagne since we were celebrating our “bonus-moon”.


Restaurants/ Meals & Drinks:

Caicos Bakery – Located at The Sands Resort. Visited for Brunch.

Coco Bistro – Just make reservations in advance of your trip if you are planning on going to Coco Bistro. It’s pricey, but with the beautiful setting under the palm trees, we loved it. Expect to spend at least $200 for two people, more if you order wine. Restaurant Review.

Coyaba – Restaurant that is in the same price range and compares to Coco Bistro. Brian actually preferred it and they do have a slightly longer menu. Also you don’t have to work as hard to get reservations. Expect to spend at least $200 for two people, more if you order wine. Restaurant Review.

Hemingways – Located at The Sands Resort with dining right next to the beach. Visited for Brunch. One of the cheapest meals that we had during our stay. No sightings of JoJo the dolphin.

Mango Reef – We ate lunch at Mango Reef after the Undersea Explorer. Their free shuttle was happy let us eat before returning us to our resort and it ended up being a good choice. Our lunch was really good and it was a nice change of scenery to sit on the dock and watch the submarine come and go.
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Ocean Club Resort Beachside Restaurant- We actually ate at this restaurant 3 times and each time our food was good. For one thing it was convenient because we stayed at the resort. But also the setting was nice since it was right near the beach. The green apple daiquiri is awesome (see picture of our view).

Mudjin Bar & Grill – If you go to Middle Caicos, I highly recommend the Mudjin Bar & Grill. The food is really good – we both had a jerk-seasoned hamburger that we thought was delicious. Also the people are incredibly nice. We felt that way about everyone in North & Middle Caicos. Full Restaurant Review here.

Al’s – The only restaurant that I can’t recommend. It was overpriced, the food was just so-so, and the service was slow. To be fair, it was Thanksgiving day, so maybe they were having an off-day.

Danny Buoy’s- We didn’t actually eat there but I wish we had. We walked past after eating at Al’s and saw people singing Karaoke on a Thursday night. It looked like a nice way to spend an evening.

Melt – I heard really good things about this ice cream place and never saw it. It must be off the main road.


Tips/ Things to Know:

  • Food is expensive all over. I under-budgeted by a lot.
  • The Graceway Gourmet supermarket requires an ID for credit card purchases. Also they don’t sell liquor on Sundays.
  • There are a lot of shops in the Salt Mills Plaza area that are great for souvenir shopping.
  • Everybody is really, really nice.
  • Grace Bay Beach is beautiful, but surprisingly difficult to walk on. Wear water socks because of all the sharp rocks in the water.

My Time Spent on the Island:

  • 5 days (4 nights) in November 2016, at the Ocean Club Resort

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