Even for frequent Caribbean island hoppers spoiled by white sand and turquoise waters, it’s hard for your jaw not to drop in Turks and Caicos.
Step foot on the 12-mile Grace Bay Beach, and you’ll know why it’s often called the best beach in the world, with water sparkling like diamonds under clear blue skies and the flora and fauna awash in vibrant pink and fuchsia.
If there’s one thing that keeps Turks and Caicos from being perfect, it’s how expensive the islands are, from the lodgings to local goods — a bag of chips and almonds will run you $8.
Whether you’re looking to go big or are on a budget, here’s how to explore Turks and Caicos.
Fine dining: Expect to eat lots of seafood. On Providenciales, popular options include Coco Bistro (so popular you should book two months ahead) and, for an intimate, romantic meal, Opus.
Seaside activities: There’s plenty to keep you busy, from windsurfing, sailing and kiteboarding lessons to galloping on a pony on the beach to snorkeling (the country is home to the third largest coral reef system on earth).
Luxury resorts: Take your pick of the many classy condo-villa resorts — The Venetian, The Tuscany, Gansevoort, The Somerset on Grace Bay and The Palms Turks and Caicos, famous for its fab spa and cuisine. Joining the club is the Shore Club Resort at Long Bay Beach, slated to open later this year.
On a budget:
Hit the beach: The best thing in Turks and Caicos: The beaches are free and open to the public.
Affordable fun: You don’t have to go the full monty with pricey sunset tours or full-day excursions to nearby islands; instead, think half-day or 2-hour trips. Another affordable activity is visiting a conch farm, where you’ll see the process from the time a female lays her eggs, to when they hatch, begin to grow out and when their shells begin to solidify. Among water sports, kayaking tends to cost less, too.
Cheap(er) eats: On Providenciales, find seafood for less at Da Conch Shack and Bugaloos on the Beach — which both offer several takes on the local specialty, conch.
Fish fry: Thursday evenings, the laid-back Island Fish Fry at Bight Park has free admission and draws locals and tourists alike for DJs, bands, entertainers and food vendors serving up lobster mac and cheese, local corn and more.
Sightseeing by bike: The fun way to get around town is by bike or scooter. Many resorts have complimentary bikes.
Save on stays: There are two all-inclusives, Club Med Turkoise and Beaches, which can save you money. Ports of Call Resort and Inn at Grace Bay are more moderate, too. Families can also cut costs by sharing a condo-villa with another family, and making use of the elaborate kitchens. Pack snacks in your suitcase.