Think Caribbean vacation, and think of the Turks & Caicos islands. These islands are among the most stunning of the Caribbean, and their proximity to the United States makes them a prime vacation destination for travelers coming from that region. The Turks and Caicos Islands are also close to other well-known destinations, like the islands of the Bahamas.
As you would well expect with a holiday destination this popular, there is a lot to do and see in the Turks and Caicos, and beach hopping tops that list. Grace Bay Beach is one of the most stunning, and here and on other spots in the islands, you’ll find great diving opportunities. Did we mention the islands are home to the third largest coral system in the world? An absolute diver’s haven!
There’s much to love about the islands, and within this article you’ll find some fun facts the Turks & Caicos islands are known for, which should help you decide just how soon you’re going to get on a plane to experience the islands for yourself!
In this article on the Beaches Blog:
Simply put, the Caribbean is heaven for anyone who loves the beach, and the Turks & Caicos islands rank high on the list of the most amazing beaches in the region. Grace Bay Beach for example, has won Best Beach Destination awards a few times, and has even been rated the best beach in the world. Other popular beaches include Long Bay Beach, Sandy Point Beach, Mudjin Harbor, Governor’s Beach, Pillory Beach, and more.
Insider tip: Looking for a great beach resort in the Turks & Caicos islands? Give all-inclusive Beaches Turks & Caicos a try which is located right on Grace Bay beach!
The Turks & Caicos islands are the ultimate dive destination for snorkelers and scuba enthusiasts looking for clear ocean and thriving marine life. Expect to see anything from colorful coral of varying types, to tropical fish, turtles, dolphins, and more. The third largest barrier reef in the world can be found in this territory, and that is a major attraction for divers everywhere. In addition to that, there are lots of other great diving sites off the island of Providenciales (Provo) and other islands. While in the Turks & Caicos islands, it’s worth making some time to explore the Molasses Reef Shipwreck. It is the oldest European shipwreck known today, and dates back to the 16th century.
Insider tip: At Beaches Turks & Caicos you can book your snorkeling excursion easily with help from the front desk, so you won’t have to think much about selecting the right diving site. For PADI® certified guests, the resort offers two free tanks a day - including state-of-the-art equipment. You will be guided by professional dive staff. PADI® certification can also be done at the resort at an additional cost and afterwards you are free to join the scuba diving trips for the rest of your stay!
Are you a watersports addict, who’ll try pretty much anything once, twice, or even three times? Turks & Caicos may be the perfect vacation destination for you, where you can try anything from kitesurfing, paddle boarding, kayaking, parasailing, windsurfing and more. Jet skiing and catamaran cruises are also options, or you can just take it easy on a sandy beach and enjoy the sunshine. The turquoise waters are a sight to behold!
Distance matters when selecting the right vacation destination, and Turks & Caicos remains a top attraction for numerous reasons including its nearness to the United States. A trip from Miami to the islands takes just over an hour, while travelers from New York can get there in about two and a half hours by plane. Direct flights are available from most major US hubs, including New York, Miami, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, and Charlotte. Direct flights are also available from Toronto and London. Even better news than direct, short flights to paradise? Citizens of the United States, the UK and the EU do not need a visa to go to the Turks & Caicos islands*, which means less hassle, and more time to enjoy your vacation!
(*) Visitors from the EU, UK and US don’t need a visa at the time of writing this article. Please double-check for the latest information at the relevant institutions.
The Caribbean is known for amazing weather year-round, and it is where many vacationers flock to get a break from colder temperatures. In the Turks & Caicos islands, the temperature floats around 80°F to 90°F (27°C to 32°C) throughout the year.
If you want to go whale watching while in the Turks & Caicos, the best time to go is during the months of January through to the end of March, even early April, when the weather is most conducive for sightings of these magnificent creatures. Salt Cay is the island to visit to bring your whale watching aspirations to life, and here you can charter a whale watching boat, or even just stand high up on a seaside cliff and hope you’re in the right place, at the right time to see the whales migrating through the Turks Head Passage, southward to Silver Banks. If you don’t see any whales on your first Turks & Caicos whale watching excursion, you can always try again another day!
Bonefishing is a popular pastime in the Turks & Caicos islands and it is one of those things Turks and Caicos is known for. Notably, bonefishing is much more popular than deep-sea fishing and sports fishing in these islands. If you’ve never tried bonefishing before, you may soon find out about how challenging it can be to catch the ever-elusive bonefish but trying to do so certainly makes for an unforgettable adventure; the key is selecting the right location and the right guide. Popular Turks & Caicos bonefishing locations in the islands include South side, Pine Cay, North Caicos and Middle Caicos.
The Conch Bar Caves are the largest above ground cave structure in the Turks and Caicos – Bahamas archipelago and one of the largest dry cave systems in the Caribbean. While in the Turks & Caicos islands, you can learn about the cave formations and the various creatures that live within the Conch Bar Caves. A guide is usually on hand to take you on a tour of this limestone cave system, which was in the past mined for bat guano. Many who go say a visit here is worthwhile for the knowledge gained on the history and geology of the caves. Walking through the cave can be slippery in some places, so you’ll need to wear sturdy shoes. Part of the tour includes using flashlights to see your way and switching them off in pitch black portions to get a fuller experience!
If you’ve never taken a leisurely horseback ride down the beach on a tropical island, you should sign up for a horseback riding tour while in the Turks & Caicos. It’s a great way to explore and relax at the same time as you follow the trail to the beach, and even ride your horse into the ocean. This all happens after a safety briefing back at the stables, and a quick lesson just in case you’re new to horseback riding or need a refresher. Some horseback riding tours like those available through Provo Ponies head to Long Bay Beach in Provo which makes for an awesome horseback riding/beach day combo!
This might not be the main reason travelers flock to Turks & Caicos today, but nonetheless one of the things that put the islands on the map. The Turks & Caicos islands have a rich salt production history, and you can learn more about this during your visit. Salt played a significant part in the development of the islands, and at the height of its production, the total number of exports were 2 million bushels. Historically, there are close ties between Bermuda and the Turks & Caicos islands when it comes to the development of the industry, and even later the continued exportation of salt, even when blockades had been imposed by the British during the American Revolutionary War. Today the island’s rich salt producing history is mostly a thing of the past, though you may find some entities producing salt on a much smaller scale.
Also read: 59 Amazing Things To Do In Turks & Caicos
Yup, that’s right. An igloo. There was much confusion around the circumstances that led to this seemingly random image on the flag of the Turks & Caicos islands, but in the end it was determined that a map maker had confused piles of salt, which were integral to the development of the islands, with icy igloos, something not at all synonymous with the sunny Caribbean. Thankfully, the confusion is now a thing of the past!
Above: Flag of the Turk and Caicos Islands (1889 - 1968).
With a rich salt production history, it is hardly surprising that there have in the past been requests from ‘higher up’ to source salt from the islands due to its high quality. Former US President George Washington is said to have made a request for salt from the islands during the American Revolutionary War. There were naval blockades by the British at the time, which led to a shortage of salt in the colonies, but Bermudian ships were said to have ignored the blockades and delivered the salt, which was purchased at lucrative cost from the islands, where needed.
Christopher Columbus’ historic journey through the Americas, specifically his first landfall from some accounts could have well been in Grand Turk, in the Turks & Caicos islands. Other likely contenders are San Salvador, and the Bahamas. What is known today about this landfall matches some of the information relayed by crews involved in Columbus’ voyage.
Getting local art and souvenirs is a great way to take your vacation memories home with you, so you won’t soon forget the magic of the Turks & Caicos. Picking up these items is also a great way to support local artists, which in turn helps the overall economy of the islands. Whether you want some expertly woven baskets to add some more character to your home décor, carvings, paintings, local dolls, or ornaments of varying types, you will be able to find these easily in Turks & Caicos. Anna’s Art Gallery and Art Provo are two great spots to pick up authentic local souvenirs. Driftwood Studio, Atelys, Making Waves, and other locations on the islands offer a range of local creations that will inspire your artsy side. There are lots of options of good places to souvenir shop in the Turks & Caicos islands, which pretty much guarantees you won’t leave the island empty handed.
Conch shells are a work of art, and in the Turks & Caicos islands, conch is a huge part of everyday life. It is well established that conch is a seafood favorite for locals (why not ask a local for conch recipes?), but the shells of these sea snails; shiny, with a sand polished finish, are also much sought after. These beautiful pink shells are used to make art, jewelry, and even homeware. Many local retailers sell conch jewelry, including Royal Jewels in Providenciales and Serene by Mel, a gift shop also located in Providenciales. Keep in mind while going on your conch themed shopping spree, that the Turks & Caicos conch shell is the only one that can be exported legally, within reason. There are limits; you can only take home three conch shells without a permit.
Caribbean rum has festive appeal and is packed with history, and the award-winning Bambarra Rum is a top choice for those looking to take the party home with them after their holiday. Bambarra, a sugar cane rum, is produced in small quantities and it is mixed and bottled on the island of Providenciales. You can find both Bambarra Rum and Rum Cakes from local vendors, particularly at the Regent Village Shopping Plaza in Grace Bay.
There are many things Turks and Caicos is known for, and pepper and salt do not fall far down on that list. If you’ve spent some time in the Turks & Caicos islands you would know just how popular PeppaJoy Hot Sauce is with both locals and visitors to the island. If you haven’t been yet, then allow us to point you in the right direction when it comes to determining things that are worth taking back home with you. Peppajoy Hot Sauce was created by Delano Handfield, a Turks & Caicos national who served the US army. With scotch bonnet peppers as a base, it’ll add that signature Turks & Caicos flavor to your food so you can savor your experience, even after you’ve returned home!
Another cool item to throw into your suitcase and incorporate into your cooking once you get back home is local sea salt. It can also be used for bath soaks, and in margaritas. Local sea salt is available in a range of colors, and there are various ways of preparing it, which most times is reflected in the final product.
Get something truly unique to take back home with you by scouring through some of the designs to find custom creations by local designers. These can usually be found at souvenir shops, or from retailers on the island. Brands to look out for include Sea Sage, Konk Apparel, and more. Local designs are also available from resort shops on island.
‘Turks’ comes from a species of indigenous cactus (the recognisable scarlet head of which you can find on the Turks & Caicos national flag). ‘Caicos’ is a phrase said to come from the indigenous Lucayan or Arawak people, “caya hico” which is translated to “string of islands”.
A conch is a type of edible sea snail. Queen conch is a popular food in Turks & Caicos - not dissimilar in taste and texture to clams - and the beautiful pink shells are sought after by many visitors.
If you are flying from the Turks & Caicos back home, you are permitted to take up to three conch shells without a permit. All shells must be in your checked luggage and not in your carry on for the safety of those on board. It’s worth checking customs regulations at your destination to see if you can legally bring a conch shell home.
As you may expect from the name, bonefish have many tiny bones - and so they are not often enjoyed as food! More often than not, bonefishing in Turks & Caicos is a ‘catch and release’ pastime and lots of fun to enjoy with a local guide.
Whales have been spotted all around the Turks & Caicos, but the best spots are said to be the waters off Northwest Point Marine National Park, West Caicos Marine National Park, Salt Cay and Grand Turk.
Peak whale season begins in late January and ends around the beginning of March, coinciding with the Atlantic humpback migration. If you’re visiting around this time, it is not uncommon to spot whales - and their baby calves - every day.
The ultimate compilation of things Turks and Caicos is known for, which we hope will point your vacation in the right direction, so you don’t miss out on anything super amazing. As you finalize the little details of your trip, you can be assured that the Turks & Caicos is a great holiday destination for couples, friends and families alike, and pretty much anyone in need of a tropical getaway!
Check out Beaches Turks & Caicos, and start planning the all-inclusive vacation of a lifetime.