By Katie McElveen
Afloat in a turquoise stretch of the Atlantic Ocean so bright it could serve as a stand-in for the Caribbean, this archipelago of 40 islands is known for its laid-back charm and easy access.
The islands that comprise Turks and Caicos Islands are surprisingly diverse. Providenciales (or Provo), the most developed within the cluster, is an oasis of long picture-perfect beaches, luxury resorts and some of the best food in the Caribbean. Pirates once roamed uninhabited West Caicos. Today, a dramatic coral wall attracts scuba enthusiasts from all over the world. Spelunkers flock to the network of caves that winds through Middle Caicos. Nearby, lush North Caicos is surrounded by salt flats inhabited by feisty bonefish, tarpon and barracuda. A flock of pink flamingos and plantation ruins round out the isle’s unexpectedly varied offerings. Little Water Cay attracts kayakers, who paddle over from Provo to see the huge rock iguanas who inhabit the tiny speck of land. A prime destination for divers, Grand Turk is home to an abundance of underwater attractions such as the Black Forest, which is named for its profusion of huge black coral trees. You’ll also find a small museum highlighting the island’s history, a lighthouse, shops, a few casual restaurants and a herd of friendly wild donkeys. Visit Salt Cay during the winter months and you can don snorkel gear and swim with pods of humpback whales as they navigate the deep channel that separates Salt Cay and South Caicos.
Sand and Sea on Provo
Visit Provo and you’ll likely stay along Grace Bay Beach. It’s a perfect curve of ivory sand and shockingly blue water that’s as quiet as it is beautiful thanks to its status as a national park. Snorkeling is great in the bay, or hop aboard a tour boat — pickups are on the beach — for the short ride to the reef. There are land activities, too, like golf at Provo Golf Club and tasting tours at Turk’s Head Brewery.
Provo’s dining scene runs the gamut from atmospheric beach shacks to elegant outdoor dining rooms with views of the ocean. Beyond its namesake, Mr. Grouper’s serves up spicy conch chowder, grilled lobster and other island delights; at Coco Bistro, elegant dishes like pepper-crusted local tuna are presented under towering palms in a torch-lit garden.
Dazzling Diamonds on Grace Bay Beach
Polished and serene, Grace Bay Club was the first luxury resort on the island. Its collection of 85 rooms and suites is spread over several buildings, one of which is adults-only. Breezy Wymara exudes South Beach style with 91 sleek rooms and a palm-dotted infinity pool. Comprising three seven-story buildings, Seven Stars is one of Grace Bay’s few high-rise resorts. A recent $12 million renovation updated each of the 167 rooms, expanded the spa and enhanced dining options. Don’t miss the spa at the posh colonial-style Palms resort, which features a black-tiled pool, individual treatment cottages and bespoke services. The 28 garden-inspired rooms at Point Grace are clustered around a palm-shaded pool. The resort’s restaurant, Grace’s Cottage, is legendary.
For reservations, give your AAA Travel Agent a call: 1-800-750-5386.