The Turks & Caicos Islands are two islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of the Bahamas. The islands were part of the United Kingdom’s Jamaican colony until 1959, when they assumed the title of a separate crown colony. Although independence was agreed upon for 1982, the policy was reversed and the islands are presently a British overseas territory.
Turks & Caicos is arid compared with other Caribbean destinations; the island receives less than 50 inches of rainfall annually and generally lacks the lush landscape found across other Caribbean nations. Still, the islands are consistently favored by sunshine and cooling breezes, and the beaches rank with the Caribbean’s best. The Turks & Caicos’ primary appeal is its status as a mostly undiscovered and not overly developed tourism destination.
Providenciales is the main tourism city although not the capital (which is Grand Turk). It features a handful of attractions including the Provo Golf Club, the island’s only 18-hole championship course, site of the 1999 and 2009 Caribbean Amateur Golf Championships. There are also various operators offering dive tours at reefs across the island. Travelers can also rent a boat for a full- or half-day, or enjoy virtually every form of water sports, from parasailing to sail boarding. Picnics on exclusive private beaches can be arranged and there are multiple spots for snorkeling amongst the island’s exotic fish and coral. The Turks & Caicos has one of the world’s longest coral reefs, making it a premier dive destination.
Horseback riding and kite boarding are other available activities; visitors can take in the Caicos Conch Farm to learn about the life cycle of the conch, an unofficial island symbol. Fishing excursions are also available. The Turk & Caicos has an upscale beachside dining scene, with a wide variety of restaurants including the popular Hemingway’s at the Sands at Grace Bay hotel. Grand Turk attractions include a historic lighthouse, which features a keeper’s residence and a kerosene storage building, all built of local limestone blocks. For generations, the lighthouse served as mariners’ sole beacon to avoid the treacherous northeast reef, which extends eastward far out to sea and was responsible for multiple shipwrecks.
Cruise ships call at the Carnival Cruise Line’s beachfront terminal in Grand Turk, which represents the islands’ closest link to mass tourism. Located toward the south end of the island, the terminal complex features a tourism village with shops and restaurants, an oversized pool where guests can rent private cabanas, and an 800-foot-long beach. Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville is one of the popular eateries featured found here.
The main airport, in Providenciales, is small and at times struggles to keep pace with the recent wave of tourist arrivals. Travelers should arrange for a shuttle or taxi to meet them after landing. Upon departing, travelers should arrive at the airport approximately three to four hours before their fight time, especially on Saturdays, when lines can extend out of the airport doors.