The Turks & Caicos, so nice they gave it TWO names! This well-known Caribbean Island chain is well known for many good reasons, not the least of which is the impossibly clear water and astounding shades of turquoise seen from any of the beaches there.
Speaking of beaches, these ones aren’t like some you’ve been on with crazy hot sand and crashing waves.
Because the sand is made of finely crushed coral (not silica like most beaches) it stays nice and cool even in the middle of the day in June. And as for waves, well, they just aren’t there on many of the popular beaches like Grace Bay.
This makes for excellent conditions for kids to hone their snorkeling skills. Its warm (around 83 ish), clear (50-70 feet of visibility depending where you) and colorful reef fish aplenty.
The island is small enough (about 17 miles long) and manageable enough to easily do in just a few days. We did 4 days on Providenciales (locally known as “Provo”) and Middle Caicos and found awesome water, good food, nice people, ancient caves and beaches all to ourselves. Read on for all the juicy deets!
Touched down at Providenciales Airport (PLS) at about 2:30 -this left us plenty of time to do a little exploring and get our bearings.
Its not terribly difficult learn the roads on Provo as there is one main road (Leeward) going through it and then roads simply shoot off that going to either coasts.
Grabbed a van to our car rental, got set up with a teeny tiny car and we were on our way. A couple of things I will mention here: 1) the roads are pretty rough on the side streets, there are many dirt roads and pot holes and the drivers are well, questionable so my strong advice is get the daily insurance on the car!
It came out to something like 11.50 USD daily which is a small price to pay for peace of mind.
2) The other thing is that because we were traveling with kids that needed car seats its a good idea to put towels down first then install car seats.
If you’ve ever seen the carnage that lies beneath a car seat when you go to clean the seats you know what I’m talking about.
The towels will save any future stains and/or seat destruction that may occur while you’re there. 3). Packing light was tremendously helpful considering how small the car was.
4). And because this is a British territory they drive on the left. Just think to yourself, “right shoulder towards the center line” and you’ll be fine. It takes concentration to immediately unlearn your normal way of driving though.
The nice thing is that they use round-abouts (traffic circles) however be warned that while most intersections have the expected yield sign at the round-about, some intersections actually have STOP signs which can really throw you off if you’re not paying attention.
Our first morning found us on the hunt for breakfast. Not much was open but we were able to find a Mexican place (not what you think of when you think “breakfast” but it was decent).
Get ready to drop some coin on food, breakfast for 4 was $65.00. While at breakfast we noticed some towel toting tourists heading down one particular road.
We were looking for a beach so we followed. We came to a very nice beach at the end of the road. It was part of Grace Bay Beach which ranks as one of the top five beaches in the world. Got some snorkeling in and let the kids burn off what appears to be boundless energy.
It was a super nice beach and water but not much there as far as seagrass or reef goes. So we headed towards Walkin Marina/TCI Ferry Docks to look for a place we saw on the tourist map called “Bird Rock Nature Trail”.
In our quest to locate this trail we inadvertently came across a “secrect” meeting of the SeaShepard!
After some wrong turns and some asking around we were able to find the trailhead. The sign was 97% gone and there was a chain across the start of the trail so we calmly filed back into the car and left…NOT!
We loaded up with water and cameras and headed on down the trail.
It was very rocky so if you’re thinking flip flops, think again. The trail was okay, not gonna make any top ten lists but a good way to see some native plants and such.
Ironically, I don’t think I saw a single bird. We finally made it to an area where we could look out over azure blue waters.
That wasn’t the end of the trail but it was the end for us. Heat in the 80’s (felt like 90’s) and whiny kids forced us to turn back and head for the car.
That night we went to a place we knew nothing about expect for seeing signs on the road. We were glad we went because Da Conch Shack turned out to be really nice (and really close to the water). The Creole conch was awesome as were the fritters.
Caught the ferry to Middle Caicos in the morning. The boat had 65-70 people and despite that much beef on board the boat could really haul. When you think “ferry” you usually think “slow boat to china” but when you get on this baby you’re gonna get there in a hurry.
The boat docked and we got our rental “Jeep”. Be aware that “jeep” in Turks and Caicos can actually mean very tiny compact car. If you thought the roads were rough on Provo get ready for Middle Caicos! Our plan was to hit the Conch Bar Caves then Bambarra Beach.
We were able to locate the entrance to Conch Bar Caves (whenever you find something you’re searching for in Turks & Caicos its super satisfying considering we’re using tourist maps that are incomplete and waaaaay out of scale).
They gave us a guide name Dimitri and some weak flashlights from 80’s and we headed for the cave. As we approached I knew the kids would get a huge kick out of it because what says “adventure” more than mysterious caves?
The $20/adult was definitely worth it. Our guide was a super nice guy and of course was very knowledgeable having grown up on Middle Caicos and gone on cave tours with his dad back in the day.
The cave was a big hit with the kids and it was interesting to learn of the history of the caves. The tour was not terribly long, maybe 20-30 minutes but worth making the journey.
One thing I wished I had done is bring my own flashlight. These days they are so small and powerful it would have been easy to pack it my bag.
A camping headlamp would also have worked great too. The flashlights they provided were those huge clunkers from back in the day that aren’t much brighter than a lighted match so do yourself a favor and throw a flashlight in your pack.
While searching for Bambarra Beach with our crumby tourist map we stumbled across a beach all to ourselves near the Indian Caves.
Who needs umbrellas when you have your own rock overhang?
It was off the beaten path so it was a lucky find. There is just something about stumbling across an awesome beach with no one on it. Feels like you’re getting away with something.
The waters were great and even had some semblance of spur and groove reef formation but conveniently in 6 feet of water so very accessible for kids.
If kids have a bad first few times snorkeling they are less likely to want to continue it but here in the Turks and Caicos the waters are so accessible, warm and calm that they can really get into it and quickly learn to love it.
Both of our kids were tough to get out of the water when it was time to go. Our 3 year old even became obsessed with trying to catch fish with his hands.
We then decided to actually find Bambarra Beach and headed farther down the island. At the end of a rocky road we came to cool little beach area complete with several bungalows in various tropical colors.
Cooler yet was a small island that you could walk (0.42 mi.) to across a stretch of shallow water.
Elisha had read about a little beach called Smith Cove fairly close to where we were staying so we grabbed some towels and masks and headed down. It was a very cool little spot with some reef and seagrass (which means fish to see!).
The boys were loving it! We then hit a place nearby called Diane’s Jamaican Grill and Chill for breakfast. Of course, after breakfast the boys wanted to go in the hotel pool one last time. Seems as though they spent 80% of their time in water (pool, ocean or bathtub)!
- Thrifty Car Rental (North Caicos)
- TCI Ferry to Middle Caicos
- Air B&B at La Vista Azul
- Jeep Rental on Middle Caicos (book thru TCI Ferry)
- Conch Bar Caves
- Da Conch Shack Restaurant
Things we would do again:
- Freezing gallon of water before going hiking. Coming back to the car to a gallon of ice cold water is a relief to say the least
- Going to Middle Caicos and exploring. We would definitely see ourselves coming back and spending more time on the sparsely-populated/rustic smaller islands.
- Packing light: you can move faster and anything more than what we had literally wouldn’t have fit in the rental. If you go AirBnB, find out if the place has a washer/dryer. You can pack less by doing laundry on the fly.
- Taking a tablet to entertain kids in airports and on planes.
- Getting the $11.50 per day car insurance. With the rocky roads, speedy drivers and if you’re not used to driving on the left its probably a good idea to get a little extra peace of mind.
Things we would change:
- Roll on sunscreen. Using that was a bad idea. Its like being covered in Vaseline & we still burned.
- Renting a little car on Middle Caicos. Get a real jeep if you can. The roads are super rough.
- Maps: get a real map before you come because the tourist map is way off scale.
- Flashlights: bring your own to the caves. The tour provided flashlights but were just a wee bit better than a lighted match.
- Car seats: put towels down before setting out to reduce damage done to car seats from the kids.
Been to Turks and Caicos? Got any tips to share? We want to hear ’em! Comment below.