It had been 18 months since I got on a plane due to the pandemic. I really wanted to go back home to the Caribbean, but Barbados was not ideal due to quarantine (more vacation time and more expensive due to quarantine hotel) and other logistics (no one from my immediate family was on the island at the time). I booked my travels to Turks months in advance, and at the time there were no restrictions (now only vaccinated travellers or those with medical exemptions, and you have to complete an online form for approval before entry by the Turks and Caicos Tourism Board).
Turks and Caicos was the perfect destination; specifically Provenciales, along Grace Bay. I went during low season so it was super quiet which is one of the things I wanted- solitude and a chance to decompress. The beaches are ranked some of the nicest, if the not THE nicest I’ve ever seen, and that’s saying a lot as I’m from Barbados. The people were super friendly and it felt very safe.
My objective for this trip was to spend time relaxing, having long walks on the beach at sunrise and sunset (very cliche), reading on the sand and swimming in the ocean every day. My recommendations therefore reflect this (as opposed to my usual trips consisting of adventure and action packed).
WHERE TO STAY
I am not keen on large hotels or all inclusive resorts. My vibe is more a boutique hotel or Airbnb. After some research, I found a boutique hotel close to the beach, with a pool and on Grace Bay – The Oasis at Grace Bay.
I booked the standard room with double queen beds, which included a fridge, kitchen table with chairs and balcony overlooking one of the pools. They have cutlery and utensils on request, which I opted for since eating out is very expensive (prices on the island are quoted in USD, so it’s 1.31x CAD). There is a grocery store 15 minutes walk from the hotel, and as I prefer eating healthy, I also packed half my suitcase with items like peanut butter, nuts, protein powder, oatmeal etc.
The hotel has 2 pools, bikes you can borrow to cruise around the area, and is central to a number of restaurants and stores. It is also 5 minute walk to the beach, with umbrellas and chairs provided by the hotel. The beach is on Grace Bay so there is miles of white sandy beaches.
WHAT TO DO
As my objective was mainly to decompress after an insanely stressful year, my to do list was pretty basic- walking, swimming, reading and biking. As the hotel offered cruiser bikes, I borrowed one most mornings and either biked down to a coffee shop or explored the surrounding area (incredible houses in Leeward beach area). I had access to a rental car for a couple days which is great to explore outside of Grace Bay area, but for the most part you can get by without one (you can grab a taxi for rides to/from airport, covid testing etc).
There are lots of outdoor and beach activities you can do from water sports to catamaran rides. Growing up in Barbados and having done these on the regular, I was not keen to do any tours in Turks especially since they are more expensive. It wasn’t on my radar until a friend from Barbados was visiting Turks for a couple days and invited me to join her on a private speed boat tour. After being out in the middle of the Turk’s ocean, I can say with certainty to make sure you include some type of boat trip on your must do list for TCI. The water is INCREDIBLE.
- Boat Tour
The boat tour we did was through “Wake To Wake” which included a private speed boat out to a shipwreck, choice of any water sports activity such as wakeboarding, wakesurfing, tubing and more. It also included the option to swim with Jojo, a friendly dolphin in the wild- emphasis on “option” as they do not officially offer swimming with the dolphins since they are wild and unpredictable.
Hands down this was one of the best boat experiences I’ve done. When we went out to the shipwreck, there was a moment I dived into the middle of the ocean and the water was shallow enough for me to stand. It was a scary yet incredible feeling when I noted I was the only person in the ocean for miles and the water was the bluest and clearest I’ve ever seen.
Paddleboarding is my favourite water activity. I love doing this on any body of water so it goes without saying that it was something that I was keen to do in Turks. Along Grace Bay beach there are numerous water sport rentals, many affiliated with the hotels. I lucked out and found a private rental who charged $20USD for an hour of paddle boarding. Kareem, the owner, is expanding his business to also include glass bottom kayaks. If you are interested, you can what’s app him at 649-241-8670.
WHERE TO EAT
I ate most of my meals back in my hotel room with the food I brought with me as well as from the nearby grocery store, but there were a few times I ate out on the island. These are my recommendations:
- Lemon 2 Go
This super cute coffee shop was my go to spot almost every day where I went for an English breakfast tea as well as a green smoothie (protein powder, coconut water, spinach, lime, avocado and honey). They also had yummy local made beef patties but they were gone quickly most days so whenever they were available, I snagged a couple.
- Hemmingway’s on the beach
Hemmingway’s is part of the Sands Resort and came recommended. I opted for grilled fresh catch fish and veggies, which is my go-to in any beach town. The food did not disappoint.
- Wymara beach restaurant, part of Wymara Resort Turks and Caicos
This hotel is aesthetically pleasing so the restaurant was chosen as an excuse to visit the property, which is also known for their Spa. The food was okay but it was worth grabbing a chicken salad in order to scope out the grounds.
- Coco Bistro
This was my favourite restaurant on the island as it was a perfect combination of ambiance and food. It is near Grace Bay so accessible to those staying in the area. The sunsets here are incredible so it is the perfect dinner location.
- Pelican Bay
Pelican Bay is in walking distance from The Oasis hotel, and as the hotel does not have a restaurant, this is the closest place if keen to eat out. The food was pretty good especially the jerk chicken. I ate here a couple times and enjoyed sitting by the pool and winding down the night with a pot of tea.
- Island Scoop
This home made ice cream spot is in the Grace Bay area. It is the perfect cool down treat coupled with fresh cold coconut water.
Special note about Travel and Covid:
At the time of this trip, entry to the island is for fully vaccinated or medical exemptions to Covid vaccine so there was no need to show status to restaurants etc. Masks were expected to be worn indoors but outdoors was fairly relaxed. There was a curfew from 1-5am, but unless you are planning to party late at night, this should not impact your holiday. A negative PCR test is needed for return to Canada so this is best to book 48 hours in advance to ensure compliance with travel regulations. The Oasis at Grace Bay made arrangements for me to have the test done through ACCU Diagnostics, costing $185 USD and located 15 minutes from Grace Bay area. The results were emailed within 24 hours.
Please note that this information is based on low season and reflective of the time I went (September 2021) so it is possible that some of the information may change, including with respect to Covid.
I hope you enjoyed reading, and that you consider Turks and Caicos for your next Caribbean destination.