There’s little not to love about Turks & Caicos, a 40-island chain in the Eastern Caribbean. These islands have been a celebrity favorite for years, but hotel renovations and new regular direct flights from cities such as Charlotte, Dallas and New York have reinvigorated demand for all things T&C. A virtually hurricane- and crime-free reputation, use of American currency and nearly 350 days per year of sunshine ensure that Turks & Caicos is a perfect destination for honeymoons, family getaways and long weekends. It’s with the latter in mind that we share with you the perfect itinerary for two days and nights.
Thanks to a preponderance of direct and one-stop flights, you’ll likely arrive in the early afternoon and breeze through customs in Providenciales. Staff is friendly at Providenciales International Airport — just know that its small size likely ensures you’ll wait about an hour for your bags, immigration and a taxi. Don’t be deterred by the plywood; a $10 million airport renovation is expected to be completed in late 2014.
Plan your hotel carefully. A number of well-heeled travelers opt for the Asian-inspired Amanyara or the private island of Parrot Cay by COMO. The downsides are that both leave the rest of the island virtually impossible to access, thanks to the $100-plus cab cost from Aman or the 25-minute boat ride to Parrot Cay. Either destination is worthy of a visit — you’ll enjoy luxury service and privacy — but you won’t ever want to leave the resorts.
To better explore the island over two days, select The Estate at Grace Bay Club or one of the oceanfront villas or suites at The Somerset on Grace Bay. Both places are elegant, family friendly and offer a central, walkable location to most things you’ll want to see, eat and do.
The 170-square-mile island is surrounded by pristine white sands and crystal-clear waters. From either property, start your afternoon on the famous Grace Bay Beach. Tanning and relaxing will be on your agenda for the next few hours. Complete the scene with a local Turk’s Head beer or signature fish hook cocktail (a blend of vodka, soda water, simple syrup, lemon and strawberry) from pop-up bar Jars on Grace Bay.
Need a break from the sun? Stroll Saltmills Plaza or the Regent Village. You won’t find much more than the usual souvenirs (try local Bambarra rum) but the shops do prove a pleasant respite from the beaming rays.
As the sun sets, there’s no better place to go than Infiniti Bar at Grace Bay Club. The 90-foot-long bar, the first of its kind in the world, offers the island’s best sunset views. After you’ve taken a few epic selfies with your cocktail, head to your dinner reservation at Coco Bistro, one of the island’s most romantic restaurants. Savor dishes such as tandoori-rubbed mahi and locally caught tuna sashimi under the palm fronds, and say hi to Coco the cat, the establishment’s namesake. The signature coconut cake is worth the calories.
The next morning, you’ll need to be up early and ready for some action. Divers and snorkelers have long flocked to Turks & Caicos to try their luck at wall diving the 7,000-foot-deep Turks Island Passage. Dive Provo organizes daily adventures. While the daytime excursions are tremendous, try a night dive when the island’s glow worms come out to mate (three to five days after a full moon); it results in a phosphorescent glow that must be seen to be believed. Want something more low-key? A half-day tour with Island Vibes is a great alternative. Stop by Little Water Cay (affectionately called “Iguana Island”) to see the rare rock iguana and enjoy a fresh-caught conch salad for a snack. Oh, and don’t mind Jo Jo the Dolphin — the island’s unofficial mascot often swims near touristy sites.
If you’d prefer to stay on land, pop over to Potcake Place in Saltmills Plaza. It’s an island-based dog rescue specializing in puppies. Come by around 10 a.m. and you can take one of these canines for a beachside frolic. It’s volun-tourism at its finest. If you grow attached, you can even adopt a dog and bring it back to the States.
For a casual lunch, there’s no better place than Mr. Grouper. Order the signature dish — coconut grouper with mango sauce — served with your choice of two sides. Go for creamy mac and cheese and fried plantains. After lunch, a hammock at the beach and a hydration facial at The Spa at The Somerset will softly beckon. Whichever direction you choose, you’ll get no judgment from us.
Once you’ve refreshed back at the room, go where the locals hang out — Da Conch Shack. The place hops on Wednesday evenings with its colorful parties and live music. As the name suggests, its menu is full of the tasty mollusk. We love our conch “cracked,” which results in a crisp bite comparable to calamari. But the fritters, much like a seafood hush puppy, are also popular. Other standout options include the Mediterranean-inspired Stelle Beach Bar + Grille at Gansevoort Turks & Caicos, and the locally influenced fare at The Somerset’s Pavilion. End your night with a long stroll on the beach by moonlight. The barefoot lifestyle will surely grow on you.