Turks and Caicos reopened its crystalline waters to travelers July 22. While many countries have closed their borders to Americans, the archipelago joins Caribbean islands like Aruba, the Dominican Republic and St. Lucia in welcoming U.S. tourists.
A luxury destination, the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) is renowned for its powdery sands and its crystal-clear turquoise water. It has one of the lowest annual rainfall averages in the region, which ensures plenty of sun-drenched days to enjoy its pristine beaches. Another bonus for those who don’t want to spend a lot of time on a plane: TCI is 3.5-hour plane ride from New York and about two hours from Miami.
After months in lockdown, TCI says it’s following the proper reopening procedures. “We are taking every precaution to ensure the Islands are safe and to enhance the exceptional experience and care afforded by the destination and our world-class hospitality partners,” says Pamela Ewing, director of tourism for the Turks and Caicos Islands Tourist Board. “Our intention is to cautiously reboot the tourism sector, laying the foundation for short- and long-term recovery.” TCI reported 81 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and two related deaths, as of July 20, 2020.
We offer some insight into planning a trip to the British overseas territory and tell you what to expect when you’re there. Since restrictions concerning the coronavirus can change, it’s important to check the latest updates from the TCI government and heed guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when traveling.
How To Get There
An escape to paradise requires some legwork before grabbing your passport and boarding a plane. Proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test, which must be taken within five days of travel (children under 10 are exempt), and medical or travel insurance (it has to cover a medevac) are required. You also have to fill out an online health screening and travel authorization form 72 hours before arrival to the island; approval is granted within a few hours, the tourism bureau says.
Once you land at the airport, temperature checks and a screening will be conducted. You also may be subject to COVID-19 testing.
Pack Your Masks
Facial coverings are required in all public spaces, though there are some exceptions, like at the beach, but you should maintain a six-foot buffer from other parties. You will need to wear a mask upon entering restaurants, but it can be removed once you are seated.
What to Expect at Hotels
We’ve shared what you can expect at a hotel during COVID, from the culinary experiences to the spa and gym. Many TCI properties are adopting these measures, but are adding some unique options, from the types of accommodations to activities.
A stay on the main island, Providenciales (nicknamed Provo) revolves around hotels, since that’s where the beaches are. In Grace Bay, Wymara Resort and Villas won’t book rooms in the main resort until August 13, but there’s an incentive to wait: newly renovated accommodations will make their debut. The boutique hotel has opened its seven villas, which seem made for social distancing. While the four- and five-bedroom abodes boast top-of-the-line amenities (like Cuisinart appliances, Wolf cooktops and Sub-Zero refrigerators), you’ll likely be more interested in the fact that each comes with two pools and an over-the-water swim platform with direct ocean access.
Farther east, Grace Bay Club has its own collection of luxury villas that come with a private chef and bartender (extra fees are incurred for the food and drinks), though the all-suite hotel has plenty of spacious accommodations at the main resort.
If you prefer a more secluded location, opt for The Shore Club Turks and Caicos, which sits along Long Bay Beach on the southeast side of Provo. Its gated villas have six bedrooms, plunge pools and a dedicated butler.
When it comes time for some fun in the sun, Wymara curates island activities that cater to small groups of families or friends traveling together. According to the hotel, a popular excursion is the power snorkel. A handheld propulsion unit lets snorkelers zip through the water and take in the vistas, including a dramatic 7,000-foot drop at the edge of the reef. In addition, there are bird-watching tours and Provo Ponies, where you can ride a horse onto the beach and into the water.
At Grace Bay Club, the staff wears palm-patterned masks, though guests are not required to wear them while on property. The iconic hotel says that social distancing will be in effect for all activities, including its complimentary outdoor yoga class near the adult pool. The hotel’s 1,100 feet of beachfront allows for plenty of naturally spaced-out fun, including volleyball, Hobie Cats, kayaking and more.
Sister properties The Palms Turks and Caicos and The Shore Club Turks and Caicos anticipate that demand will increase for their pool cabanas, which afford privacy for small groups and allow for physical distancing. Both hotels have rolled out enhanced menus to feed those lingering at the cabanas all day.
The Palms and The Shore Club also expect more guests to opt to dine inside their rooms. They have expanded their room service offerings and will add a family-style menu. Plus, any dish from the onsite restaurants can be delivered, perhaps with one of the new immune-boosting beverages, like the ginger, lemon and honey shots.
Grace Bay Club wanted to accommodate guests who might be uncomfortable leaving its grounds, so it launched a meal inclusive package that takes care of breakfast, lunch and dinner.
What to Expect at Restaurants
For those who want to venture out for meals, most restaurants on the island are open, the tourism board says. You should consult your hotel concierge for the most up-to-date list.
If you are hesitant about dining out, look for restaurants brandishing a “TCI Assured” decal. As part of the government’s TCI Assured program, the designation indicates the restaurant submitted a reopening plan and passed a health department inspection.
Among the open restaurants bearing the TCI Assured certification are Da Conch Shack, a popular alfresco spot in Blue Hills Beach that serves its namesake ingredient in everything from fritters to chowder; Coco Bistro, a fine-dining favorite tucked in a coconut grove in Grace Bay; and Bella Luna, a Grace Bay staple for upscale Italian fare and brick-oven-made thin-crust pizzas.