If you’re craving an escape to a pristine palm-dotted beach to be warmed by endless sunshine and the sound of lapping turquoise waves, the Caribbean paradise of Turks & Caicos is a tropical island fantasy come true with its idyllic setting, reggae jams, and laid back vibes. Composed of a network of roughly 100 islands, many uninhabited by humans, with over 230 miles of spectacular beaches and coral reefs, T&C is an easy flight from the US via multiple airlines and counts pleasing tourists as its main economy. Though cruise ships park on Grand Turk and pro divers prefer Salt Cay, most visitors who make their way to this postcard-perfect playground will find themselves on Providenciales — Provo to those in the know — and more specifically to the many luxurious hotels that line Grace Bay Beach. With that in mind, this curated guide offers our top picks for staying, eating, and playing in Provo.
Where To Stay
As long as you’re already in dream-big mode, why not cross another item off the travel bucket list and travel to a private island resort in the hotel’s private plane? Ambergris Cay, part of the Turks & Caicos Collection, is a three-mile oasis 20 minutes from the Provo airport that sits between the Caicos Banks (reef-filled shallow waters) and the whale highway known as the Grand Turk Passage. Choose from two types of accommodations: one-bedroom oceanfront suites brimming with special touches like outdoor showers, private plunges, stocked mini-fridges, and wraparound verandas or 20 immaculate villas of various sizes and styles plopped sporadically about the coastline ensuring uninterrupted views, twinkling night skies (outside lighting is kept to a minimum to avoid pollution) and plenty of peace and quiet. Every stay is luxuriously all-inclusive: Meals, drinks, 24-hour room service, use of bicycles, sunset sails, guided nature walks, a golf cart to get around, and a mini spa treatment daily. All villas come with their own 24/7 butler service. Take it up a notch and go for the brand new six-bedroom, two-pool cliffside Dream Pavilion with its staircase down to a private sea cove to enjoy a private chef.
When you are ready to socialize, there’s a clubhouse with water sports, games, ping pong and kids’ crafts, a floating tiki bar, a public pool, a hot tub, tennis/pickleball courts, and an alfresco restaurant. (DO NOT miss the ceviche served in a shell.) Learn to bonefish in the seagrass beds, watch flamingos in the salt flats, take a long walk to look at ruins, photograph iguanas, or be ferried out for a snorkel and a picnic on an even smaller uninhabited rock or a sandbar.
The Ritz Carlton, Turks & Caicos
If you’d prefer to stay closer to civilization in Provo, check into this The Ritz Carlton, Turks & Caicos which made its Grace Bay Beach debut less than a year ago. All 147 rooms look out at the water, are draped in coastal chic colors, and are designed with rich wood to evoke the area’s Lucayan heritage. To further treat yourself and your travel companions, consider the three-story penthouses with private rooftop plunge pools. Not, that there isn’t plenty of room to splash around in the two sizable pools including one that is the domain of the over-18 crowd only and features private cabanas, or at the beach where the resort fee covers a variety of non-motorized water equipment like kayaks and Hobies. Once you tire of soaking up the sun, you can get isle-inspired treatments in the spa, get lucky in the 5,500-square-foot casino, or enjoy the outstanding gastronomy on offer at Italian eatery Casa Nonna, BLT Steak, sushi bar Noori, or Mediterranean melting pot Coralli.
Another bonus of staying at the Ritz is that it maintains its own on-call catamaran, The Lady Grace. Guests and non-guests can book half-day snorkel adventures, brunch cruises, romantic sunset charters. Extra special outings are held on holidays like New Year’s Eve and Boxing Day. You can also learn to sail on this vessel. They even offer an accredited ASA 110 certification course.
Eat & Drink
Da Conch Shack
You’ll have a shell of a good time at this can’t-skip open-air seaside snack bar that harvests the namesake shellfish in front of diners and then serves it seven ways at colorful picnic tables. On the rare occasion, there isn’t a live band or a DJ, the waves provide a pleasant soundtrack. After a few rounds of rum punch or island-brewed Turk’s Head beer, ask a local to teach you how to rake-and-scrape. Grab a few bottles of PeppaJoy, their house hot sauce, as souvenirs.
A favorite of island regulars for more than 20 years, this posh garden-set restaurant is perfect for celebrations or a memorable last night experience before venturing back to reality. Chef/owner Paul Newman changes up the menu on a regular basis but always incorporates local fish and ingredients like ackee and callaloo, nightly specials, and international flavors and techniques in dishes like pork Osso buccolettes, bay scallops, and lobster thermidor in a Dijon-mushroom-cream sauce. Two pieces of advice: always make reservations and leave room for something decadent from the extensive dessert list.
Wymara Resort & Villas
Twice a week Chef Andrew Mirosch, the man behind Grace Bay hotel’s health-conscious signature restaurant Indigo, which has an extensive selection of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options, throws dinner parties on the beach. Wednesdays are a fish fry while they serve Texas-style BBQ on Saturdays. Added bonus is the chef’s commitment to local farmers and fishermen which results in him making it a priority to use fresh grown-here, caught-here products when possible. There is also live music and dancing as well as a post-meal bonfire. Non-guests are welcome.
Within walking distance of many Grace Bay resorts and nestled into Providenciales’ largest palm grove, this romantic spot under the stars elevates island cuisine— think pepper-crusted rare tuna with lime ginger beurre blanc and tropical fruit salsa, West Indian shrimp curry, or Caicos lobster and avocado spring rolls — and fills out the menu with fine dining staples like Asian pear salad, skirt steak, and rack of lamb.
Cool off at the super cute Grace Bay Island Scoop with artisan ice cream and non-dairy sorbets in flavors like salted caramel, mint, red velvet, strawberry prosecco, rum punch sorbet, peach lime, and soursop, a fruit common in the Caribbean. They also serve fresh coconut water in the shell and hearty breakfasts. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, the shop holds rum tastings as well.
Spa & Wellness
The Spa at The Palms
It’s easy to see why this Shangri-la of self-care set on an acre is often awarded “Best Spa in The Caribbean” titles. Swaying palms are reflected in long pools and cozy chaises make great hangouts before and after your bespoke treatments — many of which make use of indigenous ingredients like hand-pulverized conch shells and guaco bush — or Tata Harper facials which take place in stand-alone bungalows. The suites are accented with water or fire features (depending on the time of year you visit). For a truly unique and memorable experience, sign up for the holistic Zareeba detoxification ritual, where you sit in a small enclosure with a pot of 13 Caribbean-grown herbs known for their medicinal properties like dogweed, ginger, lemongrass, and the tree of life steeping in hot water. The rate and rhythm at which you stir it control the intensity of the steam and how much of the purifying infusion you’ll inhale. It is followed by a cooldown and a luxe massage.
Along the shore of an 18,000-acre nature reserve, Amanyara was already known as a ritzy resort, tranquil playground, and hub for Haute healing. In 2021, they upped the antidotal ante by introducing wellness immersions, individually tailored intensive programs focused on topics like sleep, mindfulness, or weight management guided by visiting experts (doctors, monks, Chinese medicinal herbalists, nutritionists, personal trainers, life coaches, and therapists) in said field. Activities, consultations, and talks take full advantage of pristine settings like the Aman Spa, pool, fitness center, yoga sala, beach, and clubhouse.
See & Do
A trip to this archipelago wouldn’t be complete without getting out on and into its trademark crystalline waters. If you want to try your luck at fishing, take in a spectacular sunset cruise or snorkel along 70 miles of barrier reef to swim alongside graceful turtles and rays of colorful parrotfish and blue tangs, through Caicos Dream Tours. Whether you join a group outing or charter a captain and watercraft all to yourself, make sure the itinerary includes a stop at Half Moon Bay, a sandbar that grew into a long gorgeous beach and became a home for the endangered Turks and Caicos Rock Iguana. Also keep an eye out for JoJo, a notoriously playful well-known dolphin in these parts. On rare occasions, you might catch a glimpse of whales or sharks.
Snorkel & Scuba
Big Blue Collective, another excellent outfitter offering snorkel and scuba diving charters and tours, also takes visitors out exploring in Princess Alexandra Nature Reserve and the leeward mangrove habitats in kayaks or atop paddleboards. Often the rewards in terms of wildlife viewing and scenery are even bigger if you book a sunrise or full-moon paddle. Sportier folks and adrenaline junkies should try their hand at kiteboarding, which is world-class in these parts, especially in Long Bay. The Collective also organizes semi-private and one-on-one lessons.
Play with Potcakes
In both the Bahamas and T&C, dogs were introduced decades ago, and over the generations, the now mixed-breed street dogs — a genetic jumble of Labrador, German shepherd, and fox terrier — evolved into smart, loyal, and loving pooches known as “potcakes”. Potcake Place K9 Rescue was started to keep the islands from being overrun by strays and to find them good homes throughout North America. While they await placement, these puppies need to play, walk and socialize and the adoption center welcomes the help of isle visitors of all ages. Pop over in the mornings and they’ll give you everything you need for a successful saunter around Saltmills Plaza and down to the beach. Be careful. These sweet faces are irresistible and you just might end up with a furry friend as a souvenir.
The breathtaking scenery and wildlife unsurprisingly spark creativity in many artistic types and there are lots of local galleries to prove it. Most are found in the shopping plazas in the Grace Bay neighborhood like Saltmills, Regent Village, Ocean Club West Plaza, and Ports of Call. Borrow a bike from your hotel and create your own art crawl.
Craft beer connoisseurs should hop on the chance to see how the suds are made at Turk’s Head Brewery, the isle’s one and only brewery since 2001, in Discovery Bay. Tours are offered three times a day Monday through Friday and they end in a tasting room where guests can sample the four hero beers (lager, IPA, lite, and an amber ale) and the occasional seasonal selection.
Is there ever a bad time to go to paradise? Not really as in T&C the average high doesn’t dip below 80 F degrees all year though there are some stretches that are a little more perfect than others. Between April and June, most days will peak between 83 and 86 degrees and there’s the least chance of rain. But this is the Caribbean and as such the islands are sometimes visited by the worst kind of tourist. Hurricane season officially lasts between June 1 and Nov. 30. Late August through December is also known as the island’s rainy season.
When planning your trip, also consider how many people you want to share the sand with. Turks & Caicos welcomes the most visitors traditionally between December and March as people take advantage of a Caribbean Christmas, have time off for ski week (we’ve been told this is a real thing) and spring break when East Coasters have hit their personal rain-sleet-and-snow threshold.