It’s not everyday I find myself free diving for conch in the Caribbean ocean but there I was – flippers, mask and snorkel – hunting for my lunch. This style of boating trip around cays and private islands (many of which have been used for sexy Victoria Secret photo shoots), is just one of the many activities Turks and Caicos has to offer.
Turks and Caicos Islands, which lie southeast of the Bahamas and about 647 miles east-southeast of Miami, are a haven for parasailing, kayaking, horseback riding, deep-sea fishing, scuba diving, kite boarding and all kinds of water sports. Local culture takes a back seat to the postcard-perfect turquoise waters, sugar white beaches and outdoor adventures. Home to the third largest barrier reef in the world, Turks boasts some of the most beautiful beaches, coral cliffs and seaweed free neon blue waters.
While the capital of this archipelago is Grand Turk, you’ll most likely find yourself in Providenciales (Provo to those in the know) where most of the resorts are located. I just got back from a four-day weekend getaway and have the up-to-date scoop on the best places to stay and play in Turks and Caicos.
Where to Stay:
The Gansevoort is where the cool kids hang. A stylish property that draws Manhattan scenesters and high end honeymooners alike, The Gansevoort is the trendy choice when staying in Turks.
Located on Grace Bay beach, (voted by Conde Nast Traveler as one of the world’s Top 10 beaches) the property has a real Miami beach vibe. With cushy white lounge chairs and a palm tree lined, 7000 square foot infinity pool that overlooks Caribbean waters, it’s a perfect getaway for those who want to tan poolside, drink pina coladas and get a break from their blackberries.
If detox and relaxation is your game, the hotel offers daily core fusion exercise classes and a full service, onsite spa. Exhale offers luxurious spa services like the 60 minute Four-Handed Massage, where two therapists work in sync to massage your bod in pampered, oily bliss. www.gansevoortturksandcaicos.com
Where to Mingle:
Thursday night head to the Da Conch Shack, a popular beachside bar with live music, potent rum punch and a whole lot of conch. Here they serve it up every which way: curry conch, cracked conch, conch fritters, conch salad and conch chowder. With its chill vibe, local “Bambarra” rum and freshly caught seafood, it’s a spot that’s become quite popular with tourists. www.conchshack.tc
Where to Eat:
With its twinkling lights and soft music, the romantic outdoor terrace of Coyaba is the perfect backdrop for some canoodling and crème caramel. For those who have a sweet tooth, this is the best place on the island for desserts. Overwhelmed by the extensive menu, I decided to get it all and sampled a spread of sugary treats. Must eats are the “Banana Caramel Xango” with banana caramel cheesecake wrapped in deep fried tortilla and rolled in cinnamon sugar. Totally amazing! If you’re more of a chocola-holic, try the “Chocolate Fondant” a flourless chocolate cake with warm gooey middle. Sooo good! www.coyabarestaurant.com
Where to Get Off-The-Beaten Track:
Big Blue offers all kinds of off-the-beaten path trips, from tours of limestone cave systems in Middle Caicos, to bicycling across remote parts the island. It’s also one the first outfitters to offer stand up paddle boarding along the mangroves and cays. For detailed information about their eco-friendly tours, check out www.bigblue.tc
Where to Tear Up the Road:
Explore seaside settlements of BlueHills and rove the remote beaches of Northwest Point in Providenciales all on the back of a four-wheel ATV. Froggie’s Ultimate Tours offers a unique way to explore the island beyond the roads. Strap on your helmet and safety goggles and away you go! www.froggiesatv.com
Where to Snorkle:
For a group experience, Caicos Dream Tours offers 1/2 day snorkel and conch cruises on a large catamaran. The tour stops at several remote islands including, Pine Cay, Half Moon Bay, Fort George, and even one that’s overrun by iguanas. For $89, the tour is all-inclusive, so all you need is your sunblock, credit card, a towel and an appetite for conch. www.caicosdreamtours.com
Where Be a Nature Voyeur:
Every wanted to watch a glow worm orgy? Well now you can! Every month, three to four days after a full moon, Suncharters offers a nighttime sailing tour to watch glow worms mate! Hop aboard the 77’ trading schooner for a look at an unlikely ritual. Just an hour after sunset, in a frenzy of glow worm activity, eggs are fertilized and a green phosphorescent hue luminates from the water. It’s science. Check out www.suncharters.tc for their next scheduled tour.