Hey there!! Have you ever heard of the Turks and Caicos as a travel destination?
Is it already on your bucket list? Maybe? And are you still debating whether or not to give it a try? Well, I’m going to make it easy for you! Book your flights. And if that doesn’t seem convincing enough, well, just keep on reading. If you are here just for the pretty pictures, go ahead and skip the narrative 😉
Honestly, we had never even heard of this place before
so it wasn’t anywhere on our bucket list either. That has definitely changed!! Right before Thanksgiving we decided to escape work and the decreasing temperatures for a couple of days. We were looking for a new spot to relax and explore. Thanks to a recommendation of our dear friends we decided on the Turks and Caicos. Even though we just spent four days on the island, I wanted to share some of its beauty along with useful facts in case you want to check out the islands yourself 😉 Oh and just so you know, we are far from experts which is why we’ve already decided to go back to discover even more ☺
Some quick facts
– which didn’t turn out to be too quick in the end… The Turks and Caicos consist of several islands. However, there are six main inhabited islands: Providenciales, North and Middle Caicos, South Caicos, Grand Turk and Salt Cay. With more than 350 sunny days your chances are pretty high you’ll get to spend your time outside in or on the most beautiful, crystal clear water all day long.
We arrived late at night and while driving to our hotel I noticed, that there is not a single traffic light on the Island. Just roundabout after roundabout. I had my very first and only accident to date in a roundabout – which I admit, was totally my fault – so this is not what I would prefer on a daily basis. And on top of that you drive on the left since Turks and Caicos belong to the British Commonwealth. Also the speed limit is 40 miles per hour max. However, the no traffic light concept is super convenient. The next time we visit, we will definitely rent a car. We decided against it this time because the plan was just to relax after a super busy fall season in Charleston.
We realized really quickly
that we are just not the type of people for laying at the hotel beach all day — we’d rather explore. There are taxis but again – kind of expensive, and without cell phone service, there is no way to call one when you are ready to go home. You could always rent a bike but we were definitely not in shape for a full day tour. BTW — the most convenient part for Americans: the currency is dollars. The less convenient part: everything is super expensive since Turks and Caicos islanders don’t pay income and property tax. You guessed it, the government needs to make money somehow and that’s why the import duty is 37.5% on all goods. It’s a tradeoff which results in a $14.00 loaf of bread. So, be prepared to spend more on food and not only in the grocery stores!!
We stayed at the Oasis at Grace Bay
It’s a convenient 20 minute taxi ride for $33 for two from the airport. On the way you pass a lot of construction sites as you do regularly on the islands. Entire areas are being developed with new villas and hotel. Our hotel had just been recently renovated and we loved the modern flair. The staff was super friendly and the manager gave us a little private tour on the property, telling us about the island and the neighboring island where the rich and beautiful live. As I said, the rooms are super modern – you have a PIN pad to enter and an iPad for some ambient Caribbean music and research.
The Oasis provides golf cart shuttles to the beach but honestly, it’s just a 3-minute walk and we never used it. I loved that they offer beach towels, chairs, water and even wifi at the beach – free of charge. Also the Pelican Restaurant right next to the beach offers all kinds of refreshments. If you ask Martin about his personal hotel highlight? Well it’s ridiculous… He fell in love with the complimentary Nespresso – loud – coffee machine!!
We started our first day with a lazy breakfast at Lemon2go — a cute little Café walking distance from the hotel. It’s the perfect place to get a good coffee and a muffin.
When we came back
we met Claudia & Patrick, a couple from Germany also enjoying the island for the first time. We went to the beach together and ended up talking almost all afternoon while enjoying some cool drinks at the ocean. Since they arrived a few days before us, they were able to give us some tips. We followed one right away and decided to get ourselves some groceries from the next supermarket before sunset.
The free hotel bikes with the attached baskets are just perfect for this little tour. However, I have to say that driving on the left is a bit strange at the beginning especially unprotected on a bike without helmet. ☺But no worries, you get used to it. Otherwise just drive from sidewalk to sidewalk where available. It’s definitely a fun way to explore the area.
Graceway Gourmet: What you see here equals $54.68!
We extended our sunset drive to Emerald Point with some detour due to navigation issues and a bunch of dogs chasing us down the road – No kidding we actually thought they would stop at their property line, like most dogs do but we got kind of scared when they kept chasing us 😀
To finish up a first exciting day we followed another recommendation and went for dinner at Cocovan. A silver shining old Airstream food truck with an attached bar, that serves delicious food and beverages in a cozy, romantic and jungle-like atmosphere. I would say it’s a must go when you stay at Grace Bay. Not to mention the prices are fairly reasonable compared to other places.
Back at the Oasis
we already started to prepare for the next day – making sandwiches and packing gear for our small road trip to North and Middle Caicos. The hotel receptionist called the car rental company for us in advance — definitely recommended — there’s no office at the ferry station. We woke up at 5:00 in the morning. The taxi was already waiting for us – as a German I really appreciated the punctuality of the taxi drivers! – and took us to the harbor — about ten minutes from our hotel ($18 for 2 people). You purchase the ferry tickets right at the Marina and then you travel non-stop to North Caicos. (roundtrip for $55.00 per person).
About 25 minutes later the car rental lady awaited us already. $85 rental fee and $24 insurance gets you a super old and rusty Jeep Wrangler with a broken windshield. But hey, we also got her mobile number in case we got stuck somewhere… Note to ourselves: Sign up for an international phone plan the next time! We just didn’t spent a thought about what we would do if we get stuck at the other end of the island…
Again, you drive on the left and this time the steering wheel was on the left as well. The roads were overall in good condition and there was almost no traffic at all!! Reason being, only about 300 people live on North and Middle Caicos which are BTW the only Islands in Turks and Caicos that are connected. North Caicos is barely inhabited and definitely worth exploring more when you have more than one day. Middle Caicos is where most attractions are.
Ok so here is how we approached the day:
We drove about three hours all the way to the very end of Middle Caicos – a place called Wild Cow Run. Now remember, it doesn’t look far on the map but the top speed is 40mph and you’ll end up on dirt roads with a semi-reliable car. Oh and we accidentally took a wrong turn onto a service road – again. So you might be able to do it in 2.5 hours 😀 However when you finally get there you will most likely be the only human being around and after you park your car and walk to the beach – it’s all yours! And this, my dear friends, is worth everything to me. You’ve probably heard it a million times already. The water is crystal clear and the sky so blue and the beaches so white but yes, that’s exactly how it is!
A ridiculous number of pictures, videos and joyful moments later we slowly made our way back. Would I recommend driving all the way out there? Well, it depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re like us, enjoying the silence and a bit of an adventure, definitely yes! If you are just up for exploring a little and rather go to a restaurant and the beach, maybe not. But if you decide to, the round trip will definitely take the entire day!
Next stop was Bambarra Beach
It’s a cute little spot with different colored cottages and a small stage for local events. If you walk along the beach you’ll find a dock which lets you walk over the most amazing water. We were advised to be very careful at this spot because even though it looks super calm and inviting, the currents are deadly! BTW – this was the first time we saw other people that day!!
From there we headed to Mudjin Harbor which is only a 30 minute drive from where the ferry leaves. We were told that this is a must see for photographers! And yes we totally agree. The views are unbelievably pretty and the landscape is shaped by high limestone cliffs. You can easily spend hours there but since we were already kind of tired we just enjoyed the ocean breeze at the Mudjin Bar and Grill overlooking the scenery.
We drove about 55 miles that day – about 1/4 tank (which cost us $35.00). Keep in mind that the only open gas station we found was on North Caicos!
A couple more tips:
- Be aware of stray dogs!! They might chase your tires or just sleep in the middle of the road.
- Bring bug spray – it was quite windy that day so I didn’t need it until we were waiting for the ferry but then it got crazy!!
- Prepare on how to approach the day and bring lots of water – as always 😉 If you don’t get the last ferry, you’ll stay the night.
All together it was an amazing trip! But if your time on Turks and Caicos is limited I would not put it on top of the bucket list.
Back to Provo that night we ate at Jack’s Fountain – just around the corner of our hotel. The food was excellent but with being super hungry as I was, the decision to order baby octopus was definitely not the smartest… We started day three with breakfast at Pelican Bay. Remember that’s the hotel restaurant close to the beach. We also had dinner there that night. The food is good but nothing extraordinary to be honest.
At lunch time we met with Alizee at Solana Ocean Club West for a couple of drinks and to discuss our shoot the next day. She is a Turks and Caicos native and I loved hearing her stories about how the island changed over the years and how she grew up in Provo. For a city girl like me it’s almost unbelievable 😀 As I mentioned earlier, tourism is picking up like crazy and so are the construction sites.
Later that day we hopped on the bikes and rode to our first photoshoot at the beautiful Turnstone Villa at Grace Bay. It’s a stunning and modern estate just minutes from the beach with a balcony offering a spectacular water view. Click here to read more about the Villa and how to rent it!! Sharon, the owner, is super nice and easy to talk to.
We met with Megan and Mark, the couple and also the owners of Wake to Wake Watersport who just recently got engaged. We had one of my favorite sessions to date because you can’t beat a beautiful couple, in a stunning location on a paradise Island! But take a look for yourself!
On our last day
we woke up at sunrise, rented bikes and road to the southern side of the Island called Long Bay Beach. When you turn at The Shore Club you can see the shipwreck La Familia Express, which is about two miles away at the horizon. And BTW — something we definitely need to check out the next time. You’ll find miles of shallow crystal-clear water with fish playing around your feet.
Alizee and her fiancé Eric picked us up at our hotel later in the afternoon. We drove all the way to the west end of the Island to Chalk Sound. It’s about 25 minutes from Grace Bay and is probably our favorite and most picturesque spot we saw during our stay. Tiny Islands floating in a huge salt water lake, a stunning, blue color only 4 feet deep. Extravagant villas line up along the lake shore as well as some house ruins left from the last hurricane.
That’s when I regretted most not to have rented a car, not having been able to discover this spot even earlier.
Alizee and Eric invited us for lunch
at Las Brisas Restaurant and if I had to recommend only one restaurant from our four day stay it would definitely be this one! From there we drove to an Estate I will probably never forget. It’s not because it was the most expensive or modern or high-tech but it was the feel around it.
The Villa was located between Chalk Sound and Sapodilla Bay Beach with the lake on one side and the ocean on the other side. The house is owned by Alizees’ dear friend and sits right on the cliff. You basically have a front row seat for the sunset and the lagoon. All windows and doors were open and let in the ocean breeze. The building was spread out on different levels. We started out at the bedroom all the way up with a balcony overlooking the lagoon, over to a wooden staircase all the way down to a dock and a private beach access.
And that was the moment when I completely fell for the Island.
It was one of those magical moments almost impossible to describe. The ocean breeze, the salt in the air and a warm, cozy and yet euphoric feel. I might need to mention that some of her friends had made Mojitos for us…
Alizee and Eric are getting married here and I don’t blame them at all. Head over to my blog or click here to read about their session and you know what I am talking about!
If you are into jewelry
and want to take home some Island charm you definitely have to stop by Ateyls. All their jewelry is handmade. They offer the most beautiful and unique styles mainly in the colors of the island — I prefer all the different saturated shades of turquoise. Since the only jewelry I am usually wear are my wedding band and occasionally earrings, my choice is limited but I found the perfect pieces. When we walked in, Isabell actually finished the earrings I bought that day. It takes her up to one day to make them. Good timing 🙂
Allright, if you made it here… I’am impressed. Ready for our conclusion?
Well, you might have already guessed it! We are in love and we will be back soon. Which is huge for us since we usually travel everywhere once since our bucket list is pretty long.
Except for some grumpy taxi drivers and a couple rude dogs everybody is super nice, helpful and reliable and the climate was perfect since we wanted to escape winter temperatures in Charleston. This is an island where you can just relax and explore. It might be a little more expensive than other destinations but what the Turks and Caicos offer is totally worth it to us.