The British Overseas Territory of Turks and Caicos is made up of hundreds of islands and cays. The most inhabited and touristy island is Providenciales! Providenciales international airport has direct flights to several US cities, making it an easy to reach Caribbean destination. On an island with so many all inclusive hotels, it’s difficult not to get trapped inside the resort bubble, but there are plenty of things to do in Providenciales and here I share some of my favourites with you!
Providenciales Things To Do
Grace Bay Beach
With an average year round temperature of 29c/84f and sunshine almost EVERY day, of course one of the best things to do in Providenciales is to go to the beach and Grace Bay Beach is a good place to start! It was even voted the best beach IN THE WORLD on TripAdvisor! It’s part of the Princess Alexandra National Park. The majority of hotels and resorts are located on Grace Bay Beach, and at 12 miles long there’s certainly enough space for everyone!
As long as you can find an access path, all 12 miles of the beach are public…well in theory, they are public up to the ‘high tide’ line so if you aren’t staying at a beachfront property you’re expected to sit on the wet, hard sand. Just kidding, the beach furniture is meant for guests only but plenty of people would lay out towels on the ‘dry’ sand! I found TWO communal umbrellas with a couple of sun loungers that didn’t seem to belong to any hotel, these are right next to the access path from one of the car parks!
The beach is amazing. The sea is so blue, clear and calm, even on a breezy day! The average temperature of the sea is 84f, which is the SAME as the air temperature, making it an absolute joy to swim in! If swimming isn’t your thing, you’ll see lots of people walking or jogging along the beach, after all there is 12 miles of it to enjoy!
Make sure you hang around for the sunset!
Unlike some Caribbean beaches, you’ll encounter none of the annoying beach sellers. There are plenty of boat tours that pick up from right on the beach (such as Caicos Dream Tours, you can’t miss their fleet, they are bright yellow with slides and diving boards on the boats! As well as parasailing companies and tubing/banana boat rides. But I never saw touts trying to sell the tours, I believe you either book them online or through the hotels!
Smith’s Reef and Turtle Cove Marina
If you don’t want to pay to go on a snorkelling tour (Turks and Caicos has the 3rd largest reef system in the world, the first being The Great Barrier Reef in Australia, followed by Belize), Smith’s Reef can be accessed right from Grace Bay Beach, although it’s around 3 miles from Grace Bay, closer to Turtle Cove Marina. The reef is home to various species of fish, with the deeper sections having turtles and stingrays.
Be careful when snorkelling at Smith’s Reef due to its proximity to the marina, as boats do come and go in this area. If you’re travelling to Turks and Caicos on a budget and want to save some pennies, I recommend eating and drinking at Sharkbite Bar and Grill in Turtle Cove Marina. They are a sports bar (I was there for the World Cup), but have decent food and probably the cheapest cocktails you’ll find!
Thursday Night Fish Fry
The Thursday Night Fish Fry is becoming one of the MUST see things to do in Providenciales! It started as an event that was popular with the locals but more and more tourists have started attending! Various restaurants from around the island set up a stall in Bight Park and sell some of their popular dishes in take away form. There’s also music and dancing and souvenir stands and cocktails served in pineapples and coconuts! It’s location right on Grace Bay Beach makes it easy to reach from several of the resorts as you can just combine it with an evening stroll along the beach! It’s around a 45 minute walk from Grace Bay town.
Saltmills Plaza in Grace Bay is home to several restaurants, gift shops and Potcake Place. Potcake Place is a non profit dog rescue centre. I mention Potcake Place because I saw a lot of tourists turn into a gooey mess when it comes to these Potcake dogs! They are a small breed of dog that is native to the Caribbean and are known for being intelligent, calm and loyal. If you are after something free to do, you can ‘socialise’ with the puppies and take them out for a walk along the beach, providing them with exercise and getting them used to being around people!
Explore the surrounding Cays
A great way to explore the cays surrounding Providenciales is by stand up paddle board! You can hire a board (a lot of the resorts have them available for guests to use) or join a tour like I did! The 2 closest Cays are Little Water Cay, where you can see the Turks and Caicos Rock Iguana, or Mangrove Cay.
The mangroves are actually responsible for the forming of part of the island of Providenciales. They produce calcium which solidifies into a hard, rock like substance. Tours of Mangrove Cay can only be taken during high tide and even then the water isn’t much deeper than knee high.
We saw baby sharks, jelly fish and got to hold a conch shell with a live conch living inside it (as opposed to all the empty shells in the souvenir shops or the conch served in restaurants). It’s kinda sad, there’s no conch ‘hunting’ season and they are getting to the point where they could be endangered soon due to the rate that they are being fished. On some tours they see turtles too!
The tour to Mangrove Cay takes 2hrs 30, which includes a quick lesson on how to stand up paddle board and a short water stop (we were given melon too!). The first and last sections of the tour require crossing the boat channel, where for balance and speed it’s easier to kneel while paddling this stretch. As soon as you reach Mangrove Cay, it’s calm enough to stand up and you can paddle with ease.
I recommend taking a tour with SUP Provo. Tours start from $95. As they are an eco tour company, you have to fill out a waiver online BEFORE the start of the tour (to save on paper), however you can simply do this with a wifi connection and I could even submit it just using my phone rather than a computer.
Take to the island on wheels…2 or 4!
There are several companies on Provideniciales that offer bicycle or moped rentals. My personal favourite way of exploring is via ATV (quad bike)! Compared to previous ATV tours I’ve been on, there’s a lot of road driving where you’ll be on the road with other vehicles. Being in Turks and Caicos, this does mean driving on the left hand side of the road and there are roundabouts to navigate, as a Brit this wasn’t a problem, but if visiting from the States, it’ll be ‘backwards’ to the usual!
I booked my tour through Fun Ride TCI. They offer 2 main tours, a 2 hour east coast tour or a 3 hour west coast tour. I went on the 3 hour tour (beggars can’t be choosers when you’re a solo traveller, I was lucky that I could join onto a tour that was already running). ATV tours are a great way to see an area at ‘speed’! My tour stopped at the following 3 stops:
Turks Head Brewery
Turks Head Brewery is the Turks and Caicos Island’s only brewery which was established back in 2001. For $12 you can take a tour of the brewery (which includes samples) or you can sit at the bar and try the different beers. ‘I-Ain-Ga-Lie’ is their popular lager that you’ll often find being served around the island. You’ll also find the cheapest beer prices at the brewery, you’re welcome 😉
Da Conch Shack
Da Conch Shack is an open air restaurant and rum bar on the beach, located in the Blue Hills area. As you may be able to tell from the name, they specialise in conch dishes. The conch is harvested right in front of the restaurant, they have a little stand up paddle board type thing where they’ll paddle out and retrieve them. Once they have finished with the shell, they throw it back into the sea and when the tide goes out it uncovered the top of the pile!
Discovery Bay Trail
Our last stop was the Discovery Bay trail which led to a cliff top (the majority of Providenciales is flat)! I swear this was the bluest water I have ever seen in my life!
The Hole is exactly what it says on the tin, it’s a giant sinkhole! It can be found along Sea Sage Hill Road in the Long Bay Hills area. It’s free to visit and is literally just off the road! Be very careful if you decide to visit. It’s interesting to see but there are no walls or guard rails surrounding the hole, so don’t get too close to the edge!
It is said to have been formed by ‘acidic rainwater dissolving the soft limestone’ (source: Visit TCI). The bottom of the hole is filled with water that is said to be tidal!
There’s a manky old frayed piece of rope tied to a tree which suggests that people either jump in or climb down there…yeah no thanks, I was perfectly happy seeing it from above!
Long Bay Beach
Long Bay Beach is completely different from Grace Bay Beach. It’s more rocky and seaweed-y but is a popular spot for kite surfers because of the wind! There’s not much of a sandy beach and access is tough. Believe it or not, I walked from Grace Bay (over an hour) and I struggled to find a way to get onto the beach as the majority of the beach front is private access, I found a small overgrown path…and then I cut back through The Shore Club hotel (after spending a FORTUNE at the bar), the only resort on this side of the island, so I still couldn’t really tell you how to get onto the beach!
If you have a good zoom on your camera, you’ll be able to see the La Famille Express shipwreck that sits 2 miles out from the shores of Long Bay Beach. The boat beached itself during a hurricane back in 2004 when it floated away from the dock. Some boat or jet ski tours will include a ‘stop’ at the shipwreck or people with Popeye arms will kayak or paddle board out to it. Because of how rusty and decayed it has become over the years, it is highly advised to NOT climb on board the ship.
For more ideas on things to do in Providenciales and for information on travel in the rest of the Turks and Caicos Islands, the Visit Turks and Caicos Islands website is AMAZING.
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