Turks and Caicos give Caribbean explorers
“Beautiful by nature” is how residents describe the Turks and Caicos Islands, accessible by a 90-minute flight from Miami, Fla. At this exotic Caribbean getaway–comprised of 40 islands–you can’t help but relax and unwind, whether you’re pampering yourself at a spa, discovering pristine beaches, or taking a day-trip to one of the eight inhabited islands that’s part of the archipelago.
The most popular island–Providenciales or “Provo”–is home to Beaches® Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa. Situated on beautiful Grace Bay Beach, this all-inclusive family resort is a fantastic base for exploring Turks and Caicos.
Relaxing on Provo
Recognized as one of the world’s best beaches, Grace Bay has a curvaceous shoreline that winds for more than 12 miles. Visitors have a selection of beachside activities to aid in relaxation.
We met Beaches resort guests Hanna and Bret Labiche of Tulsa, Okla., who were unwinding by building sandcastles. Sometimes it takes an entire day to construct an intricate sandcastle with moats, doors, and windows. An interior designer by trade, she enjoys putting her skills to use.
“What inspires me is an empty canvas. It’s a chance to be creative. You don’t have to be a kid to build sandcastles,” Hanna says. Beaches Resorts sometimes holds sandcastle-building contests.
The resort also offers complimentary watersports. We tried our hand at navigating a small sailing catamaran. We soon were crisscrossing the bay with the trade winds at our backs. Feel an adrenalin rush if you can “hike out” (tip up on one pontoon). Inexperienced sailors can receive lessons from instructors or just be a passenger and enjoy the ride.
Another way to unwind at the resort is a beachside sunset candlelight dinner. Red roses and peach lilies adorn white linen table service, complete with champagne and four-course meal, all served by a personal butler. View the dreamsicle sunset as pelicans soar overhead.
“Beaches Resorts have designated areas to unwind such as Quiet Pools, a spa pool, Zen gardens, numerous hammocks, (hot tubs), and cabanas scattered throughout four villages–Key West, Italian, French, and Caribbean–for relaxation seekers,” says Public Relations Manager Eleanor Finfin Krzanowski.
Luxurious massage treatments are available at Beaches Red Lane Spa. The Raindrop Dreams massage is 90 minutes of customized bliss that usually begins with a sprinkling of seven essential oils along the spine, rubbed lightly into muscle tissue, followed by a hot compress applied to the back. The massage concludes with a peppermint balm foot rub.
The full spa menu includes a variety of massages, body treatments, facials, and nail services.
One of the most secluded white-sand beaches on Provo is Long Bay Beach, meandering for more than three miles. With trade winds blowing from east or northwest to shore or side-to-shore, it’s one of the best places to learn kiteboarding, a sport in which one uses the power of wind and a large kite to surf on water.
Hunter Viator, an expat from Florida, and certified instructor for Kite Provo, the largest kite school on the island says, “You can be as mellow or as extreme as you want to be.” Students come from all around–resorts, private homes, and villas–to learn kiteboarding. “The water is clean and warm and perfect for one-on-one private kiteboarding lessons,” says Hunter.
Some visitors get their rush by shopping. Peruse the Salt Mills Plaza and Regents Shops for upscale art, pottery, paintings, local fare, and clothing.
For a relaxing adventure, drive off the beaten path down Blue Hills Road and stop at Da Conch Shack and Rum Bar, a local hangout with a Caribbean feel. You’re welcomed by white, sky blue, and mint green walkways and buildings. Kick off your sandals, sink your toes in the sand, and listen to reggae music. Enjoy calm waters with a drink or conch fritter appetizer, or visit local vendors selling island wares.
Day Tripping to Sister Islands, North and Middle Caicos
Local resident and Beaches Resorts employee Kesha Reid recommends a day trip to North and Middle Caicos for guests. Hop aboard a Caribbean Cruisin’ ferry boat to Sandy Point Landing on North Caicos where a rental car or private tour awaits.
Head to Middle Caicos to enjoy the secluded and unspoiled Bamberra Beach. Casuarina pines sway in the wind. Picnic tables offer scenic views of Pelican Cay, a small island accessible by shallow snorkel or one-mile walk through the waters. Beyond the cay, the barrier reef protecting the island sounds a low rumble as waves crash.
Every hue imaginable tantalizes your vision, fading from the reef’s dark blues to the distant aquamarine waters to the pastel mint of the shallows. Bamberra is perfect for snorkeling with coral formations within minutes of shore. A leisurely stroll to the beach’s west end yields treasures such as sun-bleached sea fans, sea biscuits, sand dollars, and scallop shells.
At Mudjin Harbor, the path to the beach leads to a natural cathedral of limestone cliffs carved by the crashing waves. Sheltered benches sit inside the cathedral’s arch. At the harbor’s point, relax with a book while experiencing cool cross breezes. Swim, snorkel, or walk through the water at low tide to Dragon Cay, aptly named for the island’s shape.
Enjoy lunch at Mudjin Harbor Grill that’s perched high on the hillside. The open-air restaurant with colorful aqua and coral-colored umbrellas offers panoramic vistas of breathtaking Mudjin Harbor, Dragon Cay, and Secret Beach. Imbibe in a frozen concoction or try the chef’s specialty, cracked conch, while listening to Caribbean music.
After lunch, walk the manmade stone paths carved in the hillside leading to inspirational overlooks and Secret Beach. Walk two minutes through a cave and you’ll emerge at Secret Beach’s private cove.
Leave Mudjin Harbor and drive the Kings Road to North Caicos’ northern tip. Stop at Pumpkin Bluff Pond, a marine protected area, nature reserve, and bird sanctuary where you’ll spot multi-colored flamingos–black, white, grey, pink, and shades of salmon. Turks and Caicos are home to more than 190 species of birds including the osprey, reddish egret, pelican, and the whistling duck.
From the flamingo pond, head to Pumpkin Bluff Pond beach. A sandy walkway flanked by hundreds of conch shells serves as a welcoming entrance. Swim in the serene aquamarine waters to put the perfect end to your day trip.
Turks and Caicos is blessed with almost indescribable natural beauty. All you need to do is show up and choose your way to relax and unwind.
Sheree K. Nielsen is a contributor from Wentzville, Mo.
November/December 2014 Issue
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