If you’re a fan of turquoise blue water, white sandy beaches and a laid-back lifestyle, plan a visit to a rising star in the Caribbean: the Turks and Caicos Islands. Here you can escape the trials of everyday life, enjoy marvelous cuisine and dance to the rhythm of Afro-Caribbean beats.
Turks and Caicos is a short flight from the East Coast (approximately 550 miles southeast of Miami) and welcomes visitors from all over the world, especially during winter months.
But a summer off-season visit will make your American vacation dollar go a little further. Several cruise ship lines are capitalizing on the beauty of this locale by adding it to their itineraries. I happened to experience a taste of Grand Turks this week on a Princess Cruises port stop. For sure, I’ll be back for a longer stay.
Turks and Caicos has a rich history and culture. Christopher Columbus first set foot on the main island, Grand Turk, in 1492 when it was inhabited by Taino and Lucayan Indians. About 30 years later, Bermudians arrived and capitalized on its resources by harvesting salt for export. Later, in 1706, the French and Spaniards took Turks and Caicos from the Bermudians and held it until four years later when the British took possession.
As a colony of Britain, the islands fell under governorship of the Bahamas and later Jamaica. After Jamaica’s independence in 1962, the Turks and Caicos Islands became a British Crown colony of its own. It became recognized as a viable vacation destination when Club Med Turkoise Resort opened in the 1980s.
What’s there to do on Turks and Caicos?
First, with beautiful beaches and crystal clear water to enjoy, there is sunning, snorkeling, glass-bottom boat and submarine rides, flow riders, knee and paddle boarding and, of course, swimming.
With numerous shipwrecks dating back to the 1700s and beautiful reefs, scuba divers can get close to the abundant marine life. Gibb’s Cay is a wonderful uninhabited island ripe for snorkeling. Governor’s Beach, in front of the official British governor’s residence, provides calm turquoise waters for watersports.
A scenic drive around the island reveals sites such as a former U.S. Air Force facility where astronaut John Glenn was debriefed after his 1962 space flight and a replica of the space capsule resides; the 150-year-old Lighthouse Park details Turks and Caico’s pirate past; the historic Salt House (Grand Quay Salt Company) chronicling the history of the salt and slave industries; 200-year-old homes and manors; plus Cockburn Town’s historic Duke Street, Saint Mary’s Anglican Church, the National Museum and historical and rustic buildings. The Caicos Conch Farm, the world’s only farm raising Caribbean Queen conch, is also worth visiting.
Turks and Caicos Islands have a variety of accommodations for the visitor. The first luxury property was the Grace Bay Hotel and it still remains a favorite today. This complex has three separate accommodations: the family friendly villas with apartments that have up to three bedrooms, the adult-only hotel and the really plush estates with suites as big as four bedrooms, media rooms/libraries, professional-grade kitchens and private plunge pools.
On the less expensive end, there’s the two Ocean Resorts. Other well-known sanctuaries are the Romantic Amanyara Resort, Parrot Cay and the new Beach House Turks and Caicos.
While you’re in the Turks and Caicos, don’t forget to try the cuisine. Conch served any kind of way is a must at Da Conch Shack. Partake in an island fish fry. Experience a multitude of other food influences such as Indian dishes and Jamaican jerk. If you hear about a junkaroo party, go. The music will get you moving and free your spirit.
So claim your little piece of paradise with a visit to the idyllic Turks and Caicos Islands, which were voted in the Top 10 Best Islands in the Caribbean by Conde Naste.
For more information on this destination, visit their tourism board website at www.turksandcaicostourism.com or consultant your personal travel professional.
In the meantime, happy travels!
Rose Alston is a certified travel and master cruise counselor. She operates a business in Fairfield and can be reached at [email protected]