Lay of the Land
Located 575 miles southeast of Miami (and southeast of the Bahamas and northeast of Cuba), Turks and Caicos comprise forty islands and cays (pronounced “keys”) arranged in a horseshoe, only eight of which are inhabited. The capital, and the seat of government, is Grand Turk, which is on the islands’ far eastern end. The most popular tourist island, where international flights land, is Providenciales (known as “Provo”), where Grace Bay Beach is located. The northwest is the home of a large national park, where the Amanyara is located. Parrot Cay occupies its own cay, a 40-minute boat ride northwest of Provo. In all, TCI covers 226 square miles. Divers are drawn to one of the largest coral reefs in the world, and fishermen flock to the shallow Caicos Bank, south of the islands (inside the horseshoe), where the bone fishing is outstanding.
For some time in the early 2000s, a rush of development threatened to overwhelm the island, with massive resorts planned for the virgin beaches. The 2008 economic downturn stalled building plans and many construction sites remain abandoned. Luckily, these eyesores are removed enough from the main strip of hotels in Grace Bay, and the island seems to be righting itself. The cancellation of these properties is seen in a way as a blessing in disguise, as Provo does not yet have the infrastructure to host more tourists.
When to Go
The Turks and Caicos typically enjoys beautiful weather year round, but there can be rain and hurricanes from June through November.
A few airlines fly direct from U.S. cities to Providenciales, the 37.5 square mile Turks & Caicos island that is home to most of the country’s tourism. The Grace Bay area—home to Grace Bay Club, The Palms, and the Gansevoort—are about a 15-minute drive northeast of the airport. Amanyara, meanwhile, on the western tip of Providenciales is a 30-minute drive to the northwest. Parrot Cay, which sits on its own island, requires a 15-minute drive to the marina, followed by a 35-minute boat transfer.
Unlike volcanic Caribbean islands like St. Lucia, Turks and Caicos are relatively flat and easy to navigate. It takes about an hour to drive from one end to the other of Provo, where you will likely spend most of your time. Unless you plan to do a lot of sightseeing—and, frankly, there’s not that much to see on land in TCI, where the best sights are under the sea—renting a car is not necessary, with the exception of those staying in a self-catered villa. Hotels can arrange transfers to and from the airport, and though pricey, taxis are readily available. If you’re staying in the Grace Bay area, the distances are all relatively close. There are no cars allowed on Parrot Cay, and the Amanyara is so remote (and the road leading there so bad) that you’ll be grateful that someone else is driving. Keep in mind that in the Turks & Caicos, drivers keep to the left side of the road.