My 9 favorite beaches to discover in the Turks and Caicos Islands

Back when I started covering the islands as editor of the now defunct newspaper Travel and life in the Caribbean magazine, the Turks and Caicos Islands were usually lumped together with the Bahama Islands, more like a sidebar or an afterthought than a destination in its own right. Meanwhile, over the past two decades, TCI, as local shorthand, has quietly guarded its natural beauty and cherishes something of an inner secret that only the intrepid have discovered. It grew slowly and wisely into the exclusive destination it is today.

The dash-dot-dash nation of more than 40 islands and cays technically, in a geological sense, belongs to the same archipelago as the Bahamas to the north. It shares its mesmerizing waters – arguably the most beautiful in the Caribbean – with its low profile and simply stunning beaches.

The main resort island of Providenciales, also shortened to a manageable “Provo”, grew first with a Club Med Turkoise and a handful of others that followed on TCI’s most awarded beach, Grace Bay . In fact, its success has increased in the region and around the world. Tripadvisor’s 2022 Travellers’ Choice Awards named it “the number 1 best beach in the world.”

So, let’s start there and move on to some lesser-known gems in the magical world of the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Note: My tours to the Turks and Caicos Islands have been arranged by resort properties, but all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

“Don’t let sticker shock keep you from staying on Grace Bay Beach. One of my most affordable favorite properties [is] Ocean Club.
(Photo credit: Chelle Koster Walton)

1. Grace Bay Beach

Provo

Provo holds the main international airport for TCI, which is about 20 minutes by taxi or rental car from the heart of the Grace Bay resort area. The litany of high-end properties includes Wymara Resort and Villas, The Palm trees, Somerset on Grace Bay, Grace Bay Clubnew Ritz-Carlton Hotel, And so on. Still, the 3-mile stretch of perfect white sand rarely feels crowded.

A barrier reef known as Princess Alexandra Land & Sea National Park faces the beach, which means exceptional snorkeling, a gentle lapping in that shade of blue and green that doesn’t even have a name , and protection from storms and sharks. Snorkeling hotspots along the stretch include Coral Gardens, Smith’s Reef, and Bight Reef. Most resorts and a number of shops can provide you with snorkeling, diving, and all kinds of water sports equipment. The north-facing beach is also near a number of fine shops and restaurants.

Pro Tip: Don’t let sticker shock keep you from staying on Grace Bay Beach. One of my favorite more affordable properties, Ocean Club and sister resort Ocean Club West, share amenities and facilities such as restaurants, tennis and pickleball courts, children’s programs, a spa, and water sports.

The Provo Ponies company takes its guests on horseback through the waters of Long Bay Hills Beach
The Provo Ponies company takes its guests on horseback through the waters of Long Bay Hills Beach
(Photo credit: Chelle Koster Walton)

2. Long Bay Hills Beach

Provo

Directly south of Grace Bay on the opposite shore of the island, Long Bay Hills is considerably lower in many ways, with fewer resorts and more homes. The wind, however, makes it wilder and attracts kite surfers. My only encounter in Long Bay, at the eastern end of the Caicos Banks, however, involved a different sport, namely horseback riding.

Provo Ponies has its headquarters nearby, where it stables a collection of rescued horses, descendants of colonial animals left behind by the British and adapted to the climate and geography. I’ve done my share of island riding, but Provo Ponies was by far the most humane and professional operation. Sure, my little horse had a stubborn streak and a seemingly endless appetite, but once we hit the water, he (and I) cooled off with the calm of the gem-hued waters and the sea ​​breeze. The natural beach was mostly deserted, but for our party of eight, while the sky and the sea seemed to compete for the most pleasant palette.

Rock Iguana on the beach at Little Water Cay
“Walks and trails criss-cross the island and signage and exhibits inform about the rock iguana and other aspects of local natural history.”
(Photo credit: Chelle Koster Walton)

3. Little Water Cay

Provo

Commonly known as Iguana Cay, it is home (along with, to a lesser extent, other nearby beaches) to rare species Cyclura carinata carinata — an endangered iguana found only in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Little Water Cay is off the easternmost leeward end of Provo and requires about an hour of kayak paddling through the leeward passage to get there. Kayak and paddleboard rentals and tours are available in the Blue Haven Marina complex.

Boat tours will also take you to this tyrannosaur reserve where iguanas scurry cautiously along the beach and among rocky outcrops, sometimes engaging in fierce but otherwise harmless territorial battles. Boardwalks and trails criss-cross the island, and signage and exhibits inform about the rock iguana and other aspects of local natural history.

Pro Tip: If your nails are painted red or pink, you might consider wearing water shoes. Iguanas have sometimes been known to mistake them for berries.

Da Conch Shack on Blue Hills Beach
“Da Conch Shack is the epitome of feet in the Caribbean sand to spend hours aimlessly staring at the sheer beauty of the seaside”
(Photo credit: Chelle Koster Walton)

4. Blue Hills Beach

Provo

I like to refer to this one — as many others do, I’m sure — as Da Conch Shack Beach. One of TCI’s most famous restaurants, Da Conch Shack is the quintessential Caribbean spot to spend hours aimlessly staring at the sheer beauty of the seaside, a basket of freshly chopped conch salad in hand, rum something ready. Grab a picnic table under the palm trees and you have the makings of what the rest of the world is dreaming of right now.

The iconic restaurant lives in a historic residential community of churches, brightly painted sloops, and tidy homes near downtown and the airport and west of Grace Bay Beach. Da Conch Shack has its own small retail business, selling conch and local handicrafts.

Amanyara beach
“The posh resort of Amanyara, which overlooks one of the park’s secluded beaches.”
(Photo credit: Chelle Koster Walton)

5. Northwest Point National Park

Provo

If you seek nature with your beach experience, Northwest Point fits the bill with its rugged rocky terrain and rich bird habitat. Watch for osprey, brown pelicans, terns, American oystercatchers, gulls, green herons, yellow-crowned night herons, reddish egrets, stilts and warblers. That’s the good news.

The bad news is its remoteness from most civilizations in Provo. The round trip is quite long, but you can choose to stay (if your vacation budget allows) at the chic Amanyara resort, which overlooks one of the park’s secluded beaches. A reef and rocks provide excellent snorkeling opportunities, but often the sea is too rough. Head west from the point if so, where the water calms down.

6. Whitby Beach

North Caicos

A 30-minute ferry ride from Provo, North Caicos is home to farms and the ruins of the Wades Green Plantation. A short taxi or rental car ride from the ferry pier, Whitby Beach deserves kudos for its seclusion, clean water, and scenery. Although Whitby is home to most of the island’s accommodation, its 3.5-mile length gives beachgoers plenty of room to walk and stretch out.

Several hotspots, including one at the Silver Palm Restaurant (open “island time,” that is, sporadically), make getting to the sand easy. Halfway down the beach, Pelican Point offers snorkelers underwater rock formations to explore.

Mudjin Harbor Beach
“With private cove beaches where you can swim, this beach in Middle Caicos is located near Dragon Key Resort, a winter destination for humpback whale watchers.”
(Photo credit: Chelle Koster Walton)

7. Mudjin Harbor Beach

Middle Caicos

A causeway connects North Caicos to Middle Caicos, where you’ll find the culture of the former island intact – from traditional foods to handmade crafts. A world away from Provo’s vaunted resort beaches, Mudjin Harbor Beach is surely unmatched in its stunning beauty. I’m a huge fan, if you can’t tell. With private cove beaches where you can swim, this beach in Middle Caicos is located nearby Dragon Key Resorta destination for humpback whale watchers in winter.

A short, slightly steep concrete path leads from a bar and grill (open seasonally) atop a limestone cliff, down to the 3-mile stretch of sand kissed by rocky outcrops. A shallow grotto to one side provides shade and shelter from the elements, and clear turquoise waters fringe the sugary sand. Due to the rocky ledges, this beach is more suitable for relaxing, walking and paddling than for swimming. Rocky Dragon Key is just offshore, so bring your snorkel gear. Don’t forget your camera, as the views from the top of the cliffs are stunning.

Pro Tip: Charters and tours from Provo will take you on day trips to Middle and North Caicos. Highlights include Flamingo Pond Overlook and Conch Bar Caves.

8. Governor’s Beach

Great Turk

Grand Turk Island serves as the nation’s capital and cruise port. It is approximately 70 miles from Provo and has no international flight service. Day trips and domestic flights from Provo can get you there and back.

Governor’s Beach, part of Columbus Landfall State Park, is considered the best beach on the island, thanks to its calm, glassy waters and soft pinkish-hued sand. When cruise ships are in port, vendors usually set up shop to sell drinks and trinkets. It is known more as a relaxing beach than a place to snorkel, as rocks and structures are limited.

Pro Tip: If you’re exploring the island by rental car, get to Governor’s Beach early before the cruise ship shore excursions arrive.

9. North Beach

Salt Cay

Those seeking island seclusion far, far away from the madding crowds, head to small and low-key Salt Cay, usually by domestic flight or day trip by boat from Provo or Grand Turk. In season, whale lovers come to watch them from tour boats and even swim with the majestic beasts.

Mostly a sandy bottom with a few rocky spots, North Beach offers nearly 2 miles of beach that connoisseurs prefer.

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