[Editor’s Note: We asked recent Cornell graduate, award-winning gymnast, and all-around athlete, Sophia Scazzero, to tell us about her explorations of the Turks and Caicos, the British overseas territory composed of 40 coral islands southeast of the Bahamas. Known for its white sands, the turquoise waters of Grace Bay Beach (TripAdvisor’s #1 beach in the world), and a magnificent barrier reef, Providenciales—called Provo by its residents—is the gateway island and easiest destination by airplane.]
BY SOPHIA SCAZZERO
“Turks and Caicos! You know the drill: beautiful islands of fine white sand and stunningly blue ocean. Turks and Caicos offers everything one would expect from a relaxing and sun-kissed vacation, but for those that are keen for a little more adventure, it also offers some excellent activities that guarantee an experience like no other. Here are a few that I was lucky enough to experience on my last trip:
“Horseback riding, to those unafraid of horses, is a great vacation activity. And on this island, it comes with a little twist: riding the horses in the ocean. It’s a crazy concept, but it’s fun and is actually a great way to stay cool while out in the sun! Provo Ponies is the place to go if you want a little adventure in the water and some animal interaction. It’s a wild, once-in-a-lifetime experience!
“Another way to add some action into your vacation is to take a boat tour (e.g. Caicos Dream Tours) around the islands of Turks and Caicos. One of the most memorable stops is at Middle Caicos, where you can explore—with a tour guide and some flashlights, of course—the large underground Conch Bar Caves, also known as the bat caves. The immensity of the caves makes the space surprisingly non-claustrophobic, and they are also a clever way to get out of the sun for a little bit, should you be a little toasty. When you reemerge from the dark caverns, you can go a little ways down the island to get a view of the ocean from a cove that is so secluded and stunning it looks too perfect to be real.
“Was that the end of the tour? Not a chance! The tour guides led us from the caves right into prime snorkeling/coral reef-spotting water, one of the most rare and beautiful things you will see in your lifetime. Then it was back to the shore for a classic island cookout with just about as much food as you could want (plus a little more).
“As you can see there are plenty more things to do on the Turks and Caicos islands than just swim and lay in the sun, although there is nothing wrong with that either! But for those with a taste for a little more adventure, hopefully this article has whet your appetite for some of these great activities available on the islands! “
Only one island, Grand Turk, is the seat of government—this is the island where most of the cruise ships land. Salt was mined in the 1600s on South Caicos and Salt Cay, and because of the wealth in salt trade, pirates frequented the area. An infamous female pirate, Anne Bonney, once hid out on Pirate Cay, just off Provo, where a luxurious resort now stands.
You will be more than likely flying into Providenciales, an island in the northwest Caicos. There are easy connecting flights through Miami, Charlotte, Dallas, and New York, with one direct flight weekly on Saturdays from Chicago. Though currency and electricity are both American, be prepared to drive on the left side of the road! Rental cars are easily available.
In between your exploration of the bat caves and riding horses in the sea, be sure to try the great restaurants on Provo. For casual dining, the Conch Shack and Rickie’s are your best bets. Pelican Bay has the best BBQ on the island, served on Friday nights.
Try either Salt or Fire and Ice at Blue Haven Resort for delicious fish and Le Bouchon for French bistro fare. Grace Bay offers deck dining, and honorable mentions go to Coco Bistro and Opus.
Hotels and resorts are plentiful and most are within 15 minutes of the Providenciales airport. The majority of the options overlook the spectacular turquoise waters of Grace Bay.
On the more affordable end of the spectrum are the ocean view and ocean front suites at the Royal West Indies Resort, The Sands Resort, a family-friendly option, and the condominiums at Ocean Club Resorts.
The luxury suites at Grace Bay Club are world renowned, and the accommodations at the Shore Club are minutes away from Provo’s town center. The Regent Grand is an elegant boutique resort on Grace Bay Beach, while the Gansevoort brings the hipness of New York City to the islands. The Palms is often referred to as one of the Caribbean’s best-kept secrets.
In a class of its own is Amanyara. This luxury resort is a nature lover’s paradise known for its privacy and pampering.
Lastly, there are the all-inclusives: Club Med and Beaches. These familiar destinations are designed with family travel in mind and offer great deals for group travel.
Whether you are traveling with just your partner and have opulence in mind or have the whole family in tow, there is something for every traveler on TCI!