The Caribbean islands compose some thousand or more landmasses from teeny-tiny (St. Kitts, Nevis) to huge (Cuba, Dominican Republic). The one thing they all have in common? Great weather and sunshine. Two things you’re probably needing a lot of right now. So how to decide which one to go to…
The truth is you can’t go wrong for the most part. It really depends on what you’re after. St. Lucia, http://www.beautynewsnyc.com/travel/st-lucia-paradise-accessible/) for instance, will give you a mix of relaxation and adventure with its beautiful beaches, mountains and rain forests. The Cayman Islands offer the bluest, clearest water perhaps anywhere.
And then there’s Turks and Caicos, which comprises 40 of its own islands in the Caribbean chain. The most frequented of these is the main island of Providenciales. This is the Caribbean you go to when you want to truly unwind – be it for a short honeymoon, winter getaway or quick scuba certification. Here are the top things to see and do in between cocktails and some serious sun bathing.
1. Get off the beaten path
When traveling anywhere as a tourist, it’s easy to get stuck in the main hubs – shopping at places that lack authenticity, eating at overpriced restaurants and fighting for beach chairs. In Providenciales, there is one main road, Leeward Highway, which cuts through the island, taking you through all those main destinations (many of which are in Grace Bay and are certainly worth a visit) but also past them, to lesser-visited locales.
Try a stay at the Northwest Point Resort on the far northwestern point of the island. For a few minutes before arriving, you’ll be driving down a remote dirt road that you’ll be sure leads to nowhere. But eventually, you’ll arrive at the condo rental/timeshare property that sits right on a pristine, white-sands beach. The rooms are more like apartments, equipped with full kitchens and washers and dryers in case you should need to refresh your wardrobe during your stay. It’s the perfect respite and offers unparalleled quiet. Come prepared with books and/or a special someone to pass the time – though if you’re anything like us, you’ll surely not mind a little boredom for a change.
If you’re lucky enough to afford it – stay at Aman Resorts’ Amanyara. But if you’re like the rest of us – you can settle on a visit to the property for a meal, which will give you a worthwhile glimpse into its luxuriousness. The property is perched on a rocky promontory, also on the northwestern point of the island. It sits in front of a vast wilderness of protected parkland (which separates Amanyara from the Northwest Point Resort).
Accommodations at Amanyara consist of timber-shingled pavilions and villas interspersed with lush indigenous vegetation and reflecting ponds. The restaurant offers a choice of dining settings, one on the central reflecting pond and the other indoors and air-conditioned. Its menu focuses on freshly caught seafood like red snapper and grouper, with organic produce from the resort’s aquaponic vegetable garden. If you do plan a trip to the resort for dinner, make sure you’ve called well in advance for reservations. You’ll be questioned at your entrance and will need a reservation to even enter the property, which is down another winding dirt road that puts the aforementioned remoteness to shame.
3. Get underwater (or at least IN the water)
You may or may not be a diver – but if you have any interest in trying, Turks and Caicos is a great place to experiment. You’ll see plenty of diving outfitters in the main part of town, Grace Bay. Any and all of them would be fine, but why settle for fine? Head all the way to the eastern point of the island via Leeward Highway, to Big Blue. This is the cream of the crop in terms of outdoor excursions, be they diving, snorkeling, kayaking, paddle-boarding…the list goes on. Instructors here are knowledgeable, friendly and responsible. Plus, visiting Big Blue makes for a great excuse to get to the far eastern part of the island and explore the local roads and sights around the Blue Haven Resort and marina.
Big Blue Unlimited offers diving, paddle boarding and many other water sport activities.
Diving in and around this area, you will encounter tons of beautifully colored fish and coral, and you may be lucky enough to see some sea turtles and Caribbean reef sharks. They’re harmless and stunning to watch – just don’t pull any crazy moves or you may provoke an inner Jaws.
4. Consume Copious Conch
That big pink shell you put up to your ear to listen to the sea was once home to a little sea creature called a conch. The conch makes its home inside bigger and bigger shells as they grow. Once they are big enough for those large rose-shaded shells, they’re large enough for a yummy meal (sorry Vegetarians but they’re quite tasty!) You’ll see the empty shells all over the island which you can take home as a souvenir, and you’ll see them on the menu of nearly every island eatery.
The best spots to try the local sea snails (and yes, conch’s taste and texture is similar to escargot, if you’re a fan) are right on the beach. Da Conch Shack & Rum Bar is a can’t miss. Try the conch fritters and a rum punch. Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. the spot hosts live music and a beach party; on Sundays at 1 p.m. a DJ spins tunes. Bugaloos is another local favorite, and for good reason. A conch salad and the Provo Punch is sure to satisfy at this gorgeous beachside hideaway on the southern part of the island, almost directly opposite geographically from Da Conch Shack.By the water.