Providenciales or more commonly known as "Provo", covers an area of 38 miles and is the most developed island in Turks and Caicos. It is here where most international flights arrive at the Providenciales International Airport (PLS). Surrounded by beautiful white sand beaches, Provo has been ranked "Best Beach" by Conde' Nast magazine and by the World Travel Awards for several years running. Found on the western end of the island chain, Provo offers all modern conveniences, including luxurious hotels, villas and condos, numerous restaurants, spas and shopping facilities, a championship caliber golf course, and full service grocery store. Although Provo is the most developed of the islands, it is still a destination for those who want to escape their busy schedules and relax.
On the north shore of the island, near Grace Bay, you will find the most beautiful beaches, as well as a long coral reef, which is rich in aquatic life. This main stretch is home to the majority of the island major resorts and tourism services.
Towards the south of the island you will find Chalk Sound, a large lake with striking turquoise water and an array of small cays. Islands Magazine described Chalk Sound as "Beneath the radar: Untouched and off the beaten path, the pristine islets in Provo's Chalk Sound provide an ideal backdrop for expansive thoughts." Along the south side of the island in areas such as Sapodilla Bay, Copper Jack, Discovery Bay, Turtle Tail and Long Bay you will find many private villas available for rent. The island's commercial port, South Dock, is found east of Sapodilla Bay and has the capability to deal with containerized goods.
On the far western end is unspoiled Malcom's Beach, just adjacent to the magnificent Amanyara Resort.
On the eastern end of the island is Leeward Marina and development.
The two main and oldest settlements on the island are the Bight and Blue Hills, and are built around fresh water supplies. Both locations give a real feeling of Caribbean villages. If you wish to do some shopping, Provo can offer a good range of boutiques at Turtle Cove and along the quickly developing Grace Bay Road. Down Town you will find the retail shops, business offices and banks.
What to Do in Provo
Grace Bay which features the famous 12-mile Grace Bay beach is the location for most of the tourism infrastructure, the Princess Alexandra Marine Park, which is also the playground of "Jo Jo" the famous bottlenose dolphin. Visitors to the world's first Conch Farmdiscover how to grow conch from tiny veligers to four-year-old adults. This is where most of the water sport activities take place from diving to deep sea fishing and everything in between.
Stones engraved by shipwrecked sailors (or waiting ship wreckers) can be found on the hilltop overlooking the now abandoned Marina Inn near Chalk Sound and Sapodilla Bay. If you like old ruins that are not too difficult to get to, visit 2 sites of plantation houses built by Loyalists, Cheshire Hall and Richmond Hill. "The Hole" at Long Bay is a deep and wide Limestone chimney with a mysterious depth of salt water at the bottom.
North Caicos is the lushest of all the islands because of the abundant rainfall. The population is around 1,400, mostly people live in the settlements of Bottle Creek Village, Whitby, Kew and Sandy Point. Bottle Creek Village borders a lagoon on the northeast of the island, and is protected from the ocean by a long ribbon of sand.
North Caicos is 12 miles northeast of Providenciales. Daily connecting flights and boat charters are available, making North Caicos easily accessible. For adventurous travelers, car and bicycle rentals are available as well as taxis and guided tours.
Recently, North Caicos has undergone a development transformation, with several luxury resort properties underway. Blessed with the same white sandy beaches as its neighbors, it is evolving as a 'getaway' from the more developed Provo.
North Caicos boasts the largest flock of Pink Flamingo in the islands. There are Loyalist plantation ruins, the grandest of which is Wade's Green. Lucayan artifacts were found in the caves near Sandy Point. Cottage Pond on the road to Sandy Point is a large pool of tropical vegetation. There are flocks of Flamingos at Flamingo Pond and Mud Hole Pond. You will find ospreys and their nesting sites on the adjacent Three Mary Cays, and a wide variety of other birds on the islands extensive nature reserves and sanctuaries. Iguanas on the nearby East Bays Cays are an outstanding example of the natural diversity of this green island. Crafts such as straw-work are still practiced on this island which is widely known as the "Breadbasket of the Turks and Caicos Islands" or the "Emerald Isle".
Fine sloops were built to transport the crops from the extensive farms located close to the settlements of Bottle Creek, Whitby, Sandy Point and Kew to the other islands. Less farming is carried on now-days but the Government farm in Kew still produces tomatoes and cucumbers available on North.
The largest of the islands, Middle Caicos is 48 square miles of natural beauty. There are 3 settlements on the island, Conch Bar, Bambarra and Lorimers with a population of about 275. The coastline around 'Middle' is more dramatic than that of the other islands; especially on the north shore, where there are limestone cliffs with long sandy beaches. The south is dominated by swampland and tidal flats which almost covers half the island.
The island is green and ideal for agriculture. Middle Caicos is home to the largest cave network in the Bahamian Achipelago and is situated at Conch Bar. There are small but comfortable accomodations available.
Mudjin Harbour, a half-moon lagoon with in the ocean and a picturesque beach that juts out from the land to link up with an offshore cay, is a most dramatic feature. The huge limestone caves feature stalactites, stalagmites, bats, owls and salt lakes that link up with the sea, are considered to be one of the most extensive cave systems in the region. There are also the remains of huge Lucayan Indian settlements. One site excavated near Armstrong Pond in 1978 contains a Lucayan ball court, unknown elsewhere in the Lucayan islands. Artifacts recovered from the caves suggest that they were used either as shelter or sacred places.
Middle Caicos also contains ruins of Loyalist plantations such as the Haulover Plantation with ruins of chimneys and homes, and a well shaped like a horse with steps running down the walls. There is also a trail that links Middle Caicos with North Caicos during low tide you can actually walk between the two islands. The Frigate Bird colony resides on south side of the island and you will also find Flamingos, Egrets, Sand Pipers. A large blue hole just offshore in shallow water features an abundant variety of marine life. The island's Northwest Point is a combination of beautiful inlets, marshes, mangroves and in land ponds, which serve as a haven for bird life.
South Caicos is an 8.5 square mile island which attracts visitors for its fishing, bird-life, history, fresh seafood dishes and diving.
South Caicos, or The Big South, is the fishing capital of the islands, and boasts the best natural harbor and several fishing plants, processing most of the nation's seafood harvest of lobster, conch and fish for export and local consumption. It is home to the annual Big South Regatta each May.
The sleepy little harbor town of Cockburn Harbor was once the most active commercial community in the Turks and Caicos islands. It has hosted royalty and rogues throughout its rich history. Historical features of the island include the 18th century Commissioner's House where Queen Elizabeth stayed during her visit to South during her visit in 1966. Of interest also are the old salt works, and the Boiling Hole, which fed the saltpans that once made South Caicos the islands' largest producer of salt. Although long since abandoned the old salt pans have become the home of a variety of bird species including flocks of flamingos. A bird watchers delight.
The town reflects its British and Bermudian heritage with many examples of the classic architectural design, quaint stone walls bordering property, its narrow streets and friendly helpful people. Not to be missed is a trip to the iguana preserve on Long Cay.
Scuba divers delight in South Caicos’ pristine diving with breath taking walls, vast varieties of coral and marine life that dare to be rivaled. Large pelagics such as sharks, eagle rays, loggerhead turtles, spotted rays, octopus and barracudas share the sites with a spectrum of macro life. Another of the Turks and Caicos’ ideal location for whale watching during their winter migration. Truly an underwater photographers dream. It's no surprise that South Caicos is home to the marine research arm of the renowned School for Field Studies.
Grand Turk is the capital island of the Turks and Caicos, its historical heartbeat, and home to a state of the art luxury cruise ship center. It is here that Christopher Columbus first made landfall on his initial voyage to the New World in 1492. Almost 500 years later, US astronaut John Glenn "discovered" Grand Turk himself, after he became the first American man to orbit the earth.
Cockburn Town is the center piece of the island with a wonderful selection of historical buildings and a rustic charm that is unforgettable. It has the second largest population of around 3,720 people. Grand Turk is one of the main historical points of Turks and Caicos. You will find many Colonial style buildings and ruins, along with The Turks and Caicos National Museum.
One of Grand Turk's main attractions is diving. With its many dive operators it can cater to novice snorkelers to experienced divers. There is an outstanding protected coral reef, which drops to 8,000 feet and is close enough to shore for beach dives. There are several accommodations as well as casual restaraunts which feature local entertainment. During whalewatching season visitors can watch the humpback whales pass from Grand Turk's shores as well as from the surface of the water.
The Grand Turk Cruise Center consists of a 3000-foot pier, the welcome facility and the recreational area. The pier has been built to accommodate two super post-Panamax class vessels simultaneously, including Queen Mary 2 and other large post- Panamex class vessels.
On an area of approximately 14 acres, a recreational center includes a swimming pool, 1,000 feet of beachfront (no water sports offered), cabanas (available for rent through the shore excursion office on board or at the facility), shops and the world's largest Margaritaville, providing food, beverages and Jimmy Buffett memorabilia.
The Welcome Center has been designed based on Grand Turk/Bermudian architecture, influenced by the Bermudian influx into the salt industry thriving in the 17th and 18th centuries and including chimneys considered a "must" by the newcomers from the colder Bermudian for the cold winter months, (These chimneys were never used but became part of the island, and therefore our Welcome Center architecture).
Cockburn Town is the administrative capital and the historic and cultural center of the islands. It is strongly reputed to be the landfall island of Columbus during his discovery of the New World in 1492. The town itself is well suited for a walking tours. Duke and Font Streets are lined with historic 18th and 19th century landmarks that reflect the Bermudan style architecture of the salt era. Two of these buildings are now popular inns, another is the governor's residence,as well as other government offices, the public library, churches, private residences and fraternities.
At the Turks and Caicos National Museum you will find a central exhibit that tells the story of the Molasses Reef Wreck, the oldest European shipwreck discovered in the Western Hemisphere (dated around 1505). It also discloses the rich cultural and natural diversity of the islands. Other historic sites include the Lighthouse, Fire Hill and the Hawks Nest Anchorage.
The most popular excursion just off Grand Turk is Gibbs Cay where visitors can enjoy an uninhabited island, a picnic on the beach and a chance to feed the beautiful stingrays who swim right up to shore.
Many believe that Sleepy Salt Cay is the best kept secret in the Turks and Caicos Islands. This quaint island, a mere 2.5 square miles, is the ultimate get away from it all! The real charm of visiting Salt Cay is the overwhelming sense you will get of being transported in time.
A good place to start your discovery of Salt Cay is the island's own web site. Here you'll find information on all there is to see and do on this tiny hideaway (for a glimpse into what life is really like here check out this great blog by the owners of the charming Island Thyme Bistro).
The centre of the Bermudian Salt Industry, from the late 1600's, the island nurtures a lingering presence of the Salt Industry. From the proud olden wind mills that guard the mournful Salinas, to the stately White House which is still owned and preserved by descendants of the original Bermudian Salt Rakers, Salt Cay has an awesome story to share.
Explore distinctively Bermudian styled homes and mingle with the friendly local community who will happily share a tale or two about the days 'when salt was king'. In Salt Cay you are likely to make home in a charming Bed and Breakfast and experience true island hospitality. With fewer than eighty (80) inhabitants, even our visitors are greeted by their first name in this island paradise.
Visit the ruins at Taylor's Hill and discover one of the most breathtaking views on the island. This is an ideal spot for whale watching, a favorite pastime for visitors during January and April when migrating humpback whales populate the azure waters of Salt Cay. But giant humpbacks are not the only visitors to the island that you may enjoy watching. This quiet and tranquil environment is also a popular rest stop for migrating birds and serious bird watchers will tell you they are very happy with their sightings in Salt Cay!
The natives of Salt Cay are as charming below the water as they are above! The island is a divers and snorkelers paradise. Enchanting tropical fish will usher you to some of the regions most exquisite coral reefs and whisper tales of the past as experienced divers explore the wreck of the Endymion - an un-salvaged 17th century British warship about 40 minutes south of Deannes Dock. Serious divers take on the challenge of the nearby 7000 foot vertical wall or just delight in swimming with whales in season.
There is something for everyone in Salt Cay. Whether you lounge on our sun-kissed shores, or comb the beach for iridescent seashells, frolicking in our turquoise waters or curl up in a hammock with a book. Be sure to treat yourself to island/international cuisine at one of the local beach side eats and be entertained by the parade of island birds. The island is a treasure trove of authentic island experiences!
Recommended as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, time stands still in Salt Cay, waiting for you!