5 Reasons To Go Island Hopping In The Turks And Caicos
Despite its reputation as a laid-back Caribbean paradise, the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) is a perfect destination for travelers seeking adventure! Comprised of two tiny island chains southeast of the Bahamas, this British Overseas Territory is easy to get to from the US and perfect for island hopping. Flights from one end of the country to the other are only 30 minutes long, and each island has its own unique spirit. Once you land, you can rent a car, golf cart, or bike depending on the island and start exploring right away.
I flew in on American Airlines (direct from Charlotte) and flew home on Delta (with a layover in Atlanta) for about $330 round-trip. All major US carriers fly to the international airport on Providenciales (PLS), so shop around and don’t settle for outrageous airfare! Once you’re there, you can island hop using InterCaribbean Airways or Caicos Express Airways. I spent four nights in the TCI and in that time I visited three islands: Providenciales, Grand Turk, and South Caicos.
So why forego the comfort of a resort? After all, you’re going to have to do more planning as an island hopper. The short answer is that visiting the remote islands is a different experience than staying in Grace Bay, the area of Providenciales (often called ‘Provo‘) where most resorts are clustered. So without further ado, here are five reasons why you should definitely go island hopping in the Turks and Caicos!
1. It's easy to explore on your own terms (with a little preparation)
The TCI is great for on-the-go adventures because each island is small enough that it can be seen in one or two days. They’re also very close to one another, so flights between the islands are short and sweet! Unfortunately, the islands lack public transportation, so you’ll have to arrange rental vehicles (and be sure to book beforehand). Luckily, I’ll tell you what worked for me on each island.
You’ll want to rent a car, as the island is about 13 miles long from east to west. You’ll drive on the left side of the road like in the UK, but you may receive an American-style rental (with steering wheel on the left) or a British-style car (steering wheel on the right). This might sound scary, but I found that driving a British car was much more intuitive than I thought it would be. I had good experiences with Grace Bay Car Rentals, which cost about $65 per day. They conveniently offer airport pickup and drop-off.
Most tourists here rent golf carts since the island is only 7 miles from north to south and 2 miles wide. Roads are a little rougher here than on Provo, but are still navigable. Golf carts won’t protect against rain and I experienced some technical difficulties with mine (I was given a partial refund for the trouble). I booked through my Airbnb host and was told the standard rate on the island is about $80 per day.
The hotel where I stayed (East Bay Resort) offered complimentary bicycle rentals. Although South Caicos is fully accessible by bike, prepare to be exhausted by the end of the day! The bicycles weren’t in pristine condition and you may have to ride on a dirt road or two. Paved roads also have some potholes, so be careful.
Once you’ve booked all your vehicles, you’re ready to go exploring! My favorite spot was Sapodilla Hill on Provo. You’ll start at what appears to be a wooded hillside, but if you duck under branches and follow what looks like the remnants of a forgotten foot trail, you will find yourself on a very overgrown path. Keep working your way up the hill for 360-degree views of the surrounding Chalk Sound, Sapodilla Bay, and the open ocean to the south.
Two other cool areas were the northwestern peninsula on Grand Turk and the northern peninsula on South Caicos. Both areas were very relaxing and almost completely devoid of human activity. Blue Hills Road in Provo was also a scenic beachfront drive that had some interesting architecture. As long as you’re willing to venture away from the touristy spots, you shouldn’t have any trouble making your own discoveries!
2. Try conch in its many forms (and other delicious cuisine)
Conch is a true delicacy that you have to try during your trip! It can be found on menus in almost every restaurant and comes in many varieties: cracked conch, steamed conch, conch fritters, and conch salad. My favorite is cracked conch, which reminds me of calamari. A great place to go on Provo is da Conch Shack, which has a combo on their menu consisting of cracked conch, fritters, and a really good dipping sauce. As always, you can’t go wrong with a side of peas and rice!
The steamed conch I had at the Dolphin Grill in South Caicos was also a delicious and hearty meal. If you’re looking for something fresh and light, go with a conch salad, which is usually prepared with diced tomatoes, onions, and cucumber.
3. The scenery is amazing (especially from a plane window)
As I’m sure you can tell by now, there’s beautiful places to discover all over the islands. Turn a corner and you’re bound to stumble upon a beach that looks like it belongs in a travel magazine. But I think the most breathtaking views are actually seen from the air. If you take a domestic flight on InterCaribbean or Caicos Express, you will take a small propeller plane like this:
These planes fly at low elevations compared to commercial jetliners, so you’ll have some really incredible views of the geography of the islands as you fly over them.
Take a look at a map of the TCI, and you’ll see that when flying from Provo to any other island, you’ll want to sit in a window seat on the left side of the plane for the best views of the islands. When you fly back, sit on the right. Since InterCaribbean has open seating, you should be able to get your pick as long as you’re in the front of the line to board!
One of the most striking things I noticed was the stark contrast between the turquoise color of the shallow waters surrounding the islands and the rich, navy blue of the deeper open ocean. This is especially apparent if you fly to Grand Turk, but can be seen even if you fly within the Caicos Islands.
4. Wild animals abound on the more remote islands
If you’re an animal lover, this is a prime reason to check out an island other than Provo! While on Grand Turk and South Caicos, I saw wild donkeys, horses, cows, dogs, cats, lizards, fish, and tropical birds. Donkeys that roam the islands are a remnant of the bustling salt industry of centuries past. They are not afraid of humans or aggressive, although if you get too close to take a picture, they will trot away.
5. The sunsets are gorgeous!
This is pretty self-explanatory, but check when the sun sets and position yourself on a western-facing beach 10 or 15 minutes before that. Relax, take it all in, and cool down after a long day.
So there you have it! Hopefully I’ve enticed you to at least consider the Turks and Caicos Islands for your next getaway. If you’re looking for more information about each island, click one of the links below to learn more:
Here are a few other tidbits of knowledge that might make your trip smoother.
- The currency of the Turks and Caicos Islands is the US dollar. Cash is good to have on hand especially if you want to check out some mom and pop shops, but resorts and touristy areas will accept credit cards.
- I recommend withdrawing extra cash from an ATM on Providenciales before flying to smaller islands. Read more about ATMs here.
- As a budget traveler, I have to warn you that traveling the islands is expensive. Rental vehicles are a must, and budget accommodation is hard to find. Expect to pay at least $60 a day for a vehicle, and at least $100 a night for lodging (even at Airbnbs). Overall, I think the total cost of my trip for 5 days was about $1800.
- Residents of Caribbean countries tend to be devout, so most businesses will be closed on Sundays (some restaurants may open for lunch after church). Take care of shopping and errands on Saturday to avoid conflicts.