Finding paradise in Turks and Caicos
Probably the most perfect beaches. Secluded, pristine and giving you that perfect Instagram shot for your feed.
Living in SF makes it a little challenging when traveling there with airport connections, flight length, cost, and more. But if you are in NY, like we were, it would be much easier to travel from there and in just a matter of hours you land on paradise.The choice of which island to pick was easy for us, Turks and Caicos, part of the British Virgin Islands and now I understand why celebrities and travel advisors are heading that way in the last couple of years, it's out of this world and definitely a trending spot.
From the moment we spotted Turks and Caicos main town Providenciales, from up in the air, I felt like I had found a lost island in the middle of nowhere. The airport it's a tiny airport, a little chaotic but once you get there make sure you know where you're going. For us, Seven Stars resort had a sign for their hotel, they won't take you in a van but they will direct you to the right taxi going in that direction and after a 20-minute ride you arrive.
We did our research online to find the best hotel, affordable yet luxurious. Seven Stars was our selection, thanks to American Express Travel, Tripadvisor and other online resources. It wasn't like arriving to a luxurious hotel in Cabo or Hawaii, very understated entrance and lobby but the hotel was actually very nice. If you're into Tommy Bahamas decor then this is your place. The room was big, bigger than many there hotels, really liked the caribbean decoration but all that was irrelevant once we glimpsed through the balcony doors to that beautiful, calm and endless sea. It was the best money spent on upgrading us to an ocean front suite. Priceless.
After planning a wedding and celebrating for a week in New York, this was exactly what we needed. We jumped in our swimsuits and flip flops straight to the beach to enjoy the afternoon and sunset. The first thing on the to-do-list: nap. My partner (husband now) and I have been to many breathtaking beaches but Grace Bay was something unique beyond expectations. Very similar water to the Riviera Maya, Caribbean after all. But the coral reef surrounding the West Indies protects the beaches making the sea wave-less and feels like you're at the biggest natural pool on Grace Bay.
You can rent places all around the main island, Providenciales, but there are more islands in Turks and Caicos (T&C) so it was a challenge to decide which island and where to stay. I can tell you now that no matter where you stay on the main island, make sure it's on Grace Bay, the most famous beach in T&C and one of the most photographed beaches in the World.
This time, before getting to T&C, I already had a list of restaurants that friends had recommended. The famous local dish is conch, anything with conch. Grilled conch, conch salad, thai conch, you name it, so be prepared to experience this local dish. I loved it. One of the best ways to experience the island with the locals, local food and shopping is going to Fish Fry every Thursday on Grace Bay. There you can enjoy a fresh caught conch salad, with a rum punch, do some shopping for local crafts and listen to some local live tunes. Definitely a highlight in our trip, spent a few hours there just chilling and enjoying the sunset. One thing to mention is that taxis are not cheap, is an easy way to get around but you pay about $15 per person for a 10-min ride so getting around the island is better renting a car.
Of course this island is to relax, how could we not relax with the views of the Caribbean sea every day. And there are also many activities that you can do, like in any other tropical destinations. As our goal was mainly to relax and enjoy jumping in and out of the warm sea water we didn't plan many excursions. At the hotels you can still do many activities like paddle boarding, snorkeling, parasailing and so many more. We did some of these activities but the agenda was pretty much open, you can decide this last minute with little planning ahead of time.
Another really fun activity was a sunset cruise, so they will pick you up at the hotel, take you to the marina and take off from there. You'll be able to see more of the island landscape, the conch farms, stunning villas not to mention the amazing sunset. That along friendly tourists, rum punch and some music make it a very fun way to explore the island surroundings.
Yes, I know you all want to hear about the shopping, which is actually pretty cool. You can find shops all over the place, my recommendation would be to stay closer to Grace Bay (and many of the hotels) and go to The Regent Village and the Saltmills shopping center (outdoor) with my favorite store Anna's with many handcrafts, paintings, Christmas ornaments and much more. Other local artists sell there handcrafts, pottery, sea shells, high end jewelry and watches (Duty free!). At the same spot you can find several restaurants that are very convenient for when you want to leave the hotel and taste the local cuisine.
Speaking of restaurants, there are many, I recommend going to Bugaloos for an authentic dining experience, some tables are even on the water when it's not windy you can eat in the sea waters of the South side of the island. Something a little more sophisticated is Coco Bistro which is usually packed and requires at least two-week in advance reservations. Be ready to dine outdoor under many palm trees and super tasty food. Other great options in the village would include Fresh Catch and Vix. I think anywhere you go you'll be able to find great fresh sea food, always ask for the catch of the day.
The locals are very friendly in general. There's this mix of caribbean and expats living on the same island which I think it's super cool. On the downside I don't think many of the men are very gay-friendly. After all, my husband and I were there for our honeymoon and didn't feel as welcomed as we have felt in Hawaii, Mexico or Europe. Besides there's no much gay tourism, so something to consider when planning your trip.
As I type the end of my blog I can't help but feel nostalgic thinking of those endless and perfect days in Providenciales. Seems so far away from home but I'm sure this won't be the last we see of it. Until next time Turks and Caicos, heaven in the Caribbean.