From the silky sands and mega resorts of Grace Bay on lively Providenciales in the north to the whale-dotted waters of Salt Cay in the south, the charming colonial canons and harbors of Cockburn Town to the dreamy underwater reefs of the Columbus Landfall, the Turks and Caicos are a land of paradise and wonder.
Consistently rated as the home of some of the Caribbean’s best-looking beaches, and imbued with everything from rugged clifftops to fascinating Indian come European histories, they rarely disappoint.
In this list of the 15 top things to do while trawling from Grand Turk to Provo, we check out all of the most immersive activities and sites the archipelago has to offer.
Expect tasty fish barbeques and refined Caribbean dishes alike; get ready for crumbling plantations and SCUBA spots; prep for some serious sunbathing and snorkelling, and start thinking about those multi-coloured iguanas and colossal Eagle rays.
Enjoy this list of the best things to do in Turks and Caicos:
1. Go whale watching on Salt Cay
If you’re lucky enough to be hitting the Turks and Caicos during the high-season months between January and April each year, when the weather sits in the cool mid-20s and the trade breezes bring soothing winds off the Atlantic, then be sure to make a beeline for the southern island of Salt Cay.
Here, visitors can either charter their own whale-spotting boat or stand on the rugged, salt-sprayed cliffs and look out to the Turks Head passage that connects the western Caribbean to the waters around Hispaniola, spotting pods of majestic humpback whales as they drift southward to give birth in the warm waters of Silver Banks.
Expect an awesome display of splashing tails and fins, not to mention beautiful views of the southern cays!
2. Kick-back on Grace Bay
Okay, so there are more picture-perfect beaches and cotton-white sands on the Turks and Caicos than you can shake a chilli-doused creole prawn kebab at, but when it comes to this shimmering stretch on the island of Providenciales, there’s something extra special to mention.
Curving its way around the undulating sand banks of the northern shore, it’s everything you could possibly want from a Caribbean beachfront: The water is a distinct mineral blue, punctuated with the occasional bobbing outline of a whitewashed boat, and the powder is scintillating white.
Grace Bay is also home to most of the island’s luxury resorts, meaning bars and restaurants, private villas and luxury suites are never too far away!
3. Kiteboard across the waters of Long Bay Beach
Directly opposite Grace Bay on the windward southern reaches of Providenciales Island, where the Atlantic trade winds billow in from the deep-blue ocean, the rollers of Long Bay Beach offer an altogether more adrenaline-pumping activity: kiteboarding.
With warm and crystal-clear waters, the bay here is perfect for first-time riders, who can rent all the necessary equipment from local providers and opt for lessons from well-trained professional instructors besides.
And for the more experienced kiteboarders heading to Turks and Caicos, there are bespoke adventure packages.
These mean sailing out to the deserted sea lagoons and secluded cays to try your hand on the more challenging swells.
4. Indulge in the Thursday night Fish Fry
No trip to the island of Providenciales could possibly be complete without spending a Thursday night sampling all the fresh and salty delights of the iconic T & C Fish Fry.
This local event that sees islanders mingling with travelers has been taking place on the sands of Bight Park close to Grace Bay for some time.
It’s an evening of culture and chats, of live samba and dance, of laid-back Carib tunes and market stalls selling shell bracelets.
Oh, and – of course – some of the best barbequed fish cuts you’ll ever taste! And when the sun goes down and the rum comes out, the resident Junkanoo Band takes over, serenading everyone into the early hours with their steel drums and singing.
5. Have a round at the Provo Golf Club
Provo Golf Club is a regular chart-topper on lists of the top 18-hole championship courses in the entire Caribbean.
And boy are the accolades deserved! This sprawling land of emerald-green fairways and chalk-white bunkers comes peppered with swaying palm trees, coconut plants and pine blooms.
Golfers get to hit their shots in the company of herons and the occasional pink dash of migrating flamingos, while mirror-like water features delineate the greens, shimmering and shining under the tropical sun.
On-site there are also tennis courts and the welcoming Fairways Bar and Grill, which serves up a medley of Caribbean treats and local T & C fish platters.
6. Snorkel through Smith’s Reef
Rated for its high underwater visibility and easily accessed from the sands of Grace Bay or the jetties of Turtle Cove, Smith’s Reef is one of the top spots to strap on the snorkel and flippers and get in the water here.
Under the sea there’s a myriad of corals in all different colours, all blooming and protruding from the sand banks and the seabed in bursts of white and yellow and orange.
Spotted sea slugs cling to the sponges too, while huge Eagle rays cast their shadow on the ground.
Visitors coming here should be wary of lionfish (loaded with poisonous spines on their back) and keep an eye out for boats speeding through (Smith’s Reef occupies a particularly busy section of the Provo coast!).
7. Join the cruise ships and casuarinas on Governor’s Beach
Hailed by most as the finest stretch of sand on the island of Grand Turk, Governor’s does well to live up to its rep.
Narrow and slanting in beige-yellow hues down to an ocean of perfect blue, it’s quiet, calm and peaceful (the trade winds don’t make it this far around the island). Named after the grand mansion of the Governor that stands close to the sands, the spot is visited by many a cruiser, whose colossal ships dock by their bucket load in the harbor of Cockburn Town to the north during the high-season.
Don’t worry though, the beach is hardly ever crowded, and swaying groves of pines and casuarinas along the back of the sands add an element of privacy and seclusion.
8. Get some local history at the Turks & Caicos National Museum
Hidden behind a charming colonial façade of whitewashed terraces and red-tiled roofs, the Turks & Caicos National Museum is one of the top heritage draws of the archipelago’s capital, Cockburn Town.
The building itself if known as Guinep House. (It’s named after the large tropical fruit tree that stands out front and is considered to have almost 200 years of history.) Inside and the collections begin in earnest, with the reconstructed archaeological remains of the iconic Molasses Reef Wreck – the oldest shipwreck in the entire Americas.
Thought to have been sunk around 1500, this ruined Spanish caravel offers a glimpse at the colonial powers that passed this way.
Other exhibits look at islander culture and the native Lucayan peoples who resided here before the arrival of the Europeans.
9. Have some refined Carib cuisine at Coco Bistro
Headed up by the masterful owner-chef Stuart Gray, Coco Bistro has risen and risen to become one of the most acclaimed fine-dining eateries in all of Turks and Caicos.
With experience working under the likes of Michelle Roux and Ken Hom, along with a passion for cultivating the freshest herbs and local ingredients possible, Gray serves up some of the finest Caribbean food going, all with a neat Mediterranean twist.
Starter wise, patrons can expect the likes of tomato salads, lobster tacos, shrimp satay and Dominican fruit ceviche, while for main there are tuna cuts and buttered salmon, scallops and mahi in Thai curry sauce.
Add to that a romantic setting amidst swaying palm trees and sun-kissed gravel patios, and you’ve got yourself a truly fine place to eat to say the least!
10. Tour the old Cheshire Hall
There’s something about the sprawling, lichen-spotted crumbling ruins of Cheshire Hall that belies an eerie, raw sense of history.
They cluster and cram between the cacti and pine trees right at the heart of Providenciales Island, telling tales of the high plantation boom that brought European wealth-seekers and slave owners to the shores of Turks and Caicos in the 1700s.
At its biggest, Cheshire Hall occupied upwards of 5,000 acres of land, and today visitors can still see the old slave quarters, the dilapidated great hall and the cotton presses, all raised using the dry local limestone.
There are some pretty walks around the ruins, along with information on the array of birdlife to be seen flitting through the air.
11. Explore the caverns of the Conch Bar Caves
The Conch Bar Caves can be found carved out of the very heart of Middle Caicos island, cutting deep into the limestone rock beds and karst hills there to form a subterranean labyrinth of tunnels and chambers.
Some come illuminated with the occasional shaft of light that pierces through the turf overhead and down into the underground; others are formed with colossal stalactites or boulders, while the occasional chamber also houses graffiti depicting the names and dates of some seriously early visitors (think 1915 and 1918!). Remains of early Lucayan tribespeople were discovered here too, but history buffs should opt instead to visit the nearby Indian Caves, where there are oodles more artifacts and relics to see.
12. Wonder at the natural beauty of Chalk Sound
Peppered with the occasional cluster of rising limestone rock, the Chalk Sound is one of the most beautiful natural sites on the island.
The countless little geologic protrusions here just peak above the indelibly turquoise waters in blooms of green grass and rugged stone, all of which are now designated as a national park.
One of the best ways to see the area is to hit the weaving, meandering roadway of the Chalk Sound Drive, which wiggles its way between the Caribbean Sea and the lagoon on the southern shore.
Other attractions include the kaleidoscope of swift lizards and iguanas that skit over the rocks, opportunities to paddleboard and sea kayak rentals.
13. Hike the Mudjin Harbour
This wild and windswept section of sheer-cut cliffs is a sure bet for the more intrepid and adventurous traveler heading to the Turks and Caicos.
Running along a great length of Middle Caicos Island, it’s hailed by many as one of the most breathtaking natural landscapes in the Caribbean.
And why not? There are sharp, vertical rocks rising straight from the ocean rollers, the occasional sandy cove where you can almost imagine pirate smugglers unloading at night, craggy headlands and islands with eerie names like the Dragon Formation, and the distinctive silhouettes of reef sharks and rays flitting around the water.
Beware of falling when walking the area, and remember the waves can get rough around Mudjin!
14. Dive into the Columbus Landfall National Park
Encompassing virtually the entire west coast of Grand Turk, the Columbus Landfall National Park marks the very spot where its namesake explorer is thought to have first set foot on the lands of the New World way back in the 1400s.
However, while the history is fascinating, most people today head here for the natural wonders that abound.
Nowhere is better than the underwater reaches of the Landfall National Park either, which descend deep into the ocean with steep coral walls, offering up a montage of manta rays and lionfish, multi-coloured tropical species and colossal sponges.
This is where most will opt to do their PADI qualification, and there are oodles of outfitters on offer in nearby Cockburn Town.
15. Go bonefishing on the shores
While deep sea fishing and sports fishing take a backseat position in the Turks and Caicos, bonefishing in the shallows is more popular than ever.
Folk come from far and wide to try their hand at the skilful catching method, which involves wading into the shallows armed with nothing but a makeshift rod and bait, all to trick the silky and elusive bonefish.
Some of the best spots are on the craggy coastal stretches of Bell Sound, north out of Cockburn Town, and along the rugged, dune-backed reaches of Highlands Bay.
Rest assured if you don’t catch anything; at least the views are beautiful!