When Steve and I returned from Europe, I promised him that he could choose our next trip for so kindly allowing me to drag him across the continent. He wanted a super relaxing beach vacation and had heard great things about Turks & Caicos, so off we went!
A few things before we get into the details of where we stayed, ate, and what we did:
- There were A LOT of families — like whole generations. Grandparents, parents, kids … so many. We started calling it the OBX of the Caribbean because it had the same feel, but with palm trees.
- Rent a car! Everyone told us this, but we’re resistant and like to walk everywhere. Once we realized that the town is a little more spread out and we wanted to go to other beaches, we caved and rented one.
- It’s expensive — more so than other islands we’ve visited. A 12-pack of Coors Lite? $33. A box of Nature Valley granola bars? $7. Even the local beer, Turks Head, was at least $5. (In St. Lucia and Barbados, the local beers were like $2.) Our cheapest lunch was $50.
- Like most Caribbean islands, a government tax (12%) is added to purchases. In restaurants, most include a service tax, which is considered the gratuity. You don’t have to tip on top of the tip!
We heard amazing things about Grace Bay Beach in Providenciales, the westernmost T&C island. (GBB has been named the most beautiful beach in the world.) We wanted to be close to the beach but not pay the crazy prices for oceanfront hotels. We opted to stay at the Caribbean Paradise Inn (get thousands of Southwest points by booking through RocketMiles!), a short 5-minute walk to the beach.
The hotel was great with a beautiful pool and a local cat, Petra. Wen, the hotel manager, was fantastic and gave us so much good info. The hotel has chairs and umbrellas on Grace Bay Beach, but when we went to others, Wen loaned us chairs, an umbrella, and a cooler. (Always ask your hotel about things like this! People buy them and leave them.)
The location was pretty good. There are a few restaurants along the beach where we had lunch and dinner, but it is a little bit of a walk to others. The area felt a little more spread out and didn’t have a “town” feel like we prefer.
Tip: Ask for a renovated room unless you’re getting a suite with a kitchenette that walks right out to the pool. We opted for a first-floor room thinking that it would open to the pool — nope.
- Pelican Bay: One of the restaurants by Grace Bay Beach with good rum punch and pina coladas. We had basic sandwiches and wraps.
- Caicos Cafe: Make a reservation on a weekend! We didn’t and ended up sitting at the bar. Steve had great grilled calamari and I had burrata and gnocchi because the owner is originally from Italy.
- Seaside Cafe: Another oceanfront cafe with tables overlooking the beach. The tangy pulled pork and burger (which aren’t normally great in the islands) were winners.
- Jimmy’s Dive Bar: A 10-min walk from the hotel with a fun pirate-esque vibe. The mojitos were delicious and fresh and come in a plastic cup that you can keep. I had the Cuban, which was ham with pulled pork — delicious.
- The Deck at Seven Stars: This place is a maze! The restaurant is on the beach in a massive resort, so someone actually has to walk you to it or you’ll get lost. It’s beautiful and casual, and we split great fish tacos, sweet potato fries, and a Margherita pizza.
Fun fact: Male and female conch both have penises; the females’ never develop. Eating them is apparently an aphrodisiac.
- Bugaloo’s: Awesome beach-front dive in Five Cays, on the way to Taylor and Sapodilla Bays (see below). A guy was harvesting conch out on the water and showed us how to do it and gave us a taste. There was a sweet little black cat who I had to share a few bites of my fish sandwich with, too. Order the plantain chips! They’re more like little cakes. Steve had his first conch in the form of Buffalo poppers.
- Somewhere Cafe: We drove to this one, which is a little west of Grace Bay in the Coral Gardens resort. The road to get there is a little sketchy, but the cafe is really cool. We had the friendliest service. They’re known for barbeque (the owner is from NC), so Steve had the delicious pulled pork BBQ quesadilla. I was craving fish tacos, so I ordered the massive ones, which were my favorite of the trip. I had the Key lime pie for dessert, one of my few sweets on the trip.
Conch shell islands!
- Da Conch Shack: This is a world-famous restaurant on the water where there are literally islands of empty conch shells that have been harvested. The plantain fries are amazing — more like steak fries — and the house rum punch is strong. I had a huge conch salad and Steve went with conch fritters.
- Mango Reef: We drove here, too, because it’s farther west, in Turtle Cove. It’s right on the marina and lit up with pretty lights. Steve had great island wings and I went with veggie pasta.
- Sharkey’s Beach Bar: This waterfront bar is a part of Club Med and we tried to go for lunch, but they don’t serve food until 3pm. Assuming the clientele is likely rolling out of bed at noon …
- Thursday Fish Fry at Bight Park: This is a must-do — a weekly fish fry with tourists and locals. The Park is right on the beach and it’s basically a food truck fest. All of the stands are set up and everyone has conch. We had grilled conch with amazing, sweeter plantains and I sipped on my drink from a pineapple. We also bought some candles and soaps from local artisans and listened to the band. (It was the day Prince died and they did “Purple Rain.”)
Plantains at Dolphin Restaurant are a must!
- Danny Buoy’s: Just by Salt Mill and Regent plazas, this sports bar has outdoor seating and karaoke. My mojito came with a real sugar cane! If you need somewhere that feels like America, this is your place.
- Grille Rogue at Grace Bay Club: This is another Grace Bay Beach establishment that’s a little pricier. I had a great fish burger (with avocado, which I was so excited to finally see) and these amazing thin, salty fries. (Ugh, we ate so many fries.) Steve had a Lebanese chicken wrap, which was a nice departure from the seafood and basic sandwiches.
- Bella Luna Pizzaria: Must go! There’s a restaurant upstairs that has less-than-stellar reviews, but everyone loves the pizzaria. It’s quaint, in a garden, and you’d never know it’s right beside a somewhat busy road. We split a pizza with mozzarella, tomato, ham, mushroom, artichoke, and olives, and I had tiramisu for dessert. Steve stuck with beer, but I was thrilled to have some decent wine after a week of fruity cocktails.
We’re beach bums, so we basically just stayed at the beach all day. The waves at Grace Bay were pretty rough (and they’re supposed to be very calm), so we did rent a car (through Sixt) and went to two other beaches that Wen recommended for calm, clear waters. We were going to try snorkeling but never got around to it. Too much relaxing and drinking to do.
I drove a car on the left side for the first time ever! It was actually pretty easy. Taylor Bay was a quick 20-min drive, winding through a very industrial area and turning in to a neighborhood. There were cars parked along the dirt path, so we knew we were in the right place.
The path opened to a stunning white-sand beach with crystal clear water and NO waves. There are no restaurants or shops nearby, so keep that in mind, but it’s so peaceful. You could walk out SO far until you were even waist-deep in the water.
Many people recommended checking out this bay, which is just before Taylor Bay. The parking is right after Las Brisas restaurant, along the road. (You’ll likely see others parked.) A short sand path opened to another amazing beach, dotted with gorgeous villas. (I plan to rent this one some day.) The water gets deeper more quickly here, which we liked, but is still so calm and warm.
Overall, it was a great, relaxing trip. We probably wouldn’t go back again, but would still recommend it to others.