Fabulous beaches with crystal-clear water and white sandy shores
Plenty of water sports options, like scuba diving, snorkeling, sailing, and fishing
Home to one of the world's longest coral reefs
Serene, secluded bays and islands
Lots of wildlife activities, like French Cay, the islands' bird sanctuary, and Caicos Conch Farm
Diverse lodging options, from all-inclusive resorts to private villas and inns
Extremely safe; has one of the lowest crime rates in the Caribbean
All local shops; not a single Western chain retail store
Recent addition of a modern hospital system, managed by InterHealth Canada
Generally safest to drink bottled water (most water comes from wells or tanks filled with collected rainwater)
Low-key nightlife (a pro for some!)
Dining options not very diverse (but the seafood is fantastic!)
Credit cards accepted in Provo and Grand Turk, but cash-only elsewhere
What It's Like
Turks and Caicos, a 37-mile chain of islands, radiates a particular Caribbean-ness, with dreamy blue waters, golden beaches, excellent snorkeling, and bioluminescent glow worms lighting up the water at night. But here's the kicker -- technically, these islands are in the North Atlantic Ocean, about 500 miles south of Florida.
With the motto "Beautiful by Nature," it's really no wonder why the islands' tourism marketing push centers on Turks and Caicos' quiet, natural beauty. Because of the islands' laid-back and slow-paced nature, you won't find nightlife comparable to Aruba or Barbados, but beach shacks and bars remain open for evening entertainment -- island-style. The line of reef trails at Smith's Reef and Bright Reef make this a top-notch snorkeling destination, and the islands' hiking and biking trails, as well guided horseback rides in Provo, make it popular with active travelers as well.
Where to Stay
The Caicos Islands include some of the most popular tourist areas. The main destination for visitors is Providenciales, also known as Provo, which has the only 18-hole golf course on the islands and some laid-back casinos. Most hotels in Provo line the phenomenal Grace Bay, one of the best beaches in the world. Visitors seeking first-rate, secluded resorts may want to check out Caicos Cays, which has many privately owned beaches.
The Turks Islands lie several miles southeast of the Caicos Islands. They are much smaller than the Caicos Islands, and more low-key. Grand Turk, home to the islands' capital, is a sleepy spot that offers plenty of island culture and history.