How to Take a Wallet-friendly Vacation in the Turks and Caicos
No, seriously. It can be done.
Finding deals on Providenciales—the tourist hub of the Turks and Caicos Islands, where a hotel room can cost upwards of $1,700 night—can be challenging. But it's not impossible. Just take these tips for where to stay and what to do on this 38-square-mile Caribbean isle, and you can do Provo like a pro—with the leftover funds to prove it.
At Ocean Club and Ocean Club West, sister properties that are located a mile apart, you'll stay for a relative song in privately owned condo suites that range in size from studios to three-bedrooms and sit on the same Grace Bay sands as resorts that charge three times as much. You'll also enjoy full exchange privileges and a free shuttle service between both hotels. From $229 and $239, respectively.
If you can bear not to be beachfront on Grace Bay, you'll reap real savings at La Vista Azul, a condo hotel on the hillside overlooking Turtle Cove Marina. Other pluses: spacious suites, two rooftop pools, and ocean views you simply can't get from ground level. (Sand-seekers can take solace that the beach is just five minutes' walk away.) From $195
A former Comfort Suites, Ports of Call has a convenient location in Grace Bay's Salt Mills Plaza. Rooms are basic, but clean and comfortable. And with Grace Bay's sand just across the street, and several shops, bars, and restaurants within easy walking distance, you won't be spending much time in them anyway. From $279 (two-night minimum stay)
For more on hotels in Turks and Caicos, check out T+L's Hotel Guide.
Conch is the Turks and Caicos' biggest export and Provo is home to the world's only commercial conch farm. Caicos Conch Farm raises thousands of Queen conch in ocean pens just offshore, and although it's a modest operation that only takes about 30 minutes to tour, it's certainly worth it, if only to see "stunt conchs" Jerry and Sally, who emerge from their shells on demand, much to kids' delight. Adults $12; children $8
Potcake Place, a local canine rescue and adoption agency, encourages visitors to stop by their Salt Mills Plaza location at 10am on weekdays to take a stray pup (locally known as a "potcake") for a walk. The excursions provide much-needed socialization for the playful dogs, and a free and fun time for their human foster friends.
The beachfront Children's Park at Lower Bight is home to Provo's Thursday-evening fish fry, a free family-friendly event that draws visitors and "Belongers." Arrive early to watch the sun set over the sea, dance to the live band, shop for local crafts, and enjoy reasonably priced island food and drink from a variety of vendors. Our favorite: Coco Vibes' coconut water fresh from the nut, just $6 each or $10 for one laced with rum.
For more things to do in Turks and Caicos, check out T+L's Turks and Caicos Guide.
No trip to Provo is complete without a trip to Da Conch Shack, a legendary beachfront restaurant and bar where the specialty is—you guessed it—conch. The menu features several iterations of the meaty mollusk, but ceviche-style conch salad, made with sea snails plucked from their ocean pen mere steps from your table, is a must-try. $7 for a small bowl; $12 large
Jamaicans know that there's no more filling (or affordable) lunch than a patty and "coco bread," so it's no surprise that the Patty Place is so popular with the island's expat community here. The meat and veggie pockets are flown in frozen from Jamaica, and baked on-site at the Patty Place's downtown and Grace Bay locations. Paired with the warm and doughy pita-like bread, this fast food will fill your tank without emptying your wallet. Patties from $3.15; coco bread $2.30
Provo's many condo-hotels, with their spacious square-footage and tricked-out kitchens, make it easy to dodge pricey restaurant dinners in favor of cooking for yourself. But to save even more, stock up on supplies where the locals do, at the Graceway IGA supermarket on Leeward Highway. Sister store Graceway Gourmet in Grace Bay is likely nearer your hotel, but IGA's prices are significantly cheaper.
For more on restaurants in Turks and Caicos, check out T+L's Restaurant Guide.
Pack some heat with a bottle of PeppaJoy hot sauce, a fiery fixin' sold exclusively at Provo's legendary beachfront restaurant, Da Conch Shack. Made by hand with all-local, all-natural ingredients, its subtle sweetness belies a fiery kick. (And if you really like it hot, try the Ghost Scary Hot Sauce, billed as "hotter than the beach at noon.") $10 each, or three for $25.
Bambarra is the local brand of rum, available in five varieties. The coconut rum is perfect for tropical cocktails, but Trouvadore, a Caribbean blend oak-aged for 15 years, is a smooth sipping tipple worthy of our snobbiest rum-drinking friends (with the added cachet of being available exclusively on the island). Tip: Get yours at Flavors of the Turks and Caicos in Grace Bay's Regent Village, where generous samplings mean you can try before you buy. $34
A T-shirt isn't the most imaginative island souvenir but if you must, we approve of those that tout the local brew, Turk's Head. Flavors of the Turks and Caicos at Regent Village in Grace Bay sells men's and women's tanks, tees, and polo shirts, which are embellished with the lager's logo and won't fall apart with the first wash. From $25
For more on shopping in Turks and Caicos, check out T+L's Shopping Guide.