Turks and Caicos Travel Guide
If you've ever saved a picture of a pristine beach as your desktop screensaver, chances are it was snapped in the Turks and Caicos Islands. This island chain is a lesser-explored destination in the Caribbean but is home to some of the most mind-blowingly beautiful beaches in the world, complemented by sand so white it practically glows and water so clear and light-blue, it seems you can see the ocean floor for miles.
In the Turks and Caicos, plan on spending lots of time in and around the picture-perfect waters; unlike more developed Caribbean islands, shopping and city tours take a backseat to the great outdoors. Here, the main activities are snorkeling, scuba diving, boating, and soaking up the sun. Tropical island getaways just don't get much prettier than a visit to this British territory, so pack a swimsuit and hop a short flight to explore this 40-island archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean.
Eastern Standard Time
Best Time to Go
The islands' peak tourism periods occur during major holiday months, especially December through January and March through April (the islands are popular with Easter and spring break crowds). During these months, the prices are higher and the islands are more crowded, but the weather is especially pleasant.
Still, many consider springtime (February through April) the best time to visit Turks and Caicos because visitors are met with the ideal combination of good weather, lower pricing, and plenty of availability. Shy away from holiday weekends to find the best deals.
The Big South Regatta, which takes place every last weekend in May, is one of the islands' biggest annual events. It's a traditional yacht regatta on South Caicos with plenty of entertainment planned around the islands for participants and spectators alike. The Conch Festival, held annually on the last weekend of November on Providenciales, is another major annual event.
Things to Know
The full name of the country is "the Turks and Caicos Islands," though most people shorten it to "Turks and Caicos" or "TCI." However, referring to the island chain as just "Turks" or "Caicos" is incorrect.
The U.S. dollar is the primary currency used on the islands and English is the predominant language. The islands have U.S.-style power plugs (120v, 60Hz electricity) so no power adapters are necessary.
International flights arrive in Turks and Caicos from 11 countries: the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba, Antigua, Puerto Rico, and the British Virgin Islands. All flights arrive at the Providenciales International Airport (PLS); from there, visitors can board either Caicos Express or InterCaribbean for inter-island travel. Both offer daily flights.
Many visitors arrive via cruise ships, which dock at the islands' only cruise ship terminal, the Grand Turk Cruise Center at the southern end of Grand Turk. Inter-island travel is also possible by boat.
How to Get Around
There are no buses or trains on the islands but you can easily get around by taxi, car rental, or car service.
Taxis: Available on Providenciales, Grand Turk, and North and Middle Caicos; typically quite expensive. Most taxis are large vans that operate on a shared basis with other travelers going in the same direction (see Getting Around). The tourism board recommends Sea Breeze Taxi and Tours; other companies have been known to overcharge tourists. Conch Cab is another popular taxi service that can be booked via app, similar to Uber, but it only operates on Providenciales.
Car service: Private transportation is available from companies such as Fast Track TCI, and can be more comfortable, reliable, and affordable than taxis, especially with larger groups.Car rental: Renting a car or scooter is recommended. Just remember that motorists drive on the left, there are no stop lights anywhere in the country (roundabouts are used instead), and the speed limit is 40 MPH on highways and 20 MPH through settlements.
Things to Do
Neighborhoods to Know
The different areas of Turks and Caicos are broken up across the archipelago with 40 different islands and cays, but only eight are the main inhabited islands. They're separated into two island groups: the Turks Islands (Grand Turk and Salt Cay) to the east of the Turks Island Passage and the Caicos Islands (South Caicos, Middle Caicos, North Caicos, Providenciales, Pine Cay, and Parrot Cay) to the west.
Providenciales: Locally known as "Provo," 38-square-mile Providenciales is the most developed and populated of the islands and is the hub of tourism and hotels. It's home to Grace Bay Beach, often referred to as "the world's best beach," and Providenciales International Airport (PLS). Grace Bay is one of the most central and commercialized areas of the islands.
North Caicos: Half of the "twin islands" of North and Middle Caicos (connected to Middle Caicos by a causeway, so the two pretty much function as one), North Caicos is the second-largest island. It's a 30-minute ferry ride from Providenciales, making it popular for day trips. The only hotel on North Caicos is the family-owned boutique Pelican Beach Hotel.
Middle Caicos: Middle Caicos makes up the other half of the "twin islands" and is the largest island in Turks and Caicos, but is sparsely populated, with only about 275 residents. Visitors go to Middle Caicos to check out Indian Cave and Conch Bar Cave. Dragon Cay Resort, which has five Caribbean-style cottages, three villas, and an onsite restaurant overlooking the Mudjin Harbor, is the only resort-style accommodation option on Middle Caicos.
South Caicos: Located a 90-minute ferry ride or 20-minute flight from Providenciales, South Caicos is 18 square miles and beloved for its great fishing, birdwatching, snorkeling, and scuba diving. There are some luxury accommodations available on South Caicos and it is one of the less commercialized islands, with lots of untouched land and wildlife.
Grand Turk: Grand Turk is home to the capital of Turks and Caicos, Cockburn Town, and is the second most populous island in the chain. Visitors love Grand Turk for its heritage, culture, and rustic charm as well as its diving. Founded by settlers in the late 1600s, Cockburn Town was the historic center of the island, though now most of the government and commerce activities take place in Providenciales.
Salt Cay: For a rugged experience off the beaten path, Salt Cay is the answer: there are no paved roads and only 80 residents call this tiny island home (it clocks in at just under three square miles). People get around via golf cart and there are remnants of the island's salt-industry past all over. It's also the best place for whale watching in the Turks and Caicos islands.
Pine Cay: Pine Cay is a tiny 800-acre island between North Caicos and Providenciales. Like Salt Cay, there are no cars on Pine Cay. It's home to two miles of untouched beaches, a few private homes, and The Meridian Club, a luxury private island resort with just 13 rooms.
Parrot Cay: Parrot Cay is a private island resort, home to COMO Parrot Cay, and spans 1,000 acres with more than four miles of beach. Visitors get there via a 25-minute boat ride from Providenciales.
Ambergris Cay: Also known as Big Ambergris Cay, Ambergris Cay (not to be confused with Ambergris Caye in Belize) is an all-inclusive luxury resort with more than three miles of pristine beaches. It has been a private island since 1811; roundtrip private flights from Providenciales are included for every guest.
The weather in Turks and Caicos is generally hot and dry, with 350 days of sunshine in an average year. Summers are hot and the waters are at their warmest, while November through May is a bit more mild, though there's not a huge distinction between seasons in Turks and Caicos. Hurricanes are possible between June and November during the Atlantic hurricane season, but rarely hit Turks and Caicos.
The following are average Fahrenheit lows and highs by month. Average annual precipitation is 33 inches, with most rain occurring between April and July.
January 72 - 79
February 72 - 80
March 73 - 81
April 74 - 84
May 78 - 86
June 80 - 87
July 80 - 87
August 80 - 88
September 79 - 87
October 77 - 84
November 74 - 82
December 74 - 81