If you’re looking to vacation in the Turks and Caicos Islands, particularly on Provo, the most populated island in the chain, here is my “thumbs up and thumbs down” along with a few tips and tricks to consider.

Thumbs Up:

Grace Bay – Picture the most amazing Caribbean travel magazine ad and you’ve got Grace Bay: powder white sand and crystal clear turquoise water that’s bathtub warm. This is where most of the resorts are located.
Chalk Sound Pontoon Cruise – book it at Las Brisas restaurant located at the Neptune Villas on the south side of Providenciales and spend a couple of hours with Captain Lorenzo and Master Diver Duarte on an informative and leisurely cruise around the shallow waters (ranging from approx 1 to 12 feet) of Chalk Sound National Park.
You’ll snorkel at a small reef, swim around a sunken airplane, visit a small island inhabited by iguanas and hover over the blue hole, a bottomless phenomenon. $50 for a 2 hour tour.
Caicos Dream Tours an outstanding water excursion company that goes out of their way to give you an amazing experience (price ranges depending on what you want). Three thumbs up for these guys – read my blogpost on them here.

Conch Farm (Provo) – you’re gonna eat a lot of it so why not educate yourself first? Take a guided tour and learn how conchs are raised from egg stage to adulthood in this sea farm located near the TCI Ferry terminal. $10 per person for a 20 minute tour.

Undersea Explorer – if you have anyone who wants to witness reef life without getting wet, this is a great option. $50/person for a 1 hour tour.

The people – any place where the people use “yah mon!” as a standard reply is a good place to be. We were always met by gracious people with a can-do attitude and a willingness to please.

Grace Bay Car Rentals – efficient staff who met us at the airport with a vehicle; easy drop-off and pick-up arrangements. Try and get a 4×4; the roads are “interesting” in spots.

Da Conch Shack – best conch on the island, without a doubt.

TCI Ferry – $30/per person round trip to the North Caicos Island terminal.

From there you can rent a car and go exploring North and Middle Caicos for the day. We didn’t have time to do all the things we could’ve done, but below are some notes on places we visited and would recommend:

Dragon Cay at Mudjin Harbour

Daniel’s Café at Conch Bar on Middle Caicos – great tasting conch ($20/plate) and Daniel is an absolute hoot.

Bambarra Beach – no facilities, remote location on Middle Caicos. Paradise

Thumbs Down (but manageable if you’re informed and prepared):
Mosquitoes and sand flies (aka “no seeums”) – take bug spray (or me, as I seem to attract them leaving the rest of my party to enjoy themselves bug-free.)

Dehydration and heatstroke – it’ll getcha good. We received sage advice from an islander who said, “There’s lots of sun here; don’t try and get it all in one day.” Too bad he told us one day too late. Drink tons of water, and no, beer doesn’t count as water. Take more sunscreen than you think you’ll need. You’ll pay double for it here. And always take Immodium. Doesn’t matter where you travel, always take Immodium.

Shopping – There are a handful of upscale stores but for the most part, Provo’s shopping consists of small shops loaded with typical tacky souvenirs and rayon clothing made in places far, far away. TCI should not be considered a shopping destination. (Some people might think this should be moved to the “thumbs up” section of this post.) I spent $140 in 10 days. I can drop that on a pair of shoes at home in less than ten minutes.

Higg’s Café (next to North Caicos Ferry Terminal) – Don’t bother; there are better places to eat elsewhere. We were desperate.

The much ballyhooed Tikki Hut – (I didnt even bother with a picture). Big bucks, no whammies, and lousy service. $100 for 4 people (3 were kids) for lunch.

The Airport – arriving is no problem, but departing is another story. We were advised by our flight crew to arrive 2 to 3 hours early because of lineups and slow check-ins. Our hotel recommended we get there 1.5 hours before departure. We should’ve listened to the flight crew. Below is a picture of when the crowds had thinned out a bit.

Taxi rates – from our hotel to the ferry (about a 10 minute ride) cost $40. They charge by the person.

Crime – some say it’s on the rise. We found out that two armed robberies occured only a day after we were in the very locations (Taylor Bay and Jai’s Duty Free Shop).

Our car rental guy gave us some tips on crime prevention:
1) Don’t leave anything in your car. As in nothing.
2) Leave the doors unlocked. If the idiots are intent on breaking in, they’re going to break in. Save yourself the hassle of dealing with shards of glass everywhere.
3) Stay away from remote areas and beaches such as Malcom’s Road, Northwest Point and now, thanks to these thugs, Taylor Bay and nearby Sapodilla Bay
4) If you do venture into remote areas, always, always carry a cell phone.