With crystal clear, turquoise waters, and 230 miles of powdery-white sand shoreline, many people flock to the Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI) to enjoy the beaches. The archipelago’s 40 islands and cays offer some of the some of the most secluded and unspoiled shorelines in the Caribbean. Add to that year-round temperatures in the 80s, warm Gulf breezes, a chaise lounge and perhaps a tropical drink, you may find yourself so totally relaxed you literally can’t get up. You may have no desire to leave your place on the beach….and that’s okay.
But for those of you who like seeing and doing, and perhaps some action and excitement, in addition to R&R, TCI offers a wide range of activities to help you fill your time. Here are some suggestions:
A combination of surfing, wakeboarding and paragliding, kiteboarding (or kitesurfing) is one of the fastest growing “extreme” water sports, and a sure adrenaline rush. Kiteboarders use a large steerable kite to harness the power of the wind to propel themselves across the water on a kite board. TCI’s shallow, sandy shores, and calm, flat waters, combined with year-round tradewinds, are ideal for kiteboarding.
There are several outfitters in TCI (most of them in the island of Providenciales) where you can rent the equipment—boards, harnesses and bars—for kiteboarding. If you’ve never kiteboarded before, most of these outfitters also offer instructional sessions, along with “back country” guided safaris through the mangrove channels, cays and reefs. Expect to pay around $400 per person for a 2 to 3 hour lesson or tour.
STAND UP PADDLEBOARDING
If kiteboarding is too extreme of a sport for you, consider stand up paddleboarding (SUP). Basically a cross between surfing and canoeing, SUP is an easy sport that almost anyone can do. Participants stand on a surf-style board while paddling through the water, providing unique views of everything from sea creatures to what’s on the horizon.
Many of the outfitters that offer lessons and rent equipment for kiteboarding also do for SUP. The waterway tours are designed for different levels, from beginning to advanced paddle boarders, and last anywhere from 90 minutes to 4 hours. For beginners, the tours start with paddling instruction, before heading out to the mangrove channels. It’s a great way to see the colorful local birds, plus turtles, baby sharks and other marine life, without disrupting the natural habitats. Of course, you don’t have to go on an organized tour. If prefer to do your own thing, you can rent SUP gear at many of the resorts along the beaches.
Another way to explore the islands’ reefs and mangrove habitats is on a kayak. If you would like to go with a guide, several outfitters offer ecological kayaking expeditions, lasting anywhere from 3 or 4 hours to a full day or overnight. The guides offer instruction on kayaking, as well as information about local habitats, providing an excellent introduction to TCI’s ecology and geography. For more experienced, independent kayakers, you may want to just rent kayaks from a local resort or water sports rental outfitter and do your own customized, personal adventure.
DIVING AND SNORKELING
There’s a lot to explore underwater too. TCI is surrounded by one of the most extensive corral reef systems in the world, making it a premier destination for diving and snorkeling. The clear, relatively shallow waters give divers and snorkelers excellent visibility. The marine life is abundant, and you are very likely to see turtles, rays, dolphins and colorful tropical fish, cruising through a reef system full of corals, sea anemones, sea cucumbers and sponges.
Dive operators offer a variety of diving tours and snorkeling charters, for novice snorkelers to experienced, certified divers. If you are new to diving, outfitters offer enough basic training in just a 1 to 2 hour lesson to take you on a half-day or afternoon tour.
There are many excellent diving and snorkeling destinations to go to. Some of them can be reached in just a 10 minute boat trip from shore; others are a half hour or longer excursion away. Caicos Cay, West Caicos and French Cay are some of TCI’s best snorkeling and diving spots.
If you just want to stay on the beach and snorkel, you can do that too. Try Smith’s Reef and Bight Reef, both in Grace Bay; Three Mary Cay on North Caicos, just a short walk or swim from the beach at Sandy Point; and the Turtle Cove area on Providenciales. Snorkeling equipment can be rented from dive shops and water sports outfitters.
There are dozens of fishing trip operators on TCI, offering some of the best fly, bone and deep-sea fishing adventures in the Caribbean. You can sign up for a group or private charter, full or half day or evening fishing trip, and a guided or self-guided adventure. Fish for everything from Blue Marlin, tuna and groupers, to Mahi Mahi, King Fish and Sailfish. Fishing is a great way to relax and enjoy the peaceful, serene waters around TCI.
Enjoy world class golfing on the 18-hole championship course at the Provo Golf Club, considered one of the best in the Caribbean. Located in the Grace Bay area of Providenciales, the Provo Golf Club is a luxurious tropical oasis, set among the natural flora and fauna of the island. The island’s near-perfect weather makes it easy for golfers to spend the day outside mastering the lush course.
If you like sightseeing, there are also a lot of natural and historical visits worth seeing on the islands. One of the top sites is the Grand Turk Lighthouse, which was built on the northern coast of Grand Turk in 1852 and still used today to guide ships sailing toward Grand Turk. Visitors can tour the lighthouse and learn about its history.
Also on Grand Turk, you can visit the Turks & Caicos National Museum, which has exhibits on the island’s culture, history and natural environment. Two exhibits not to be missed are the remnants of the Molasses Reef Wreck, the oldest European shipwreck discovered in the Western Hemisphere, and a collection of messages in bottles that have washed ashore from all over the world.
One other historical site worth seeing is the 200-year-old ruins of Cheshire Hall estate, a former cotton plantation located on Providenciales. Tour guides take visitors around the grounds, offering a glimpse of early 19th century plantation living.
For ecologically-minded tourists, you can tour the large network of underground caverns that are part of Conch Bar Caves National Park, or the Rock Iguana Preserve on Little Water Cay, which is home to around 50,000 endangered Turks and Caicos rock iguanas. Or, go on a whale watching tour. Between early January and late April, Humpback whales pass through the waters off Turks and Caicos. Several operators offer whale watching tours from Salt Cay and Grand Turk Island during this season.
You may also want to visit the Caicos Conch Farm, located on the northern tip of Providenciales. It is the only commercial conch farm in the world. Here, visitors can see how the conches are raised, watch trained conches perform, and buy conch meat for consumption.
If activities are what you want, there is plenty in TCI to keep you busy. And the best part is after an afternoon or day filled with hiking, diving, fishing, boating, paddleboarding and touring, you can go back to your chaise lounge on the beach for some much needed R&R. Have fun! For more information please visit http://www.remax-realestategroup-tci.com