Vacation trip to Providenciales, Turks & Caicos Islands,
British West Indies
by Chuck Kruger, February 1997
Linda, Casey, and I left Boston via GWV charter on a Sun
Country Airlines B727-200, arriving at Provo late on a Saturday
Island: basically flat like most of the Bahamas (which are
30 miles to the north), covered with scrub vegetation, coconut
palms, and cactus, and surrounded by pristine white beaches.
It is still in a relatively undiscovered state by virtue of
the fact that there are no direct scheduled flights there,
and no major marketing to vacationers. It is well-along insofar
as the planned developments go -- we saw countless lots laid
out and served with utilities and awaiting million$-plus homes
to be built. I noted an unusual number of abandoned projects,
suggesting that the government, the island building contractors,
or both have some nasty surprises in the post-investment stage.
At any rate, there are some magnificent views, thanks to the
proximity of neighboring islands and the shape of the archipelago.
The Resort: We stayed at the Turquoise Reef Resort (809-946-5555),
the largest resort hotel on the island with 210 rooms. Built
by Ramada in 1990 and currently in receivership, it is a perfectly
acceptable property. A great pool, 12 miles of uncrowded beach,
3 restaurants, complete array of watersport activities, etc.
which you can book from either the dive shack (which will
rent everything from boogie boards and snorkel/dive gear to
windsurfers and outboards, plus still and video camera equipment)
or a desk in the lobby. The guest rooms are modest but clean
and well-maintained (the entire resort has been recently painted),
most featuring 2 double beds, air conditioning, phone, cable
TV, bath with shower, and small balcony. Our quiet 3rd-floor
room had a great view of Grace Bay. The food was good but
not quite great; a copious breakfast buffet cost $12.00 (half-price
for Casey who might have been a year younger in island years).
The service was typical of the islands: eventually you get
pretty much what you requested. Those who get huffy about
service in the Caribbean need to adjust their expectations.
Also at the Turquoise Reef is the Island's only Casino, which
is not a whole lot bigger than my office. I never saw it crowded,
though we never went in, satisfying our need to throw money
away by blowing about $7.50 in one of the four slot machines
located in the hotel lobby. I would return to this resort,
though if I had a few grand more I wanted to spend, I might
choose the Ocean Club, or one of the new Grace Bay properties
just now under construction that look to be pretty high-end.
I recommend taking several snorkeling trips with tours of
the many miles of empty beaches. We enjoyed our trips on 24'
open fg boat/ big outboard engines through J&B Tours.
The reefs here are a bit like those I remember in Virgin Islands
in the late 70's: dying but not dead. There are many good
spots for snorkelers, some (such as Smith's Reef in Grace
Bay) where you can walk down the beach and get pretty good
reef without using (or paying for) a boat. A "don't miss"
is Little Water Cay, a marine sanctuary where, upon beach
landing, you'll be greeted by 3' long friendly Iguanas who
approach you, begging for food like dogs. A bit like a dry-land
StingRay City off Grand Cayman. We took a day-long sail aboard
65' ketch Caicos Sol to French Cay, 13 miles away. This day
there were 25-knot winds which made for exhilarating sailing,
some fairly good rollers, many queasy stomachs, and a few
white-skinned touroids heaving over the rail. The Cay was
absolutely devoid of human presence except us, and a 10 year-old
shipwreck on the beach that hosts an Osprey nest. The Cay
is also a breeding ground for several species of birds, and
is a popular stop-off on the migratory route for some kind
of pure white tern whose name I missed. At the east end of
the island is a graveyard for conch shells that literally
cover the beach like a carpet for several hundred square feet.
Speaking of feet, those water shoes that sell for $6.00 at
Wal-Mart are absolutely great footwear for these islands.
Fashionable, practical, and cheap - don't leave home without
them, because they'll cost you $25.00 bucks when you get to
Kids: Casey made pals among a small group of other kids in
his age range at the resort. Especially popular was pool volleyball.
Nothing much else for teens (is there anywhere?) but Casey
had a great trip and we had some good times together that
our home schedules wouldn't have allowed. There are organized
activities for little kids that looked great, but I didn't
join in despite the cool pirate hats.
In all, three of us got round-trip direct charter flights
from Boston, plus 6 nights at the resort, for about $2600.00.
That's pretty reasonable, especially factoring in the low-stress
travel. I would recommend this destination to anyone seeking
relaxation and good swimming on a great beach over nightlife
and hot action. Bring a couple of good books.