Turks and Caicos (Nov 2021)

Grace Bay Beach

In November 2021, Scott and I headed to the Caribbean island of Turks and Caicos to join friends for one of our wedding celebrations. Turks and Caicos was a location my Umbrella Drunk girlfriends and I have been wanting to visit for awhile but haven’t made it to yet. A wedding celebration seemed like the perfect opportunity for us to go with our significant others.

We stayed at the Ocean Club Resort on Grace Bay Beach, which was beautiful. The rooms are nice (we had a 3-bedroom condo), it has great beach access, and two mediocre pools. One downside is that there is not much going on in or around the resort other than laying on the beach or playing in the pool. (We weren’t sure if this is normal or due to COVID, as many other resorts we’ve stayed at in the Caribbean have had programs, activities, etc.). But Scott and I spent the first two days with our friends enjoying both the beach and the pool (and definitely with drinks in hand). Ocean Club has one restaurant, which we weren’t a big fan of the food quality.

Ocean Club has a sister resort, Ocean Club West, which is a ways down the beach but has a free shuttle that runs between the two resorts. Scott and I wandered over there a few nights for dinner, which we really enjoyed. Their jerk chicken and the Rasta pasta was excellent. The pool there is also fabulous. It is shaped similar to a lazy river and is quiet and lit up in bright blue at night. One evening we had the entire pool to ourselves and we walked around the lazy river path with beverages while paying attention to the Arizona State University football game (Scott is a lifelong fan) and chatting.

After the first night exploring at Ocean Club West, we had a great walk back to Ocean Club via the beach.

Taxi fares on the island are pretty expensive – about $20 per person, no matter how many are in the taxi. We wanted to explore the island, so we rented a car for 2 days through Grace Bay Car Rentals. We called them about half-way through our trip and they were great at accommodating us-even going so far as to bring the rental car to our resort and checking us in there. In retrospect, given the high taxi rates, we should have gotten a car for the entire trip.

People drive on the left-hand side of the road (it is a British territory). But it is not difficult to make the switch and driving there is pretty easy (even with all the round-abouts). The main tourist roads are wide and well-maintained. The off-the-beaten-path roads are full of potholes and rough gravel. There were several roads we didn’t want to risk popping a tire. But we were still able to explore a bit of the island.

This seems like a very American-ized island and really lacks the Caribbean flare of other islands I/we have been to. We found the interior of the island pretty boring overall. We did find some fun spots though, including a lake where we saw a flamingo in the distance

Bugaloos Conch Shack was a fun stop for lunch.

We snorkeled at two places off the beach. The first place, was the Bight Reef (also known as Coral Gardens). The snorkeling here was okay. The reef isn’t very extensive and definitely appears to be affected by the rising sea temperatures due to climate change. They have what we called an “exclusion zone” where boaters and swimmers are prohibited from entering, presumably to protect the coral. It’s roped off with orange buoys and it’s not hard to miss. We snorkeled around the outside of the zone, and in addition to seeing some pretty fish, we saw several turtles and a large stingray.

The next day we snorkeled Smith’s Reef. This was such better snorkeling and I would recommend this place over Bight Reef. There was another “exclusion zone,” which is where we headed to snorkel. The coral here is so much better and so much healthier. Also, if you are on the beach facing the “exclusion zone,” at the 1:00-2:00 position from the “exclusion zone,” about 10-20 yards from away is a fantastic reef that is close to the surface. It has excellent snorkeling and I could have explored around here for awhile longer than we did.

Like many Caribbean islands, the airport is pretty small but easy to navigate. When we flew into Turks and Caicos, they held us on the plane for an hour because all of the planes seem to land at the same time and the airport is too small to accommodate everyone. Even once we were off the plane and inside waiting to show our COVID documents and go through immigration, it took about 2 hours to get through all of that. Don’t expect to quickly get off your plane and get to your resort. Flying out was much easier and faster. Security is easy and in addition to a few small gift shops, they have one bar/restaurant upstairs you can frequent while you wait.

Overall, we had a fun time with our friends. Turks and Caicos has pretty beaches but it’s probably not a place we’d ever return to. We much prefer the more Caribbean-like islands.

This was Traveler’s Century Club country #68 for Jen and #26 for Scott.