Photo: Amanyara / Courtesy of Aman Resorts
Canadians love the Turks and Caicos Islands – so much, in fact, that Canada once considered annexing this jade-water-and-white-sand paradise. Only 1,000 kilometres southeast of Miami, it’s also one of the most convenient island destinations to reach. Here’s a primer for your first – or repeat – visit to the islands’ main attraction: Providenciales island (a.k.a. Provo).
Where to Stay
Photo: Gansevoort Turks + Caicos
Gansevoort Turks and Caicos
Owned by Canadian Rob Ayer, this design-conscious 91-room hotel has four killer rooftop penthouses with outdoor hot tubs. Bagatelle restaurant and bar is the place to be on Friday nights, with a DJed dance party. Your chill-out plan should include a massage at Exhale spa, which offers daily Core Fusion classes that attract the fittest bodies on the island and a long bath in your suite’s dramatic free-standing, ceiling-waterfall tub.
With 138 metres of beachfront on the quiet south end of Grace Bay, this resort has condo-style suites: an ideal home base for families. Stock your granite-and-stainless kitchen at nearby Graceway Gourmet (don’t forget the Turks Head microbrew). The hotel’s aquatic centre is the only one on the island to offer Snuba (diving with your tank floating on the water’s surface).
On the north coast of Providenciales, Aman Resorts’ secluded outpost adjoins a protected land preserve. Its clusters of hardwood pavilions, reflecting pools and palapa huts evoke the Far East, a theme that continues in the Asian-inflected cuisine at its restaurant. Your room is a free-standing pavilion with sliding glass doors that open to a private deck and daybeds; some rooms come with beach access, private pools and outdoor showers.
Where to Eat and Drink
Photo: Martin A. Lingnau (www.PenguinOne.com)
Da Conch Shack & RumBar
A short drive from Grace Bay is where you’ll find the only true beach bar on Provo. Dig your toes into the soft white sand under your picnic table, share a pitcher of ruby rum punch and order plates of steaming-hot conch fritters, fish tacos, rice and peas, jerk chicken or Caribbean lobster.
Magnolia Restaurant & Wine Bar
Enjoy a sunset view on the hilltop patio of Magnolia, perched over Turtle Bay marina and Blue Hills beach. Famous for its sesame-crusted tuna with tangy soy-ginger sauce, the restaurant also features tiger shrimp in tomato-and-coconut salsa.
Anacaona at the Grace Bay Club
With a chef from the Bellagio in Las Vegas, it’s no surprise to find artfully stacked protein towers, microgreens and rich, layered flavours, not to mention the best wine pairings on the island.
What to Do
Photo: Lisa Zdenek
If you’re on the islands during new-moon phase, Ocean Outback will take you on a spectacular after-dark expedition on Provo’s leeward side as Odontosyllis enopla (glow-worms) perform a luminescent mating dance in the waters.
Birders flock to the Turks and Caicos to spot many varieties of herons, as well as rare species, like the Cuban crow, Caribbean flamingo, Greater Antillean bullfinch and thick-billed vireo.
Sapodillas Bay beach, on the opposite side of the island from Grace Bay, is worth the drive for what many locals consider the best sunset view (along with very shallow, kid-friendly waters).
Where to Shop
On the second Saturday of every month, in front of Graceway Gourmet, local crafters and artists gather to offer handwoven grass baskets and hats, adorable cloth dolls, paintings, and pretty jewellery made from vintage beach glass. It’s also a good place to pick up conch shells.
If you’ve got access to a grill, drive out to Five Cays, and buy fresh-off-the-boat fish or conch at Provo Seafood.