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Trip report - Turks & Caicos and Harbour Island, Bahamas

Maryland
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Trip report - Turks & Caicos and Harbour Island, Bahamas

Introduction

Several months ago, I was lamenting that it had been almost three years since my last trip to Provo, and while I desperately wanted to get back to one of my favorite places in the world, I also really wanted to visit Harbour Island, one of the Bahamas out islands. I like the weather in Provo in late April/early May, and May also seemed like an ideal time to visit Harbour Island. So, I decided that I would combine the two destinations into one trip.

I am posting my report on the Turks & Caicos (T&C) forum because 1) A lot of the information is about T&C, both Providenciales where I stayed and Middle and North Caicos (daytrip), 2) This forum feels like “home” on TripAdvisor to me, and 3) In discussions about other islands that T&C forum participants like to visit, the Out Islands, including Harbour Island, frequently are mentioned, so I thought some comparison of the two destinations might be of interest to some people who read the T&C forum.

In summary, since I tend to be long winded, I had a great trip and really enjoyed both Turks & Cacios and Harbour Island.. I foresee both being part of my future travel plans, and I think I would like to visit other places in the Out Islands. On my trip, I spent four nights in Provo, one in Miami, and three in Harbour Island. I’m female (40s) and travelled solo. This was my fourth trip to Provo and my first time to the Bahamas.

I’ll include separate posts focused on specific subjects as responses within this thread to provide a little more structure and make it easier for people to find or skip topics based on individual interests. The categories I will cover in future posts are:

• T&C Logistics and Travel

• T&C Accommodations

• T&C Dining

• T&C Activities

• T&C to Harbour Island and HI logistics

• Harbour Island Overview

• Comparisons between Provo and Harbour Island

massachusett
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1. Re: Trip report - Turks & Caicos and Harbour Island, Bahamas

Love your trip reports, and pictures right?

Would love to hear all about your trip. Something I have on my bucket list...the Bahama Out Islands

Maryland
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2. Re: Trip report - Turks & Caicos and Harbour Island, Bahamas

T&C Logistics and Travel

All my flights were on American Airlines, and everything went pretty smoothly. The flights between DC and Miami were both packed, and MIA/PLS segments were pretty full and ran a little late. MIA customs/immigration returning from PLS was unbelievably good (I know I never expected to say anything so positive about Miami airport, but there was NO line for customs, and I was travelling in coach).

PLS arrival and departure: My last trip to Provo was three years ago in May, with my return trip coinciding with the time that the government first started charging an additional $20/ticket tax that was supposed to be used to improve the airport. I was a little disappointed with the progress. Arrival was OK; customs/immigration was a little slow, but not too bad. I was travelling alone, but the taxi dispatcher directed me to a taxi with other guests going to nearby hotels (Sands, Villa del Mar, and RWI). I was fine with this since it reduced my taxi fare to $15 before tip. Unlike some of my previous experiences with taxis at PLS, the driver was friendly and personable. The taxi was labeled “Jennings Taxi” I think. I didn’t get the driver’s name since I did not plan to use taxis during my trip.

For my trip back to the US, I arrived at PLS a little bit more than two hours before my scheduled departure time. Avis staff quickly met me, and returning the car was painless. The security line was fairly long outside the door, and if people didn’t ask other passengers in line, it was not clear that you needed to go inside the terminal to check in with your airline before getting in this line. AA check-in was fast, and the security line moved pretty fast, which meant that I then had a lot of time to wait for my flight in the post-security area, which was packed until all the other flights besides my flight left. I did not visit the VIP lounge but did go up to the rooftop lounge. I had expected a little nicer environment than it was, and the access (stairs only?) might make it difficult for people with mobility issues and/or those with larger/heavier carry on bags. In case (like me) you missed the sign, you do not want to take any pictures of planes, since photography is prohibited. I took a picture and got yelled at by a guard who then made me delete the picture I had just taken from my camera’s memory card.

Car rental and getting around Provo: I rented a car with Avis for part of my stay. I got one of the little cars people call “clown cars”. In past trips, I have rented cars from Grace Bay Car Rentals (GBCR). Both were good experiences, and I wouldn’t hesitate to rent from either company on a future trip. I prefer left hand side drive vehicles, which Avis has but GBCR does not, at least in smaller cars. Avis cars are much newer, but GBCR’s are larger for the same price. I didn’t have the rental car for the first two days of my stay, so after taking a taxi from the airport, I stayed within walking distance of my hotel (not difficult) those days. This worked out fine. .I did not worry about walking alone during the day, and I also walked back from Coco Bistro and Seven Stars after dark. I felt comfortable on Grace Bay Road in that area and the access road (labeled for Grace Bay Club and Ocean Club West) back to Villa del Mar. The primary reason I rented a car on this trip was to be able to drive to the marina for my trip to North/Middle Caicos. Another person on the boat indicated that his taxi from the Port of Calls area to the marina was $20. I also used the car to go to dinner at Bay Bistro and to drive back to the airport.

Maryland
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3. Re: Trip report - Turks & Caicos and Harbour Island, Bahamas

Quick note: I'm combining the T&C accommodations and dining parts since they are relatively short.

T&C Accommodations

I stayed at Villa del Mar in a studio unit on this trip. I have stayed at the Alexandra and Royal West Indies on previous trips. While I enjoyed each place, I found the quality and style of the Villa del Mar room to be the nicest. The studio was a good size, comfortable, and well decorated with nice room amenities. It looks exactly like the pictures I saw so I won’t go into details, but feel free to ask questions. My third floor unit even had a little bit of an ocean view. The room was extremely clean. Staff at the resort were friendly and helpful. The included continental breakfast by the pool was not fancy, but the chocolate croissants were excellent, and for someone like me who just wants a cup of coffee, glass of juice, and something light for breakfast, it was fine. The beach setup was great; I never had any problem getting an umbrella, chair or towels, and it was nice having a water cooler available on the beach to limit carrying multiple bottles of water with me to the beach. I was fine with the distance to the beach from my room, and I was staying in the farthest building.

T&C Dining

I only went out to dinner three times (Bay Bistro, Coco Bistro, and Flamingos) and had a drink at The Deck one evening when they had live music. All the restaurants I visited were really good. I’m not really a foodie and didn’t try a lot of items since I was travelling alone and am not a big eater. Bay Bistro is one of my favorite restaurants for its combination of good food, great setting with view of the beach/water), and nice staff. I had the coffee rubbed tuna appetizer (excellent and big portion) and conch crepe appetizer (pretty good) and glass of wine for dinner there. At Coco Bistro, I had a wahoo entrée with mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus that was very good and glass of wine. At Flamnigos, I had the curry grouper, with peas and rice and salad. I had leftovers from dinners at Coco Bistro and Flamingos that I ate for lunch/dinner other days. Before this trip, I was not a big fan of Coco Bistro. I went there on my first trip to Provo in 2007, but have not been back on other trips since then. I liked Coco Bistro much better this time. I’m not sure how long ago this occurred, but it is a big improvement in my opinion that Coco Bistro has become a non-smoking restaurant, because I have clear memories from my 2007 visit of being seated near a couple who were chain smoking. I did not go out for any lunches on this trip, and I only ate breakfast at the Villa del Mar, so this is a short dining report.

Milltown, New Jersey
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4. Re: Trip report - Turks & Caicos and Harbour Island, Bahamas

Beachdreams, I love this post and want to hear more on Harbour Island. I cannot wait to go back..We stayed at Coral Sands when we went a few years ago..Absolutely loved the golf carts that we used as our only means of transportation..I also love safety of the Island..

Here is a funny story..We were on Front street having a cocktail and someone mentioned that it was almost sunset time..We all jumped up took our drinks, left our credit cards on the bar and headed off in our golf carts to watch the sunset..It still makes me smile to think about it..

Halifax, Canada
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5. Re: Trip report - Turks & Caicos and Harbour Island, Bahamas

Beachdreams.....great report so far! I CAN'T WAIT to read the rest of it!

You did something that I have thought often of doing........combining TCI with the Bahamas.

Please post the rest soon!

Glad you had a wonderful time!

Maryland
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6. Re: Trip report - Turks & Caicos and Harbour Island, Bahamas

T&C Activities:

I’m a beach bum, so with the exception of my day trip to North and Middle Caicos, my days primarily were spent walking on the beach, sitting on my beach chair reading or staring at the beautiful water, and occasionally going into the water. I went to the gym one morning (Wrightfully Fit at the Salt Mills Plaza) since the Villa del Mar fitness room did not have any strength training equipment besides a few dumbbells/free weights. Wrightfully Fit was OK, but the room was pretty warm with somewhat older equipment, and oddly enough, no shoulder press machine. I did very little shopping on this trip but did visit a few of my favorite stores from previous visits (Art Provo, Anna’s Gallery, and Mamas) and checked out a few new places since my last trip I wanted to get conch shell (and/or larimar/coconut shell) earrings (which seemed like a great bargain at $8 – $12 per pair at the stores I mentioned), but the quality of the earring backing was so poor that I felt they would be useless and didn’t end up buying any.

My big activity on this trip was my daytrip to North and Middle Caicos (my first trip to these islands). I made reservations a few days in advance for the Caribbean Cruisin ferry (really a speedboat) and reserved a car on North Caicos from Pelican Car Rentals. I took the 9:30 am boat from Provo. It was drizzling as I drove to the Walkin marina and turned into a torrential downpour while waiting for the boat. Luckily, the weather improved before the boat left. It was a nice boat ride over to North Caicos, with other islands/cays to see on the way. Susan from Pelican Car Rentals met me at the North Caicos marina, and after completing some minimal paperwork, I was off in the older, compact right hand drive sedan I rented. My first intended stop was Bambarra Beach on Middle Caicos. I made a couple of wrong turns, and I stopped at the end of a street that I thought was leading to the beach to get my bearings. Unfortunately, the car would not start again. I started walking back towards the main road (having made the huge mistake of going on this daytrip without a cell phone) to see if I could find someone or somewhere to call Pelican. I was saved by the kindness of a stranger, who turned out to be Cardinal Arthur, the famous tour guide. He had a passenger with him, but he still drove back with me to the car and tried to see if he could figure out what was wrong with it and jump start it. After being unable to start the car, he called Pelican and explained where I was, which I never would have been able to do, and he checked back with me after making a stop at another location on Middle Caicos. Someone from Pelican arrived after about an hour and 15 minutes after the call and was able to clean the battery connections (I think) and start the car. I was apprehensive about driving the car after this experience and upset about losing about two hours of my day with this breakdown, but to her credit, Susan immediately offered not to charge me for the car rental. She also offered that I could switch to the van that the Pelican people drove out to me in, but I’ve always driven small/midsize cars, and have never driven a van, and didn’t want to drive one here (especially with the steering wheel and driving on the opposite side). I then followed the man who got the car started to the right road to get to Bambarra beach. I made a quick stop there (due to the lost time and also because I wanted to get to somewhere with a real bathroom (not a porta-potty) fairly soon). My next stop was Daniel’s Café and the Middle Caicos Co-op. That also was a pretty quick stop, since I didn’t feel like eating then. I just browsed in the shop, took a few pictures, and used the facilities. My next stop was Mudjin Harbour. This was my favorite beach and longest stop. Blue Horizon Resort and the Mudjin Bar and Grill both looked really cute. I liked the “island” beach I could walk out to through the water better than the “hidden” beach, but both were nice. I then continued back to Middle Caicos and made stops for gas and spent a little time at the Pelican Beach Hotel before heading back to catch the 5:30 pm boat back to Provo. I left plenty of time to allow for getting lost again and/or for car breakdowns. Also, a storm was threatening about 4:15 pm, so I wanted to make sure I was close to the marina in case the weather got bad. The boat was a little late leaving, and the trip back to Provo was choppier than the trip there. Although the day didn’t go exactly as I had planned, I’m glad I had the chance to visit Middle and North Caicos and am extremely thankful to Cardinal Arthur for his assistance.

Maryland
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7. Re: Trip report - Turks & Caicos and Harbour Island, Bahamas

Thanks, everyone for the positive reinforcement. I'm never sure when I write these long reports if I bore everyone to death :-)

Camke, I probably won't post pictures since my photography skills are so bad that they make the beautiful places I have been seem less beautiful

Jersey Girl, I stayed at the Coral Sands too and feel like I made a good choice with it.

Maca81, I hope to finish up my report and post the rest of the installations today or tomoorrow.

Maryland
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8. Re: Trip report - Turks & Caicos and Harbour Island, Bahamas

T&C to Harbour Island and HI logistics

I had considered flying on BahamasAir between PLS and North Eleuthera (ELH), which is the closest airport for trips to Harbour Island, but I ultimately decided to fly on American Airlines via Miami, since I felt more comfortable with my options with AA if something went wrong (AA has two flights a day between PLS and MIA, while BahamasAir only flies PLS to ELH via Nassau three times per week). I also chose to take the afternoon flight from PLS and stay overnight in MIA, although it would have been possible to do a same day trip between the two destinations if I took the early morning PLS to MIA flight.

I stayed overnight at the Miami Airport Sheraton, which was fine for a one night stay. The hotel was very close to the airport with a complimentary, frequent shuttle, decent and fairly priced hotel restaurant for a light dinner and an included breakfast buffet in my rate (I did eat a real breakfast here because it was available until later in the morning, and I was just hanging out at the hotel catching up on phone calls and internet transactions I did not want to do from outside the US), a nice fitness center, and an outdoor pool with a tiki bar. The negatives were 1) the hotel lobby was very busy/chaotic, and there often was a long wait for elevators (one of them was out of service), and 2) the room itself was not as nice as other Sheratons where I have stayed.

The flights between MIA and ELH are very short (about 35 minutes flying time) and are on smaller American Eagle jets. ELH is the smallest airport I have ever visited. There were less than 20 people on my flight to the Bahamas, so I was through customs at ELH and out of the airport quickly. Getting from ELH to HI involves a short taxi ride from ELH to the dock, a short water taxi ride between Eleuthera and Harbor Island, and a short taxi ride to my hotel, which was on the pink sand beach side of the island. As long as there are at least two people, the taxis on both ends and the water taxi are $5 per person, and the whole trip takes less than 30 minutes. In both directions, the taxis on Harbour Island charged me $5 for a solo trip, but the taxi drivers on Eluethera charge $10 for solo travelers, and the water taxis charge $15 for solo travelers. On my return trip to the airport, I had plenty of extra time (I left my hotel almost 2.5 hours before my flight departure time), so I waited a few minutes for other people to show up for the water taxi and taxi to the airport. The departure experience at ELH was pretty interesting. The "departures terminal” was literally one room with all the airline ticket counters, a snack bar counter, and a door outside to "security". There was no metal detector machine or baggage screening belt. After checking in with AA, I went outside with my checked bag to open it for a manual inspection. When they announced flight boarding (about an hour before the scheduled departure time), people lined up to clear security. Tthe “post-security area” was two rows of chairs outside under a small canopy. Airport personnel had passengers go out the door individually, and they wanded everyone with a handheld device and then hand-checked all carry on items. Then, we sat outside on the chairs next to the tarmac until we boarded the plane. The plane left about 10 - 15 minutes early, again with less than 20 people on the flight.

We arrived at MIA early, and customs, baggage recheck, and going through security again for my domestic connecting flight took about 45 minutes or a little longer. I had a long layover, so I used a day pass for the AA lounge to pass the time in a slightly nicer atmosphere with wifi.

Milltown, New Jersey
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9. Re: Trip report - Turks & Caicos and Harbour Island, Bahamas

I got so excited talking about our "sunset cocktail golf cart ride" I forgot to mention that after sunset everyone returned to their original seats at the bar, where there credit cards were still there..I wanna go back!!!!

Detroit, Michigan
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10. Re: Trip report - Turks & Caicos and Harbour Island, Bahamas

I have been told by a couple of members of this forum to pursue checking into Harbour Island. Now your mini-reports/stories are the potential cure to all the negative direction Turks & Caicos, especially Provo is currently heading. DR. JIM

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