My girlfriend and I have been lurking on this forum for the past several weeks using it to help us plan our trip to TCI so I wanted to share a detailed (maybe a bit too detailed…sorry!) trip report and thank everyone here for the wonderful information.
This was a pretty brief trip for us: 7/31 – 8/4. Typically we like to do 4-5 day trips so that we can have more of them and see more of the world! The trip down was easy and we had no issues. After reading the other posts here we decided that, without question, we should rent a car for our entire trip. We weren't planning on doing any excursions this time, we wanted to explore entirely on our own so we knew we needed a car to have maximum flexibility.
We rented with Hertz/Mystique. There aren’t a lot of positive reports about them here but I have to say, we had no problems at all. We met the representative outside of the terminal, the shuttle van took us to their location which was very close by and we wrapped up the paperwork pretty quickly. The car itself was fairly new and in good condition. The representative gave us a map and was kind enough to provide us with detailed directions to the Graceway IGA where we wanted to pick up a few things and we were on our way. The total cost even ended up being a few dollars less than our quote so overall it was a very positive experience. I wouldn't say that they were particularly amazing but certainly not as bad as we feared they might be.
A quick word about driving: Obviously if you don’t drive on the left-hand side of the road on a regular basis it takes a few minutes to get comfortable with it but, overall, the driving in TCI is pretty much a breeze. Certainly I saw far more “crazy” drivers in Barbados than I did in TCI (and way, way more crazy drivers in NYC!) The roundabouts aren’t bad at all either so don’t let them scare you. Also, it's pretty hard to get lost on Provo and since we like to explore ourselves we didn’t mind if we got turned around a bit here or there. It's all part of the adventure!
Knowing that restaurants would be expensive we came prepared. We brought oatmeal, fiber bars and coffee from home for breakfast but we picked up some water, cream for our coffee and Turks Head beer at the IGA which is very well stocked. The prices are high, there’s no question, but many of the items that we saw were certainly not any more expensive than what we’d find in Manhattan so don't let that scare you too much either.
We booked (through JetBlue) a studio, garden view room at the Royal West Indies and we couldn’t have been more pleased with what we got for the price. If you’re looking for a lot of things to do and a lot of watersports options at your resort than the RWI might not be for you—it’s relatively simple: two pools, a bar/restaurant and beach access to Grace Bay (I think there might be a spa as well but I’m not sure.) The rooms don’t have a ton of amenities either but it was clean, very comfortable and well-presented and the grounds are really nice. Our room had a microwave and full sized refrigerator as well as a washer and dryer. I think other rooms have a full sized kitchen. There’s one “quiet pool” and a “regular” pool and neither one of them seemed to get too crowded while we were there. I’m sure during the high season it’s busier but there were definitely a lot of people at the resort, they were either at the beach, off on excursions, or somewhere else so there weren’t a lot of crowds which was very nice. Often times when we went to the pool we were the only ones there and that was something we really appreciated.
We didn’t eat at the restaurant (Pelican Bay) but we did go to happy hour a couple of times and the service and drinks were good. The restaurant seemed a bit expensive and we had other options that we wanted to check out every night.
The hype is true: Grace Bay beach is amazing. It is beautiful, calm and not too crowded. And every time that we were there—morning and afternoon—we had no trouble finding beach loungers and umbrellas.
Our first night we went to the Tiki Hut for their chicken and ribs special. It was a bit crowded but they were able to accommodate us and the service was good.
The next morning we had actually booked a trip to Grand Turk so we headed to the airport. We flew on Air Turks and Caicos. It was the easiest trip you could hope for at an airport: simple, quick check-in, quick security check, board and we were on our way. Twenty minutes (and some amazing scenery) later, we landed and were on our way.
Since both of us walk a lot on a regular basis—we tend to walk almost anywhere in New York if we can—so we decided to see if we could just walk around Grand Turk and not take taxis. It actually worked out really great for us. We left the airport and walked to Governor’s Beach were we spent some time. It was beautiful and completely secluded and empty. At first it almost seemed a bit off-putting to see nobody around but soon we got used to it and really enjoyed it. A cruise ship was coming in later in the day so we knew the seclusion would end soon enough. We walked north along the beach for a while, dipping into the surf and just enjoying the peacefulness and amazing scenery. We eventually made our way to the road and walked the rest of the way to Cockburn Town. We had brought snacks with us and we bought some water and drinks in town. We wondered around Cockburn Town for a bit. It has a truly historic feel to it which is one of the reasons why we wanted to see Grand Turk. The town is tiny (As you’d expect) but it’s unique. We went to go to the National Museum but it wasn’t open yet. We called and found out that it wasn’t going to open until 1pm. If you plan on visiting the museum definitely call ahead to make sure it’s open. I think if there isn’t a cruise ship that day they often don’t open at all.
We walked south back through town and past some really nice historic homes along Duke Street to the beach in front of the Sand Bar which is really nice. We splashed around a bit and played with the fish at our feet and hung out on the beach until lunch when we went to the Sand Bar which was a great place to grab a bite and an absolutely beautiful setting. After we finished we went to the museum which is well worth the $5 admission price. After the museum we noticed the cruise ship passengers around town so we decided to get some exercise and take a walk to the ship terminal at the southern tip of the island. This is about a 3.5 to 4 mile walk so it might not be ideal for everyone but it was a pretty easy walk on the sidewalk and along the road with very little traffic. It worked out really well for us.
The ship terminal is basically what you’d expect: a piece of America in Grand Turk, chock full of people. Still, it was worth seeing as we had never seen one of these ship terminals before. They actually had a pretty interesting exhibit on the US space program and a lot of shops and things. We rested on the beach for a bit at the terminal and then headed back out of the terminal back to the airport. It’s a pretty short walk from there and we saw a lot of interesting things along the way, including two bulls grazing by themselves along the side of the road (one was actually just outside the airport! Didn't see any donkeys thought!) Easy check-in, easy flight back to Provo. When do you ever get a chance to walk to the airport in your still-damp bathing suit and board a plane?
After arriving back in Provo we headed directly to the fish fry at Bight Park. For those of you who might be worried about the “bad areas” of Provo we’ve got a funny story. We got a bit turned around on our way to the fish fry and ended up in “Little Kingston” where a very large group of young men was gathered. Far from threatening, they couldn’t have been more courteous to us and happily gave us directions to the fish fry while reminding us that, if we just happen to be in the market for any drugs, we could find them there! We were on our way and made it to the fish fry which was completely packed by the time we got there. Go early if you can. We parked on the sidewalk along with lots and lots of other cars. We had some fish and jerk chicken from Hole in the Wall which was good, although the fish was very boney. The place was really happening with lots of tourists and locals. It was great to see a mix of both. Yes, the music is loud and yes, it’s very crowded and it’s hard to find anywhere to sit, but it’s definitely worth a visit. The entertainment is fun and the food and setting are nice.
The next morning we got up early to take the 6:30am ferry to North Caicos. Very easy trip. We arranged a car rental for the day with Pelican and Susan met us at the dock in North Caicos after we arrived. Our plan was to explore North and Middle Caicos for the day and take an afternoon ferry back to Provo. The car was pretty beat up but it ran fine and had a full tank of gas. It was a really easy process, fill out a form, pay cash (Susan quoted $75 for the day but ended up only charging us $65). We decided to head immediately across the causeway to Middle Caicos first since we wanted to hike the Crossing Trail for a few hours in the morning. We parked at Daniels and as soon as we got out of the car were completely assaulted by mosquitoes. It cannot possibly be overstate how aggressive and terrible they were. We had bug spray, we wore long pants. None of it mattered. They were absolutely relentless. The problem is apparently pretty bad this year and there wasn’t enough of a breeze that day to keep them at bay. We walked along the trail for maybe thirty minutes (meeting a lot of crabs along the way!) before we simply couldn’t take it any longer and had to turn back. We’re pretty hearty people and we just couldn’t take it so definitely be warned if you go to Middle.
We ended up driving to Bambarra beach and then on to Mudjin Harbor. Being on the beach (since there was a nice breeze on the beach) offered a respite from the mosquitoes so we spent some time there and went into the water. The surf is powerful at Mudjin Harbor so you have to be careful but it truly is breathtaking. There were only a couple of other people around so we had it mostly to ourselves. After some time there we went to the Indian caves and got attacked by mosquitoes again. Every time we got out of the car to explore a beach or take in a site we were attacked and it became too much to bear. After getting back in the car at least a dozen or so bugs would get in with us and we'd have to deal with them. In some cases we literally ran to escape the mosquitos! It really took away from the trip. One interesting note: We ended up at the ruins of the Prospect of Whitby Hotel on North Caicos which was a truly eerie but kind of a cool sight: how often do you get to see a completely abandon and rotting old resort in the middle of nowhere? It’s worth checking out. Also at one deserted beach in North Caicos (I think it might have been Hollywood beach but I’m not sure) we saw several barracuda swimming right up to the shore. For people who like to explore like we do it was worth at least seeing but, in the end, given the terrible mosquitoes, the trip probably wasn’t ideal. Had we been able to fully hike the Crossing Trail like we had planned it probably would have been great. It’s hard not to be struck by the complete absence of people, especially on Middle Caicos.
That night, back in Provo, we tried to go to Mr. Grouper for dinner but it was too crowded, they couldn’t seat us, so we had to go to Plan B which ended up being pizza at Pizza Pizza in Grace Bay—not a terrible option. On Saturday we spent the morning on the beach at Grace Bay as well as at the pool at RWI, then we set out to explore Taylor Bay, Chalk Sound and Sapadilla Bay. All were amazing and not to be missed. Taylor Bay in particular is so beautiful and unique: you can wade in for what seems like a mile and still only be in knee-deep water. We stopped at Da Conch Shack for lunch which was a beautiful setting and had great food. The afternoon we spent more time lazing around the beach and pool. We also spent some time in Grace Bay to see the shops, etc. and in the evening we went to Mr. Grouper. So glad we made the second attempt because the food was awesome and the service was great. It was the culinary highlight of the trip.
Our final day (Sunday) was spent on the beach and by the pool before we headed to drop off our car and go to the airport. Maybe Sunday is better at the airport but our security experience was quick and easy. The airport clearly isn’t equipped to handle many flights at once but the upstairs is a nice escape from the crowds. Also, we grabbed a bite at Gillies which wasn’t bad.
Bottom line: For us it was a nice mix of personal exploration and relaxing beach/pool time. It’s hard not to be completely mesmerized by the turquoise waters and white sandy beaches. While TCI is expensive, it was as bad as we expected and we found pretty good ways around it by bringing our own food for breakfast and trying to eat at more modest (yet highly recommended) restaurants. Also, even if you don't snorkel there's plenty of sea life to see right off the shore. It's pretty unbelievable!
Let me know if you have any questions and thanks again for all of your suggestions in this forum!Edited: 05 August 2013, 18:06