Know Before You Go

4 Things to Know Before Visiting Turks and Caicos

The Turks and Caicos Islands showcase the stuff dreams are made of – powdery white sand beaches, soft clear-blue waterscape, and blissful tranquility. An international gateway and tourism hub, these side-by-side islands are an easy, direct flight from many east coast cities in the U.S. and just two hours from Miami. Chic and luxurious TCI accommodations abound, with private villas and homestays, cottages, all-inclusive  Turks and Caicos  resorts, quaint hotels, and liveaboards as options.

The islands and cays of Turks and Caicos boast quiet uninhabited islets and deserted beaches, rich local heritage, excellent snorkeling, diving, and water sports, as well as seasonal whale watching. Nearby Providenciales (Provo as it’s commonly called) is home to its own array of beautiful beaches, including award-winning Grace Bay Beach … but these are all things you probably already know.

Here are four interesting fun facts that’d be good to know before you go on your Turks and Caicos vacation!

Don’t mistake these islands for the Caribbean — a common gaffe

Where are Turks and Caicos? Bet that the Turks and Caicos Islands are part of the Caribbean, and you’ll lose! The territory of Turks and Caicos includes eight main islands and many smaller islands and cays in the Lucayan Archipelago. It is located south of the Bahamas, and these islands are technically situated in the Atlantic Ocean, not the Caribbean. In 1917, it was proposed that Turks and Caicos join Canada, but this suggestion was rejected by the British Prime Minister at the time. Since then, the Turks and Caicos Islands almost became a Canadian territory on three different occasions, including more recently in 2014.

You can explore an underwater wonder and widest Blue Hole in the world

Turks and Caicos is home to the third largest barrier reef system in the world, so naturally, these islands host some of the world’s best dive sites. Search “best diving in Turks and Caicos” and you’re sure to find an abundance of calm-current, clear spots with vibrant marine life that are easy to get to. However, there is no diving op quite like a blue hole expedition. There are dozens of underwater cave systems here. A few systems such as Cottage Pond on North Caicos and The Boiling Hole on South Caicos are relatively known. But the Middle Caicos Ocean Hole — the largest of the many blue hole features in Turks and Caicos, and at nearly twice the diameter of the Great Blue Hole of Belize and three times the diameter of Dean’s Blue Hole in the Bahamas — is thought to be the widest blue hole in the world.

You can snorkel the edge of this world wonder. Or, if you’re up for the chance of discovering nothing but eerie darkness and hammerhead sharks, you can dive it. Although not much is known about the site, several expeditions have been made over the years and some divers have opted to take the dark, scary plunge in hopes of discovering an underwater formation or passageway. Getting to this natural wonder, however, is quite the feat and requires good timing. Explorers need the right tides, calm waters, and a small skiff due to the shallow waters around it. What lies beneath and whether there is an underwater passage remain a mystery.

Add a cuddly companion the whole family can enjoy

Grace Bay Beach, located on the northeast coast of the island of Providenciales, has it all. Grace Bay is considered the hallmark of the Turks and Caicos Islands offering up a clean turquoise waterscape, soft white sand, and no rocks, seaweed, or pollution. This area also has a bustling resort town, a lively boating scene, and extensive barrier reef that protects the Bay from the ocean swells of the Atlantic. Even with all this beauty and opulence, nothing makes this locale more sought-after if you’re a pet lover. The untold secret of this place? You can take shelter dogs out to enjoy the morning sunshine. An area non-profit organization allows visitors to stop in and take a puppy for a beach walk. These shelter dogs, born in The Bahamas or Turks and Caicos, are constantly in need of socialization and of course, adoption according to the organization. Guests are encouraged to stop by and take a four-legged friend out for a day on the beach.

After you’ve worked up an appetite from your walk, grab a bite to eat nearby. Grace Bay offers some of the best restaurants in Turks and Caicos.

Enjoy a hassle-free time by remembering to bring along these three small items

There are three things to remember to pack that will certainly save you time, money, and potential bother. The first item to bring along are water shoes. Depending on where you are, some parts of these islands have rocky water areas where water shoes are recommended. Other areas occasionally have old conch shells in shallow ends that can hurt when stepped on. Second, don’t leave home without a reef-safe sunscreen. Some Turks and Caicos excursions will not allow you to join water activities and sports if you are not using coral safe sunscreen. An estimated 4,000 to 6,000 metric tons of sunscreen from swimmers are deposited into the ocean every year. Reef-safe sunscreen is not cheap on the islands so make a list with this on it and check it twice!

Finally, this last little item can be among the most useful articles on your packing list: sea lice lotion. This nifty cream prevents stings from most jellyfish, nettle, fire corals, and can stop or lessen the effects of sea lice—a skin irritation that occurs due to the trapping of small jellyfish larvae underneath bathing suits. You can even find some lotions that are a three-in-one with SPF, sting protection, and that is also coral reef safe.

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