Turks and Caicos isn’t a pipe dream! Providenciales is a short flight from Miami, Florida and an easy escape to paradise. The people speak English, the national currency is the U.S. dollar, and renting a car is swift and painless. And the beaches are to die for! We chose Providenciales specifically because we wanted the beauty and grandeur all to ourselves. Since the surrounding water is too shallow, cruise ships do not stop in Providenciales, so there are no crowds to contend with. It is very quiet, relaxed and sparsely populated. Sure, there are some huge, fancy and expensive resorts, but they are all crammed together in one tiny stretch of beach, so you get most of the raw, natural island beauty to yourself!
While the island may look small, you’ll have plenty to see and do, but you must have a rental car. We didn’t even make it to every beach, but these seven were noteworthy and worth the trip every time.
2. Coral Gardens (Also called Bight Reef) – Located to the West of Grace Bay Beach, Coral Gardens offers excellent snorkeling right off the beach and stays pretty shallow for a while. There is some coral to be seen, but mostly the snorkelers flock here for the sea creatures – sea turtles, tons of very friendly fish, sting rays, and a barracuda named Elvis (Seriously! He’s such a frequent visitor that someone has named him Elvis!). The actual coral gardens are roped off in a circle of buoys and you CANNOT swim inside the circle. Many people try and the whistle gets really irritating after awhile. You MUST swim around the outside of the coral gardens. We snorkeled here for a few hours and counted 10 sea turtles. The back side of the circle and the eastern side are where all the big beautiful fish, sting rays, and sea turtles hang out!
3. Smith’s Reef – This offers some really beautiful and colorful coral but it is pretty difficult to find! I recommend following the other snorkelers because you do need to swim out past all the sea grass to find the coral and it is somewhat spread out. If you follow Google Maps or Waze or even the beach maps, you probably won’t even get close to Smith’s Reef. East of Turtle Cove Marine on Suzie Turn Rd, there is a Jehova’s Witness Tabernacle, turn there, go over the bridge, go past the yacht club and turn right. At the end of that road is beach access to part of Princess Alexandra National Park. Straight out from this beach is the beautiful coral and fish you won’t want to miss. If you are snorkeling where the beach is rocky, you are in the wrong place! Snorkel where the beach is sand, swim over the sea grass and you will find the coral, fish, and stingrays! Click here for a map at the bottom of the page. Use the beach access marked ‘Central.’
4. Malcolms’ Road Beach – Really this was my top #1 favorite beach and snorkeling area, but it’s not easily accessible and it is very secluded, so don’t go alone. We saw about five other people the entire day! The unpaved road is very daunting if you are in a small rental, but it only gets really bad for the last 0.6 miles. When we got to this point, we just parked the car and walked to the beach. This beach is perfect in so many ways. It’s isolated. The water is crystal clear. I’d venture to say it’s the best underwater visibility you’ve ever had! The artificial reef system is not beautiful YET, but it is home to lots of friendly colorful fish. If you sit in the water, some will even plop into your lap or nip at your legs. If it’s a calm day and you are a confident swimmer/snorkeler, I recommend swimming out past some of the limestone cliffs to see the reef formations and reef shelves. I did and I saw a SHARK! It was a nurse shark probably measuring 5-feet long, but it had its eyes open looking back at me from the ocean floor. (My blood probably froze in my veins, but looking back, that was definitely a highlight for me!) I didn’t dare venture out to ocean wall which suddenly drops away to a depth of 7000 feet, but since Malcolm’s beach is the closest beach to the wall, it’s also the best places to catch sightings of sharks and large sea life. But click here to read all about safety and guidelines for this beach because an awesome vacation can go south fast if you don’t take the right precautions. On the other hand, don’t let the warnings scare you away from an awesome experience!
5. Split Rock / Pirate’s Cove / Bonefish Nude Beach – Online this lovely place has multiple names. It is very secluded, but don’t be freaked out by the nude word. We saw several people throughout the day and no one of any age was going nude. It is a very long stretch of beach and very shallow. For swimming and snorkeling, it’s not the greatest. The most exciting thing I saw was a 12-inch starfish. But, it’s a great escape to nature! Hiking up the cliff toward split rock (left side of the beach) provides stunning panoramic views in every shade of blue. Wear appropriate shoes as the cliffs are fossilized coral and you will be walking on very sharp and uneven rocks. You have to find the hole with the ladder into a cave that opens onto a private beach! Be warned: The road is horrible and it is scary if you are driving a tiny little rental! The scenery with the low, wetlands is interesting, but for the most part the road is long, hilly, and bumpy with huge potholes, and sharp giant rocks plus plenty of areas with standing water! We made it, but without 4-wheel drive and plenty of clearance, it is an exhausting and scary for 6+ miles (too far to walk)!
6. Chalk Sound – This is not a beach and I don’t think you are allowed to swim here, but it is worth the drive to see a unique side of Providenciales. The reserve is filled with tons of tiny islands and if you get all the way to the end of the road at the tip of Chalk Sound, there is a cool hiking path that connects a few islets and a little “mountain” for a great view. But, in all honesty, the main reason to visit Chalk Sound is to gawk at the mansions with their private beaches or yacht access. Drive around a few neighborhoods! It is so much fun….and maybe you’ll see a celebrity!! 🙂 You’ve got to try and find Emerald Cay – a $48M mansion on a private island with a retractable sidewalk (basically a castle with a mote)
7. Sapodilla Bay – The perfect place to watch the sunset! Good luck finding it! Just follow the map and drive to the end of the dirt road and look for a tiny beach access path. I think Provo tries to keep all of these beaches a secret! The water is so shallow – you could probably walk out and hop on the sailboat. The ocean floor feels like mud, looks kind of blue, and smells like sulfur, but this is the place to see a perfect picturesque sunset on an ocean of glass!
These places kept us busy for a week and I love that each beach has its own flavor and charm! You absolutely must go exploring because the island is still harboring lots of secret places that you have to go search for. Our favorite thing was to find a road and drive to the end of the road! Bonus: Emerald Point – Located on the tip of the island and the tip of Leeward beach facing Little Water Cay. You can also watch the sunset here, watch boats go by, and collect several large conch shells!
You absolutely must explore Providenciales! Feel free to relax and sunbathe every day, but try a different location each morning!