Swimming Pool

How to visit Grand Turk, the capital island of Turks and Caicos

When most people picture a trip to Turks and Caicos, they picture Grace Bay—a dreamscape of calm, clear water and pristine white sand that ranks on every list of the most beautiful beaches in the world. While it’s certainly understandable to jump straight to the Caribbean nation’s most well-known asset, turning your full attention to Providenciales means overlooking some less obvious gems with plenty of vacation appeal — from tiny coves crowned by luxury resorts to Grand Turk. The capital and second largest island of the Turks and Caicos archipelago offers all the sand-in-the-toe fantasies that await. It’s also home to some tourist-oriented amenities like a world-class cruise port and the largest Margaritaville in the Caribbean.

How to plan the perfect Grand Turk escape, whether for a day or a week.

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Arrival to Grand Turk

All incoming international flights to Turks and Caicos arrive at Providenciales International Airport (PLS). Travelers heading to Grand Turk then take a fast charter operated by one of two local airlines: Caicos Express Airways or interCaribbean. Several cruise lines dock at the Grand Turk Cruise Center. Private yachts and boats can also anchor here.

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The best things to do on Grand Turk

The stunning beaches are the main reason people come to Turks and Caicos. And those visiting Grand Turk certainly won’t be disappointed in this department. The bean-shaped island is lined with stunning stretches of soft sand and sparkling turquoise tides. Wild horses and donkeys even roam free. Many have hailed Governor’s Beach on the west coast as the most beautiful place by the sea. It also benefits from a lack of trade winds and shady casuarina trees, making it ideal for taking a relaxing break from the afternoon sun. Cockburn Town Beach, Pillory Beach, Cruise Center Beach and English Point Beach are also very nice. Active travelers will have fun kayaking, paddling and windsurfing. Offshore snorkeling and diving fans should book a boat trip to swim with colorful marine life.

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As the only port in Turks and Caicos, the island is truly geared towards cruise passengers. The modern Grand Turk Cruise Center, built in 2006, offers shops, restaurants, bars and a huge swimming pool. It’s also a hub for tours and vehicle rentals, and is a short walk from Cruise Center Beach, which unsurprisingly gets quite crowded when ocean liners dock.

Travelers interested in the past will also find plenty to satisfy their curiosity. The Taino and Lucayan people called the area home for nearly 700 years. After the indigenous population was decimated by colonization, Grand Turk spent a century in the hands of pirates and various European countries before British colonizers from Bermuda established the salt industry there in the 1680s. Visitors can still see the remains of salt ponds and windmills today. The clifftop Grand Turks Lighthouse is one of the most famous historical landmarks, and the Turks and Caicos National Museum in Cockburn Town displays artifacts such as a carved Lucayan wood ceremonial chair and shipwreck remains on Molasses Reef.

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The best places to eat and drink on Grand Turk

The Ridge Cafe in Arches on the Ridge is a nice spot for homemade breakfast items like huevos rancheros, freshly baked goods, and espresso. It also serves lunch and dinner on weekends. Located right on the beach, Sandbar Restaurant invites bathing suit diners to dine on local seafood, sip rum punch and enjoy the sunset views. Many cruise passengers and vacationers enjoy the ease of grabbing a quick bite at Jack’s Shack, enjoying conch fritters and a refreshing beer at the Beached Whale Bar & Grille, or sipping fruity drinks at the swim-up bar at the enormous Margaritaville Grand Turk .

Courtesy of Visit Turks & Caicos Islands

The best places to stay on Grand Turk

Travelers not returning to the comfort of a cruise cabin have a few overnight options on Grand Turk. Osprey Beach Hotel is the largest property with 34 rooms. It also offers guests a full range of amenities — including a pool, water sports, scuba diving packages, and Saturday night barbecues. On a tree-lined street in Cockburn Town, the privately owned Turks Head Inn is set in a distinctive building with turquoise shutters, just steps from the sea. Inside are a handful of charming rooms. There is also a restaurant and bar in a shady courtyard garden.

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