Turks and Caicos offers an unlimited supply of turquoise water and soft, sandy beaches.
North AmericaTurks and Caicos Islands13 days / December 2021
Highs & Lows
Horseback ride on the beach
7 days on the quiet island of South Caicos and 7 days on touristy Providenciales.
This review may seem unusually focused on the accommodations, but please keep in mind that in South Caicos there is very little to do. It is all about the resort experience itself.
There are two resorts to choose from when visiting South Caicos: East Bay Resort which is on the south end of the island and walkable to Cockburn Harbour, and Sailrock Resort which is on the north end of the island and very isolated. We stayed at Sailrock.
Sailrock has all the ingredients to be a stellar luxury resort. The buildings blend nicely with the environment in a way that allows the natural elements of the island to be the focus. There are three styles of accommodations available: privately owned beachfront homes that can be rented (think Airbnb but managed by the resort), beachfront villas and hotel suites. All are clean and modern and provide stunning views of the sea. The resort staff are all very attentive, the food is good, and activities like paddle boarding, kayaking and sailing are available at no additional charge. Massages are available on site. For additional fees, the resort provides guided ATV tours, kayaking tours, and tours of the island. Round trip shuttle service into Cockburn Harbour to eat at one of three local restaurants is also available. We did the ATV tour which was fun and informative- our tour guide was very knowledgeable about local marine life and habitats, as well as some of the history surrounding the now-abandoned US Coast Guard Station.
With all of this and more, Sailrock is checking all the main boxes required for Luxury Resort status. Unfortunately it misses some big details that make for a good vacation experience. The pool and hot tub were stone cold, making them totally unusable. The beach loungers were uncomfortable to the degree that it was a point of conversation among the guests. The mattresses and pillows in the suite were on the extreme high end of the "firm" spectrum which was unusual and very uncomfortable. The soaker tub on each suite's patio seems like a wonderful way to watch the sun set, however, there is not enough hot water to fill it more than halfway. The price point for this luxury stay demands closer attention to these larger details.
A few things that were not in control of the resort but were also kind of a bummer was the relentless wind (too windy to paddleboard), cool sea water (too cool to swim), and the mosquitos. We kind of got used to the wind (though we watched our beach umbrella break apart while we were having lunch and were glad we weren't under it) We knew about the mosquitos ahead of time and brought some good repellent and used that along with the bug spray and wrist bands provided by the resort. We were eaten alive nonetheless.
I'd like to end the review of Sailrock in South Caicos on some higher notes, because it was a wonderful trip. We have never seen prettier water in our lives. The ever-changing blends of turquoises and blues were quite literally breathtaking and the pictures do not do it justice. The view from our suite was just incredible. Though it was windy, it was never cold- the warm breezes were lovely. The service was excellent; we've never been treated so consistently well at a resort. The setting for the dining area was thoughtful and beautiful, and the food, in general, was good. The history of South Caicos is interesting and worth learning. Additionally, there are a few mysteries on the island, like the 1000 room abandoned resort about 1/4 of a mile from Sailrock that we explored one day. You can see where construction just flat-out stopped- the rooms are all finished, just awaiting furniture, and only half the stairways have handrails installed. Ask anyone about that place and you'll get a different answer each time. On our tour of the island, a local gave us a ziplock bag full of salt locally harvested from the famous South Caicos Salt Ponds. Part of the fascinating history of South Caicos is its important place in the salt trade, so that was a lovely and unexpected gift. Last but not least, the donkeys: there are wild donkeys that roam South Caicos and they make their presence known by braying at all hours of the day and night. While it seems like this might be annoying, we found them charming and they definitely added something special to our stay.
Providenciales is a much different experience than South Caicos. It is a bustling place with lots of resorts, little shopping centers, lots of different places to eat and have cocktails and offers an abundance of activities.
West Bay Club is a contemporary luxury resort with proper beach amenities like paddle boards, snorkel gear and a Hobie Cat for sailing. The service we recieved was good and always accommodating and after the hyper-focused attention we got at Sailrock, the anonymity this larger property offered was a welcome change. The complimentary breakfast buffet was better than average but the restaurants and bar were lacking. The beach bar was lovely, complete with a fire-pit perfect for a fireside cocktail, but it was always closed in the evening. We found it strange that they would light the fire-pit but close the bar itself. The main bar near the restaurant also seemed to close on the early side, perhaps intended to serve drinks only during dinner service. We opted for the studio accommodation at West Bay Club, which was a nice room with all the amenities luxury status requires, including turn-down service. We have no complaints about the room itself, but we learned that our personal preference is to have a balcony. The ability to air out and dry our clothing is essential for us on beach vacation because bathing suits just simply won't dry properly in a bathroom.
The long stretch of beach outside West Bay Club is a lovely place to spend the day lounging, playing in the water, or walking to and exploring other resort properties. The property next door, Wymara, is gorgeous and a perfect place to go for a cocktail on the beach, as well as a fancy dinner in their restaurant. The water was warmer in Grace Bay and the wind wasn't quite as strong as in South Caicos, so we enjoyed beach activities more here. In addition to the free activities the resort offers, there are many others from outside vendors available right from the beach: parasailing, getting pulled on a giant raft from a very fast boat, fishing, etc. Where Sailrock fails on lounge chairs, the West Bay Club makes up for by providing both comfort and full service: the beach attendants guide you to your choice of padded lounge chairs, move them to the optimal spot in or out of the sun as you prefer, stretch a fitted pad cover over the lounge pad, and provide you with beach towels. The attendants then come back around from time to time to see if you need beverages or lunch. West Bay Club provides PERFECT beach service. A+.
Of all the activities possible in Providenciales, we opted for horseback riding on the beach (and in the ocean), and a Scoot-Coupe tour of the island Called The Love Buggy Tour. The horseback riding lasted about an hour, and was really lovely. The horses were well behaved and the guides were patient and nice, making sure pictures of each guest on their horse were taken. I would do that tour again in a heartbeat, and some of the others on our tour had done it before. The Love Buggy tour was billed as a way to see 85% of the island, and included a mini-tour of Cheshire Hall Plantation and lunch at The Conch Shack. Driving those little buggies was fun, but mostly the tour consisted of the guides making sure the local traffic didn't kill us. I'm glad we didn't die, but we were exhausted from the relentless assault of the same sing-song-shouty instructions through the on-board speaker over and over again. I get it: people need to constantly be reminded about safety, but this style became really tiring, really quickly. Some nice views were had on the tour, but not as much as we had hoped. The food at The Conch Shack was good, but everything was deep-fried. The highlight was Cheshire Hall Plantation, and I wish we could have had more time there. We wouldn't do the Love Buggy tour again.
The shopping area we strolled through was called Saltmills Plaza, a 10 minute taxi ride away from our resort. We were able to get some locally made gifts for friends, and have both lunch and dinner there. We shared a jerk chicken wrap for lunch at Danny Buoy's, a pretty decent local sports bar and then came back another night for sushi at Yoshi's. I'd eat at both places again. For us, the star of the Satmills show is the Potcake Place, a street-dog adoption center. They wrangle up street dogs from around the islands and give them all their shots, spay and neuter them and then place for adoption the dogs that would make good family pets. If you fall in love with one of these sweet pups, they make arrangements for you to adopt it and bring it home with you.
All in all, Providenciales was fun and we would definitely go back. And because the Wymara property is right next door and have a quality restaurant and cute beach bar, we would likely stay at West Bay Club again.
Q & A
What would you have changed?
The only thing I would have changed about the trip is upgrading the studio accommodation at West Bay Club to one of the many suite options which have a patio/balcony.
Tips you would give a friend?
Bring cash, including lots of smaller bills. Taxi drivers do not like to give change, even if you are including a tip. The beach staff worked really hard to make sure we had everything we needed, so we tipped the person who set us up $5 each time. When we got massages at Sailrock, there was no way to include the tip with the bill, so it was good we had cash. Tips, even if they're small, will make your experience better at any Turks and Caicos resort. As with any international travel, research your cell carrier's International Plan before you go, and make sure you turn off data-usage for all your apps. There are inexpensive sim cards you can buy while you're there to install in your phone, but it will only offer you local service and data. We got by using the hotel wifi to do all the stuff we needed to on our cell phones. We never used them away from the resort. Sign up for a WhatsApp account before you go, and of course install the app. WhatsApp is the preferred messaging system on the islands. It was used exclusively at Sailrock for communication, where there were no phones in the suites at all....Read More
Taxies seem to have a bad reputation for being wildly expensive and randomly priced on Turks and Caicos, but we didn't find that to be the case. Maybe the recent addition Conch Cab (the local version of Uber/Lyft) has made them more reliable. Just have those small bills handy.
We found the level of attention we got at Sailrock to be mildly invasive. We opted to skip dinner on two different nights, and were asked about it each time the next morning. The second time we missed dinner, they called us via WhatsApp at 9:22. I suppose this could be interpreted as just making sure we were ok, but it felt pushy.
Travel to Turks and Caicos during the Covid-19 pandemic is slightly complicated, and expensive. The up-side is that they take Covid safety very seriously, and it makes for a more relaxing vacation knowing that the travelers around you are vaccinated and have been recently tested. In the days before travel, each traveler is required to upload a series of documents including proof of vaccination, recent negative tests and proof of travel insurance. This can all seem daunting, but ultimately we felt it was worth the extra money and effort.