A protective barrier reef surrounds Provodenciales--the most populated island in the Turks Caicos-making for superb diving and swimming in calm turquoise waters. And there are the pristine beaches of GraceBay: Although most resorts and hotels are here, the beach isn’t crowded, mainly because the eco-rule dictates that no building is higher than seven stories
Many Canucks and celebs call Provo their home. I was hoping to bump into Keith Richards but he was likely playing a few riffs at neighbour Sir Paul McCartney’s shack. However, I spotted JoJo the dolphin, arguably the most famous celeb in Provo, on an island boat excursion.
For us snow birds, sun and sand is TCI’s magnet, but when you’re surrounded by ocean, foodies are drawn here for the seafood, especially conch.
“No conch, no lunch,” says Captain ‘Pop’ of Caicos Dream Tours, adding that you can always get conch because these waters aren’t over-fished. There’s so much more to this mollusk than slapping it against your ear and listening to the surf. The best sushi bar in the world couldn’t top this delicacy.
Scan most of Provo’s restaurant menus: Conch sliced and diced ceviche-style? Curried or sauteed? And you heard it here first—any day now, somebody’s sure to serve up conch carpaccio as an amuse-bouche.
Snorkel Conch Cruise
Board at Alexandra Resort, cruise GraceBayBeach and head out to the barrier reef for some of the best snorkeling (gear is provided) in the world. Then dive in shallow water for conch near Leeward, just east of Provo (and you’d better not come up short.) Blast over to Mangrove Cay in time for sunset.
Cross Leeward Channel to Little Water Cay, also known as Iguana Island, and stroll this nature preserve where the scaly critters scurry through the brush and signs that identify plant species. Boardwalks keep visitors from stepping on iguana nests. Walk 10 minutes across the island to a windswept deserted beach.
Since the 1980s, this Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin follows boats and visits people near GraceBay beach almost daily. JoJo is protected and the government has declared him a national treasure. Almost on cue, JoJo will appear alongside your boat for his close-up. And possibly throw a splash or two your way.
Snuba, in between snorkeling and scuba diving, is safe and easy and allows you to go up to 20 feet below the water’s surface without certification. Take a boat ride from Southside Marina to North West Point for calm waters and exceptional visibility to see barracuda, queen trigger fish, nurse shark and parrot fish, just to name a few.
Grace Bay Club’s Anacaona
Sidle up to the 90-foot (27 metre) oblong slab of black granite infinity bar stretching forever and sip a muddled raspberry mojito. Just about all the resorts host a lively happy hour starting precisely at 5 p.m. and many have bars smack on the beach.
Wiggle your toes in the sand as the sun goes down and contemplate the biggest decision of the day—where to have dinner.
Da Conch Shack
Where foodies unite! Snag a picnic table, sip a cold brewski and decide how you want your conch—now matter how it’s served up, it can’t get any fresher:staffers at the Shack smash open conch shells, clean and cut up the tender meat, then store in the shallow ocean till ordered. Start with a basket of fritters, the crack cocaine of conch cuisine. (conchshack.tc)
Vix Bar & Grill
Opt for the appies: Grouper carpaccio and the most unctuous short ribs. The expats (and there are many who call TCI home) at the next table are likely tucking into steak and kidney pie, and they line up Sundays for roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. (theregentvillage.com )
Reserve seats in the courtyard, where thousands of twinkle lights adorn the flora so you feel like you’re dining in Neverland (some tables allow diners complete privacy, making for a hot celeb spot). The mahi-mahi and the banana-phyllo dessert with homemade ice cream ensure you’ll return. (coyabarestaurant.com)
Mediterranean-Moroccan fare and Casbah décor, from the tented ceiling to authentic Moroccan light fixtures, is a welcome change, especially for the locals. Go for the grilled calamari stuffed with harissa spiced beef and the stuffed pepper with goat cheese and pine nuts. A side of yoghurt sauce keeps the spiciness in check. (lemon-cafe.com )
TOP 4 BEACHES
Although all the beaches around Provo are pristine, this is considered Provo’s finest. No wonder the most popular resorts are situated along this three mile bay, from Beaches Resort & Spa to the Ocean Club Resort.
The Bight Reef
Just west of GraceBay, this area boasts the best snorkeling, and close to shore. Make sure you don’t touch or stand on the fragile coral.
The perfect beach if you have kids in tow, with well-protected, clear waters and the shallows extend outward from the sandy shore more than 100 feet.
This southeastern beach that stretches three miles is more isolated yet accessible with several paths. Also great for families—bring a picnic.