Just last year, I started the tradition of traveling somewhere that I’ve never been for my birthday. Being the sun lover that I am, the other prerequisite is that it must be somewhere warm. Last year led me to the beautiful island country of Thailand. In a word, it was magical.
For this milestone birthday (40 Shawty), I decided to visit another beautiful island country, this time in the Caribbean. Let me tell you, Turks and Caicos did not disappoint. The pictures do it no justice. The exquisite beauty of these islands and the greenish blue, clear water surrounding them is just breathtaking.
I don’t know about you, but I’m rejuvenated by travel. At least the type of travel that I do. I learned fairly early on in my trip planning efforts that I need the right amount of planned activities and spontaneity in order for me to feel like I had a true vacation. For instance, if there’s too much planning, I come back feeling like I need a vacation after the vacation.
This trip was perfect. I selected a villa in a residential community called Chalk Sound. It’s on the opposite side of the big island called Providenciales (known by the locals as Provo) from the well known and tourist-driven Grace Bay. The pros of being on this side of the island far outweighed the con of being a bit further from the shopping and nightlife. Here’s why…
- Cost: If no one has told you yet, let me be the first. Everything in Turks and Caicos is expensive. So, if you’re going with a fairly large group like we did, it makes sense to stay at a home where you can buy your own groceries. Now the food in the grocery store is still expensive. But when you factor in what you’re paying in service fees, taxes and gratuity (yes you have to pay all three), you are saving yourself some coins by making one or two of your meals a day. Also, the comparable resorts on Grace Bay to the luxury villa where we stayed were by far more expensive per person.
- Accommodations: Speaking of the luxury villa…just wow. If you’re traveling with a family or a group of friends and you want to have your own space, coupled with breathtaking views, a villa is the way to go. You just can’t get the luxury and space of what we had in the residential area when you stay in the most populated area. Six bedrooms, multiple large living areas, infinity pool, large full-service kitchen…I mean come on! Literally every morning we woke up to gorgeous views of the Blue Lagoon that Chalk Sound is known for. And anyone who knows me knows I’m a sucker for amazing sunrises, which I enjoyed at least four of the mornings from my bedroom balcony. Glory! (Insert hands raised here)
- Vibe. Depending on what type of experience you’re looking for on vacation, the vibe of Chalk Sound may be a little too chill for you. I enjoyed this more secluded area because I felt like we owned our little slice of paradise, even if for only six days. We had the option of going to Grace Bay to “turn up” if we liked, but if we just wanted the option of laying out the whole day, eating, drinking and listening to our own music, without any hassles we could. And we did. I also enjoyed the experience of visiting little neighborhood treasures like Omar’s Beach Hut and Las Brisas where I had some of the best seafood of my life.
Speaking of food, some of the other experiences worth highlighting was the island’s famous Fish Fry. You know this foodie was not going to give a recap of a destination without talking about the culinary goodness. When we arrived to what seemed like hundreds of cars lining the street, we realized this was the place to be on Thursday nights! More than a dozen local food and retail vendors, entertainers and cultural acts come together for an evening to celebrate the TCI (Turks and Caicos Islands) culture. There were lots of options from grilled lobster to conch fritters and of course, fried whole fish. Yummm… My only regret was not getting a bigger piece of fish. I did indulge sufficiently in some of the unique items being offered by vendors, including these beautiful TCI dolls that represent the beauty and culture of the islands.
The other highlight of our experience that I recommend to anyone traveling to these amazing islands is a half day catamaran cruise. There’s nothing like feeling the warm island breeze on your skin as you sail out to the middle of the greenish blue clear waters you’ve ever seen. Our gracious guides took us to a beautiful little beach Little Water Cay, also known as Iguana Island that we quickly settled into as our own private island. We were supposed to make a stop for snorkeling but the winds made the water too rough and wouldn’t let us be great. We made the most of it though and settled on a nice calm place in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean where one of my friends tested out the slide on the catamaran. Winning!
By the way, if you do find yourselves on the other side of the island but you still want to experience Grace Bay, it’s only a 20-30 minute ride away. We made a day trip one of the days and posted up on the public beach at one of the resorts. You’ll likely want to rent beach chairs and umbrellas, but like I said, it’ll cost you.
As I said, it was perfect. Turks and Caicos gave us the right balance of relaxation, culture and fun, making it a destination I would recommend for others to visit. TCI will give you all of the island vibes you come for and more.