By Peter Greenberg
IMAGINE TROPICAL ISLANDS a short
flight from the U.S. mainland, with uncrowded
beaches, no fast food or franchise restaurants,
a strong commitment to protecting the environment, great local culture and reasonable
cost. And, of course, turquoise waters.
Now you know why I’ve been going to the
Turks and Caicos for nearly three decades.
My first impression of the Turks and
Caicos is fulfilled and reignited each time I
return to Providenciales, with the sweeping
white sand beach on Grace Bay, cool ocean
breezes, the unmistakable and intoxicating
sound of ripsaw music, the smell of fresh seafood and ... the bread (but more on that later).
To me, the Turks and Caicos is like the
sophisticated French island of St. Barthelemy
(aka St. Barts) without the attitude. Great
beach bars without designer dress codes.
The Turks islands, officially a British
overseas territory, is an archipelago of 40
islands—only eight inhabited—southeast of
the Bahamas, where sea creatures far outnumber the 25,000 humans who live here.
This is small-island charm without forced
luxury, from more-developed Providenciales
(Provo, as everyone calls it) to sleepy Grand
Turk in the south.
The white sandy beaches, which in total
cover 230 miles, are complemented by an
amazing array of ocean colors. Turquoise,
beige, white, mustard, emerald, aquamarine
and cobalt—it is nearly hypnotic in its power.
Long-standing rumor has it that
Christopher Columbus discovered the Turks
and Caicos in 1492, but with islands as beauti-
ful as these, it begs the question: If that story
is true, why would Columbus have wanted to
The Turks and Caicos has the world’s
third-largest barrier reef system, home to an
amazingly diverse collection of fish and sea
creatures. You can paddle-board, kayak or
dive. Or you can do what I do: go on a seafood
and bread journey.
First stop is Da Conch Shack. You can’t
get more local than this pastel beach bar in
Provo. You don’t just order the conch here—
this is sea-to-table service. They literally go
into the water and get a conch for you, bring
it back to the beach and in about 20 minutes
(or about two Turk’s Head Ambers, the local
brew) it’s time for conch fritters.
Then, it’s off to Bugaloo’s. Here, it’s all
about the conch salad. On the weekend there’s
also live entertainment. Most of the customers have been regulars since the place opened
in 1994. Tourists don’t always venture far
from their resorts, but Bugaloo’s, in the Five
Cays area, is a must.
A place called Mr. Grouper has great fresh
fish, but ask any local joint for their rum-rubbed ribs, an island specialty, and don’t forget that the Turks and Caicos has its own
version of jerk chicken, curry chicken and
Easy to explore
You can hop a ferry to get to North,
Middle and South Caicos Islands. With fewer
than 5,000 residents among these three
islands, this section of the Turks and Caicos
will never be crowded, and the beaches are
always more or less empty.
Another great side trip: Little Water Cay,
also known as Iguana Island. This small island
is home to the largest population of rock igua-
nas in the world and perfectly protects these
creatures from predators, as they are the only
land animals on the entire island.
On South Caicos, about 50 minutes across
the channel, head for Mama’s Bread, a little
house not far from the dock that everyone on
the island knows. It’s got one small screen
door, and the key is to go when that door is
open. It’s not open long, because the bread is
so popular that it sells out quickly.
Mama’s is a small family business with a
special recipe passed down from generation
to generation from the first Mama—Helen
Jennings, who started the business in the
1950s—to her daughter and now her grand-
daughter and the current Mama, Nita Clare.
Make sure you have the boat captain call
ahead and reserve your bread, then throw the
engine into gear and power up.
Whether you simply sit on the beach and
admire the water, or head out to explore, the
Turks and Caicos will enchant and keep you
coming back for more. C
Peter Greenberg is the multiple Emmy Award–
winning travel editor for CBS News and host
of The Travel Detective on public television
© SHUTTERSTOCK/BLUEORANGE STUDIO
30 shades of turquoise
great local dishes
await on the
Turks and Caicos
The Costco Connection
Costco Travel offers a variety of packages
to the Turks and Caicos. For more
information, click “Travel” at Costco.com
or call 1-877-849-2730.