Winter was off to a slow start in Canada, but by now—with inches deep snow in many provinces—we’re all dreaming of warmer pastures.
If you’re on a Cuba-bound budget, I’ll suggest right now that you stop reading. Because Providenciales, while absolutely stunning, is one of the priciest islands we’ve ever visited. There’s just no getting around it here. Food, taxies, activities and even hair-braiding, is going to cost you that proverbial arm and leg. And maybe a toe or two to boot—especially with the position of the current American dollar.
Of course there are ways to save and still experience the beauty of Turks & Caicos, but two-star hotels here are by no means “budget-friendly” either, so keep that in mind if this is a destination you’re seriously considering.
And you should consider it.
Providenciales, called “Provo” by locals, is Turks & Caicos’s most-populated and most-developed island, and to call its white-sand beach beautiful is an understatement. That turquoise water? There aren’t enough superlatives to do it justice. In fact, once you can get past the lump in your throat after paying for your vacation here, you very well may fall prey to this island and return every year for the next decade or three.
If you’re biting the bullet to vacation in Providenciales, you might as well go for it and stay somewhere you and your family will feel safe and comfortable. With family-style suites and access to excellent restaurants and daily activities, these three resorts offer something for families of all sizes:
The Somerset on Grace Bay – $$$$$
Hands down, one of the most spectacular hotel rooms you could imagine. We’re talking wall-to-wall marble, stunning décor, top-of-the-line appliances in your granite-laden kitchen, and luxurious bedding with up to five bedrooms for even the biggest families. The Somerset is not all inclusive, but there are great restaurants onsite and you can easily get some groceries and cook in your fabulous kitchen. It’s certainly on the tidiest stretch of beach with a very gradual entry into Grace Bay, making it very suitable for younger kids. Yoga is $25 per class and rentals like stand-up paddle-boards come at an additional cost, too. But this place is not for the budget-conscious, so you probably aren’t worried about a few extra bucks here and there for activities.
If you’re looking for an all-inclusive option with more activities, amenities and restaurants than you could possibly fit into a single one-week vacation, there’s nothing for families like Beaches Resort. It’s got the largest footprint of any resort in Provo, and that’s because between four villages, 21 restaurants, a waterpark (complete with surf simulator), a couple of stages, a night club or two and too many bars and pools to mention, there’s a lot of space to cover. This is the kind of place where you check your wallet into the safety deposit box in your room when you arrive and never touch it again until it’s time to leave. Even SCUBA diving is included—unheard of at most resorts. Rooms range from basic but comfortable for a family of three or four to two-story suites that can accommodate larger families or those in need of luxe accommodations that come with your very own personal butler. Watch for the occasional deal and book during low season for the best rates.
Ocean Club West – $$$
If you’re headed to Provo because you want to play in the sand and surf all day, and you don’t need to be in the fanciest resort that money can buy, Ocean Club West offers well-appointed rooms and suites for families who like comfort and cleanliness but don’t mind traditional Caribbean finishes and pared-down interiors. Let staff know in advance what groceries you’ll need for your stay and you’ll arrive to find your fridge and pantry stocked. If you want to splurge on dinner one night, take the free shuttle to Ocean Club East for great food and a superb wine list at Opus.
Grace Bay Rentals, owned and managed by a fellow Canuck, is the top-rated car rental company in Provo. For about US$400 a week (plus optional insurance for another US$10 per day, which we recommend), you can claim a minivan for your family and see more than just your resort. Not to mention all of the great off-the-beaten-path restaurants you can get to when you’ve got wheels! Get off the plane, clear customs and then walk across the street to Grace Bay Rentals; grab a map and have the counter staff circle your resort and highlight some other local must-dos, like Taylor Bay or the Leeward area, which boasts a gorgeous marina. You’ll pass by local schools, and if it rains you may get to drive on the sidewalks like the locals do (that’s something you can’t do at home!).
After all, there was talk at one time of Canada annexing Turks & Caicos, so is it any surprise that there would be some Great White North in Provo? Aside from Grace Bay Rentals, there are also two restaurants owned by Canadians—and not the same ones. Head to Sharkbite for a casual meal that won’t destroy your wallet. Sailboats to the left of you, canals on the right—and maybe an actual shark underneath your table! Yes, we heard numerous stories of patrons spotting sharks and other sea life near the patio. (Don’t worry, you’re totally safe.) Then there’s the upscale Coco Bistro, which toggles between the number one and two restaurant spot on Trip Advisor. Just be sure to make a reservation at least a few weeks in advance.
If there’s one thing you have to do in Provo, it’s get under the water. It’s just as clear down below and even off the beach you’re nearly guaranteed to see fish. If you’re staying in the Grace Bay area, don’t bother with an expensive snorkelling excursion; simply take some fins and a mask and walk the beach to Coral Gardens—about 10 minutes from Beaches—which offers the best snorkelling reef on the island. And there’s no better diving to be had than with Provo Turtle Divers, who venture off to more untouched SCUBA sites and offer small groups and concierge-level service for less than many of the other operators in Provo.
Because you can walk for hours, uninterrupted, along one of the most perfect stretches of beaches anywhere in the world. It’s off-the-charts WOW with powdery-white sand that’s cool underfoot despite the hot sun teeming overhead. Want to keep up your fitness routine on vacation? Jog on the wet sand—no running shoes required. Build sandcastles along the way with your kids, collect seashells, bury your toes in the sand, soak up the sun. And make the kind of memories that last a lifetime.