Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) is a British Overseas Territory in the Northern Atlantic Ocean (just above the Caribbean Sea), famous for its pristine white sand beaches. It’s made up of 8 main islands and approximately 300 smaller islands.
Providenciales (or Provo) is (by far) the most populated island, and primary island for tourism. We have a separate post about finding affordable accommodations and selecting the best areas to stay in Turks and Caicos.
While it’s possible to get affordable flights from North America to Provo, resorts and villa rentals on the island tend to be very expensive (albeit luxurious), and dining out can be equally expensive.
However, we’ll show you how to enjoy Provo without breaking the bank (and without cutting corners).
We have separate posts on finding affordable accommodations (and choosing the best area in Providenciales), and on the best places to eat in Turks and Caicos.
Parasailing over Provo
Parasailing is a popular offering in Provo, with a few companies offering this. Go parasailing on the day after you arrive, to get unparalleled aerial views of the island.
Most parasailing boats leave Turtle Cove Marina, but will make pickups anywhere along the beach on the northern side of Provo.
Parasailing is surprisingly easy, with a gentle take-off and landing. While in the air, movement is smooth and calm. I’m afraid of heights, and I felt surprisingly comfortable the entire time.
We went with Captain Marvin’s, but other reputable operators exist.
Swimming at Grace Bay Beach
Grace Bay Beach is the jewel of Turks and Caicos, and gets consistently ranked among the best (if not THE best) beaches in the world. A quick visit is more than enough to understand why.
Pristine white sand and endless turquoise water.
Go for a swim or simply a stroll along the beach. Several public beach accesses with free parking can be found between the resorts.
The beach near The Bight is often called Grace Bay Beach, and while also quite nice, doesn’t quite match Grace Bay Beach. Both areas are popular with tourists, but are generally not too busy.
Snorkelling at Smiths Reef
Smith’s Reef, near the Turtle Cove Marina, is the only coral reef accessible to snorkelers and freedivers from shore in Provo. (The Coral Gardens Reef near The Bight is just off shore, but snorkelers aren’t allowed to swim over the reef, only around it.)
To be perfectly honest, Smith’s Reef isn’t the best coral reef in the Caribbean, but it has a few gems and is definitely worth a visit while you’re here. The coral starts only a few feet from the shore, and at low tide is barely below the surface. You’ll find a few purple sea fans, a few large brain corals, among other corals.
Fish life you’ll see includes stoplight parrotfish, queen angelfish, French angelfish (often in small schools), trumpetfish, porcupinefish, squirrelfish and barracudas. The French grunts are probably the most curious, and will often follow snorkelers around the reef.
Large animal life tends to be more active towards the late afternoon (4-6pm), when you almost guaranteed to see several good size southern brown stingrays (trying to camouflage in the sandy areas) and several green sea turtles (in the sandy areas, near the turtle grass). If you visit a few times, you’re likely to also see an spotted eagle ray (often in groups).
Paddleboarding in Mangrove Cay
To see another unique (and important) ecosystem in the Turks and Caicos Islands, go on a stand-up paddleboard eco-tour of Mangrove Cay, the island just east of Provo. As long as you’re relatively fit, you definitely don’t need any prior experience (it was my first time, and I didn’t fall!). Alternatively, you can choose to go in a tandem kayak with a friend (but you get better views standing up). Paddleboarding can also be done entirely kneeling for more stability (just be sure to apply sunscreen to the bottoms of your feet).
Again, a few operators offer this tour, and we went with SUP Provo. We got picked up at the Graceway Gourmet grocery store, and rode with them to the Leeward area of Provo. After a very brief lesson on paddleboarding, we crossed the channel and started exploring the mangroves, learning about the wildlife along the way. Besides the mangrove formations themselves, highlights included several juvenile sharks, a few small sea turtles, urchins, conch, and (my favourite) upside-down jellyfish.
Horseback riding at Long Bay Beach
Another unforgettable experience in Provo is horseback riding (although they’re technically ponies) in the ocean on Long Bay Beach.
This is offered through Provo Ponies, with 60 and 90 minute rides, in groups or private tours. They rescue ponies from various parts of the Caribbean (and beyond), and rehabilitate them in central Provo. They’re well cared for, and absolutely love going into the ocean.
Provo Ponies has ponies of different sizes to accommodate different weights. They’ll match you with a pony based on your experience and ability.
They cater beautifully even to people who have never gone on a horse before (that was me!). I felt very comfortable and safe the entire time.
You start with a brief lesson on horse riding, including how to go, stop and turn left and right. You’ll also be explained the personality and quirks of your pony. (Some need more encouragement to go, some like to be near the front of the pack, some need their distance from other horses… all things that are manageable even as first-time riders, and how the personality and intelligence of these beautiful animals.)
The time in the water is the most exciting (prepared to get wet from the waist down). The ponies love the water and vocalize their pleasure. They also know they get a treat and fed upon return, so many will pick up speed in the water on the return journey.