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Going Local in Providenciales

Dune Spa at The Shore Club

Dune Spa at The Shore Club

The Turks and Caicos Islands have everything you’d want in a tropical getaway. Located just southeast of The Bahamas, the area’s impossibly clear blue waters and more than 140 miles of powdery sand beaches are immediate draws. In fact, you may be tempted to stay planted in a beach chair for the duration of your trip, moving only to refill your drink or pet one of the beloved and well-behaved wild dogs. But then you’ll have missed the heart of the Turks and Caicos: the people.
 

Known as Belongers, the local population is made up of descendants of African slaves who were originally brought over to grow cotton and work in the salt industry as well as residents who immigrated from neighboring countries. Of the 40 islands that make up the TCI, eight of them are inhabited. Providenciales has the largest population, but if you drive the length of the island—just 17 miles—you’ll soon notice that it feels like a small-town community. And a tight-knit community it is: After the destruction caused by back-to-back category 5 hurricanes (Irma and Maria), islanders banded together to rebuild, resulting in a speedy recovery.
 

Providenciales Turks and Caicos        
Providenciales, Turks and Caicos        
 























Once you’re out of your chaise longue, it’s time to explore. Snorkeling is a must, and for some of the most knowledgeable and entertaining boat crews in the TCI, book an excursion with Caicos Dream Tours. A cruise along Grace Bay includes plenty of singing, dancing and rum punch, with ample opportunities to jump in and swim with dolphins and tropical fish. After a few hours at sea, the boat anchors at Half Moon Bay. Walk the paths near the pristine yet tiny beach to observe—not touch—the critically endangered rock iguana, before boating back to home base.

 

Da Conch Shack        
Da Conch Shack        
 

Back on shore, it’s time to indulge in one of the Turks and Caicos’ specialty foods. Conch, an edible marine snail that tastes like a mix of crab and scallop, is found on many menus in town. For some of the best, head to Da Conch Shack. The beachfront eatery—a favorite of locals and tourists alike—plucks conch from its own shores throughout the day as needed. (You even may get to see a local diver with a net full of the striking shells.) The menu offers conch prepared nearly every way, from fritters and chowder to curried and coconut. Potent rum punch, served by the glass or pitcher, washes everything down Caribbean-style.

 

Much of Providenciales’ local charm can be experienced at its plazas and shops, many located along a short stretch of Grace Bay Road. The Saltmills and Regent Village plazas house a range of restaurants, art galleries and gift and souvenir shops. Nearby, find the vibrant Alverna’s Craft Market, one of two art areas on Providenciales. Shop for baskets, jewelry, sculptures and other souvenirs crafted by Haitian artisans.
 


Perhaps the quintessential Providenciales experience takes place on Thursday evenings. As any Belonger will tell you, it’s not an authentic TCI trip if you don’t attend a “fish fry.” Beginning around 5:30 p.m., restaurants across the island set up shop and serve specialties such as jerk chicken, conch fritters and other just-caught seafoods. Junkanoo bands fill the air with energetic music and ultra-Caribbean vibes. Mingle with locals at Kalooki’s, Mr. Grouper’s, Smokey’s on the Bay, Cactus Bar & Grill—to name a few.

 

The Shore Club        
The Shore Club        
 

Where to Stay

Until two years ago, all of Providenciales’ major resorts were located on the north side of the island. Then The Shore Club became the first to take up residence on Turks and Caicos’ unspoiled Long Bay Beach. The überluxe property provides seclusion along an 800-foot stretch of private beach. Highlights include four pools, three restaurants and the Dune Spa, where treatments take place in one of three wellness cottages—all offering views of the ocean with a soundtrack of lapping waves and melodic birds. Four brand-new villas boast up to six bedrooms, spacious courtyards and private pools. 

 

Where to Beach

Arguably the best-known stretch of sand, Grace Bay Beach is set in the Princess Alexandra National Park and open to the public. Families enjoy Sapodilla Bay on the southwest side of the island; the shallow, sandy waters are ideal for smaller children. On the far west coast, you’ll find the breathtaking Malcolm’s Road Beach. Take heed: Driving on miles of rough roads is the only way to reach this secluded spot, but the quiet retreat is worth the trek.

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