We fell in love even before touchdown. The clouds that had blocked our view during the flight to Turks and Caicos mercifully dispersed right before we landed, and we caught our first glimpse of the radiant sea. We watched as the little snail-shaped island of Providenciales materialized in the middle of the ocean, dazzled by the turquoise, aquamarine and emerald hues of the water surrounding it.
Throughout our stay, my husband and I made a point of never letting that water out of our sight. We found it a force so relaxing that it quickly canceled out the noise of daily life.
Up to that point, 2013 had been a frantic year. Work and family had taken us all over the world, including to such taxing destinations as Afghanistan and Syria. When not traveling, we’d been drowned in paperwork buying a condo.
So we’d shopped for a nearby holiday destination where we could just lie back and enjoy nature’s show for a while. A couple of friends who’d just returned from a vacation there recommended the still relatively unknown Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI). It was the perfect place, they assured us, to escape the grind.
This British Overseas Territory about 500 miles southeast of Miami consists of 40 islands and cays, only eight of which are inhabited, home to a grand total of 30,000 year-round residents. As the name suggests, TCI is made up of two archipelagos: To the east are the Turks islands, named after the native Turk’s head cactus, and to the west are the Caicos, a word derived from “caya hico,” which, in the language of the indigenous Lucayan Indians, means “string of islands.”
Providenciales, one of the Caicos, boasts the islands’ largest airport and is the only real tourist hub, although it’s a far cry from such overdeveloped destinations as Jamaica’s Montego Bay. Provo, as the locals call it, is only 38 square miles, and while much of its development has happened in just the past decade, today its infrastructure is much improved, and scattered low-rise strip malls have sprouted in the interior. There is even a small casino. The magnificent coast has a growing but still limited number of handsome resorts and villas, along with good restaurants and bars. These are concentrated on the north shore, overlooking the beautiful and aptly named Grace Bay.
During our nine-day stay, my husband and I took countless strolls along Grace Bay Beach’s 12-mile stretch of uncontaminated, sparkling white sand. Sometimes we walked more than an hour each way to reach some faraway waterfront cafe, returning to our hotel in complete darkness, our steps illuminated only by the stars and the moon. We always made sure that sunset would find us somewhere sipping local Turk’s Head beer or Bambarra rum with a front-row seat on the ocean and that dipping orange ball of fire.
Because we can be lazy and bookwormy, a good chunk of our time on TCI was spent swimming in the calm, pool-like ocean water or planted on beach chairs with our heads buried in crime novels, our true holiday obsession. But Grace Bay’s gleaming sea also spurred us onto a Hobie Cat, a toy catamaran that our hotel, like most others, made available to guests for free. It’s supposedly a craft that anybody can sail, so light and safe that it’s practically impossible to sink. We, however, managed to capsize the thing about 15 minutes into our ride and, unable to right it, we had to be rescued, to my husband’s chagrin, by a lifeguard on a motorboat.