Turks & Caicos.....can be done on a budget.
It was time for a vacation, but due to some issues with my back, we needed to go somewhere low-key with limited activity. We were debating between Turks & Caicos and Aruba, and what we learned was that Turks & Caicos was a lot more chill and relaxing, whereas Aruba has a lot more entertainment and activity. Therefore we opted for Turks & Caicos, where we could relax and escape the winter for a few days. Plus it's only about 2.5 hours from Atlanta, so getting there is neither a pain nor an all day affair.
But we almost didn't go. When researching places to stay, they were not inexpensive. In fact, they were some of the most expensive I've seen. Granted, some were all inclusive, but still. I wasn't on an $800/night budget. And on top of that we were learning that you would still want a car, even if you were staying in the "more touristy" area of Grace Bay. Beyond my budget.
Yet I am no quitter. So we started looking at AirBnB's. And although some of those were a little pricey, we found an amazing deal.....with a car! We rented Rosie's Place - a little one story location about five minutes from the airport (although in Turks and Caicos nothing is very far from the airport, as it's a relatively small place) for $500 for five nights. It was simple and clean and had a little kitchenette (happy for the budget, we could make breakfast and lunch to bring with us around the island). The car was by far the biggest perk. Although we had to learn to drive on the right side of the car on the left side of the road (an adventure in and of itself), it is highly suggested to have your own transportation if you are not staying in one of the major hotels. Even if you are staying in one of the hotels, I would still recommend the car because the island has some awesome gems worth seeing that are nowhere near a hotel. I wanted to rent scooters, but my back wouldn't allow for it and it's not a budget friendly way of doing things, anyway. A taxi is pricey - about $35+ per person per direction. Yikes.
In addition to the car, another perk to Rosie's Place was that for an extra $20, she picked us up from the airport upon arrival and drove us around the island, giving us tips on where to go, what to do and to see. It was awesome coming from a local. She gave us some great bearings to start. (Side note - although we love to see the non-touristy places and mix with the locals when we travel, I will say that the entire economy of Turks & Caicos is tourism, so everywhere is really a mix of local and tourist.) It's not a crazy busy island, though, and we loved that. It very much has a chill vibe.
I also received a ton of recommendations via Instagram DM - so thank you all!! I always welcome suggestions (hello shitty planner) and I love to hear where people have enjoyed going. So below you will find some of my recommendations based both on what we stumbled upon or what was recommended to us. Hope they help!
Areas to Visit / Things to Do:
- Grace Bay - This is in one of the more populated areas. Super cute little shopping area called the Salt Mills - small and quaint. I loved Anna's and Anna's, too.
- Fish Fry Thursday Nights - Every Thursday night from 5:30-10 the locals set up a small craft fair combined with food trucks and live music. It's in Bight Park, also known as Children't Park, and it was awesome. We hopped from truck to truck tasting anything from conch (a local favorite) to lobster egg rolls for a reasonable deal. And the live music was so, so goooood. There is nothing quite like Island music on an actual island.
- If you are looking for internet and coffee, I recommend Turkberry in Grace Bay. We were able to sit outside while still catching some internet signals and do a little work. And although I am a fan of an amazing glazed donut, (like those from Bloedow's Bakery in Winona), at Turkberry you can design your own donut toppings. Um, ok.
- Potcake Rescue - Ok, if you know me, you know that I not only love to travel. I love dogs. Like sooo much. This place, called Potcake, is a dog rescue....but you can rent a puppy for a day! Yes! I said that! Rent a puppy for a day! WHAAA? Yes. All of them, please. And you can adopt them, too, if you have a few days. There was a woman on our flight home who had done just that. I wanted to adopt them all. All. Paws.
- Get on a boat. Do it. The water is so beautiful and it's just awesome to be on a boat. There are a lot of water activities, too. We were somewhat limited by my back, but we did take a boat tour with Island Vibe Tours to go snorkeling pretty far out. It's important to note that we were not impressed with the tour guides at all, so keep that in mind. But for $100 for half day (which includes snorkeling, a drink, a snack and a sandwich) it was far less expensive than the other options starting around $2,000 for the day.
Eats, Drinks & Tunes:
- Conch Shack - located directly on the beach, this is a total must. Wednesday and Sunday nights they have live music and I totally recommend it. Again, Island music on an island. Win Win.
- Bugaboos - also located right on the beach, you can walk way out into the water because it's pretty shallow. There are even low tables where you can sit in the water with your drinks and eats. We were told you can rent horses here to ride through the water although we didn't see them.
- Turks & Kabobs - located just off the beach not too far from Grace Bay, this local joint had a ton of character and served amazing Turkish and Greek Food. It's tiny and we love that.
- Somewhere Cafe at the Coral Gardens Hotel - this bar/restaurant is located directly on the beach and with it's layered patios is an awesome place to either watch the sun rise or set.
- Mango Reef - This was probably my favorite place to eat. located at the marina and on the water, I absolutely loved the vibe. We always prefer to sit at the bar wherever we go and here it was full of locals. Plus, I had one of the best shrimp pastas I've ever had. And that's saying a lot. Because I love pasta. And I eat my fair share.
- Coco Bistro - MAKE A RESERVATION. This place was amazing, but you likely are not getting in if you don't make a reservation. Because we prefer bar dining, we just had to wait for spots at the super tiny bar to open up. But if you want a table, call ahead. It's a little more dressy (but it's an island, so take that for what you will) and the menu is wow.
- Hemingways - The food is okay, but it's a place to dine right on the beach. It's part of a hotel so you have to either go through the hotel or on a weird road that might seem as if it's driving you into some back entrance for the staff. I suggest a mimosa brunch on the weekend to start the day.
- Sopadilla Bay - we really liked this off the beaten path beach. The water, unlike the Grace Bay side with all the hotels, was amazingly calm and tranquil. You can bring your own cooler/drinks, but they also have locals set up selling food and bevs. They'll rent you chairs, too, but you don't need to do that at $10/chair. A beach towel on the sand is perfect.
- Grace Bay - this was the beach that most of the larger hotels face. Its long and beautiful, but I will say that it was a lot more windy than the other side of the island and the water is a lot more intense with large rolling waves. NOTE, you do not need to be staying at one of the hotels to use the beach chairs. Just bring your own towel. We were told that they won't question you. So that's what we did and it worked just perfectly.
Other Recommendations we heard about but couldn't try:
- Fresh Catch restaurant in Salt Mills is supposed to have an awesome brunch on Saturday and Sunday
- Crackpot Kitchen
- Jacks Fountain
- Bella Luna
- Magnolia's Wine Bar
- Long Bay Beach
- Caves and Oceans of North Caicos
- Jimmy's Dive Bar
- Taylor Bay Beach
- Seven Stars Beach
- Turtle Trail Beaches
- Long Bay Beach
Some tidbits to know before going:
- I felt very, very safe on the island.
- Although we don't have kiddos, it's family friendly.
- There are a lot of pups all over the island.
- It's very, very flat.
- The people are super friendly and willing to help.
- Island time is a thing.
- The beaches are gorgeous and the sand and water bottom is amazingly clear.
- Taxi's are pricey, rent a car. You will want one.
- If it rains, even if it pours, wait. It will pass and the sunshine will come out again. Give it 20 minutes.
- Avoid the airport on a Sunday if you can. It's small and crowded.
- If you are on a budget, make your breakfast and lunch to take with and buy your alcohol at the local liquor stores.
- Ask if they are out of something before choosing what you want to order. We're not sure if this is a common occurrence or not, but often we would order something and they would be out. In particular, Conch, the island staple. Or so we thought.
Turks & Caicos has some of the most beautiful flat beach scenery, with millions of shades of turquoise and soft sand with palm trees. The paws are great, the people are great and I highly recommend it for a very chill vacation.
Happy Travels -
MORE LINKS HELPFUL FOR TURKS & CAICOS: