WHY WE LOVE IT
First off, Provo—one of the Caribbean’s up-and-coming islands, combining as much seclusion as you could ask for with swank resorts, a spot of nightlife and excellent dining.
Chic-vacation central: dozen-mile Grace Bay Beach, celeb-magnet Parrot Cay, zen-cool Amanyara.
More than 230 miles of perfect white sand, ace dive sites, deserted cays, spectacular sailing and friendly "belongers" (locals).
Sights to see: historic Cockburn Town on Grand Turk; sleepy Salt Cay, with relics of a once-thriving salt industry; pristine West Caicos’ wildlife sanctuary; Provo’s conch farm.
Jojo the Dolphin, the friendly Grace Bay bottlenose who’s been hanging with boats, divers, snorkelers and swimmers for years.
WHEN TO GO
High season is mid-December to April, so you’ll get the best deals in the summer months. These flat islands are hotter than most of their neighbors, but the constant easterly trade winds temper the torridity, and the humidity is relatively low.
WHAT TO PACK
Bathing suits, polarized sunglasses, sunblock, camera, U.S. passport, U.S. dollars (the island’s official currency) in small denominations, binoculars (if you're a birder). For evenings, "smart casual" clothing; a small number of the fancier restaurants request that men wear jackets at dinner.
WHAT TO BUY
Caribbean lobster oil, infused with local spiny lobsters; ceramic paw and bone jewelry from the Potcake Foundation (island dog rescue) at Greensleeves Gifts; local postage stamps (TCI Philatelic Bureaus on Grand Turk and the Salt Mills on Provo); teak furniture from Provo’s W.I.I.F. (they ship); local paintings by Dwight Outten and others.
The Turks & Caicos Islands Tourist Board (800-241-0824 in the U.S., 866-413-8875 in Canada; turksandcaicostourism.com) has a U.S. office in New York (60 East 42nd St., Suite 2817; 646-375-8830), as well as representatives in Chicago (708-720-9999), Miami (305-671-3414) and Canada (613-332-6472).
GETTING MARRIED IN TURKS AND CAICOS
Couples must be on the island for 48 hours before applying for a marriage license. As soon as you arrive, give your officiant your photo IDs and original birth certificates (or official copies). He or she will pass these documents along to the Registrar’s Office in Grand Turk or Providenciales. You’ll then need to submit an application, filling out a personal information form and providing notarized affidavits that you’re not already hitched. Widows/widowers must provide the death certificate, and if you’ve been divorced you need proof. The whole process usually takes two days and costs $120; you’ll need to leave notarized copies of all the documents with the registrar. For more information contact the Turks & Caicos Tourism Board at 649-946-4970.
Grace Bay Club
Grace Bay Beach, Providenciales
Palapas meet South Beach overlooking a gorgeous stretch of sand. It’s a lantern-, torch- and candlelit wonder of sleek wood tables with a dark-wicker and white-cushioned lounge area and a snazzy blue-tiled, black-marble-topped "infinity bar" that stretches nearly a hundred feet out toward the Big Blue. There’s substance behind the style too—executive chef Martin Davies has also cooked at London’s award-winning Penthouse Club and both the SoHo House and China Grill in New York City. As you might expect, the restaurant puts seafood front and center, with the likes of wasabi pea–crusted wild grouper and Caicos lobster*.* But the steaks are nearly as big a source of pride. A not-to-be-missed splash of romantic chic.
Sibonné Beach Hotel
Grace Bay Beach, Providenciales
One of Provo’s more venerable resorts, the Sibonné Beach Hotel (see Sleep) boasts a superb beachside spot. On a crisp white covered deck, young Scotsman Craig McNeil puts out a ravishing raft of imaginative modern cuisine with local influences and ingredients (including produce from a TCI hydroponic farm)—herb-crusted rack of lamb, pan-fried grouper with potato gnocchi and lemon beurre blanc. We especially love his way with conch—in crêpes with mushrooms, in creamy "Scottish-style" chowder (with a marvelous smoky touch) or coconut-crusted in a light curry sauce with mango chutney. By all means finish off with the luscious warm banana tart and a kicky Caicos Coffee of Lucayan rum, Kahlúa and Nassau Royale.
Caicos Café Plaza
Grace Bay Road
Grace Bay, Providenciales
This cozy, welcoming open-air bistro in the thick of the main resort area mixes a little Caribbean and Indonesian into a base of such convincingly Gallic dishes as escargots, steak au poivre and confit de canard. Chef-owner Pierrik Marziou used to be a Paris restaurateur. Dinner is served by a friendly staff on a wooden deck; the absence of a water view is more than made up for by the fantasy vibe of lanterns all around and trees wrapped in white lights. Have a go at the unusually potent rum punch, and save room for the very tempting dessert tray they’ll wave under your noses at the end.
DA CONCH SHACK
Blue Hills Road
Blue Hills, Providenciales
Once in Provo, get ready for conch—it’s pretty much unavoidable. And nowhere are the critters better than at this funky, intensely local-feeling joint, a pair of open-air concrete-block buildings on a pristine, palmy stretch of beach a short ride from the resort area. Canadian expat John MacDonald and his staff serve conch in salad, chowder and fritters, as well as cracked, stir-fried, sautéed and curried. You can also get grouper, shrimp and snapper. Wash it down with Alicia’s Famous Rum Punch (from a bar with the TCI’s most extensive selection of rum) while you watch the dude on the beach pull in the next meal’s load out of watery pens and expertly shuck them. Just remember: da service be on island time, mon.
Ocean Club East Plaza
Grace Bay Road, Providenciales
Out toward the eastern end of the Grace Bay resort strip in the Ocean Club (see Sleep), you’ll be wowed by the inside dining room’s 32-foot ceiling and huge banana-leaf mural. Start out with a rum or vodka cocktail (Gecko’s got the TCI’s largest vodka selection), then take a seat inside or out back for the truly wonderful Caribbean-meets-Italian fare. Chef Nicola Giordano hails from the Amalfi coast, and his menu blends Italian classics (insalata caprese, splendid seafood pastas) with updated Caribbean (his plantain-crusted grouper is a signature treat) and hybrids of the two (conch parmigiana, anyone?). For max romance, sit outside on the garden patio, surrounded by torches and huge ficuses swathed in white lights.
HEMINGWAY’S ON THE BEACH
The Sands at Grace Bay
Grace Bay, Providenciales
The decor’s certainly nice (rattan, cast iron, white columns and umbrellas). The menu’s plenty tasty (heavy on comfort food like crab cakes, burgers, pasta and steak). But the big star at Terry Drummey’s place is the outdoor-terrace setting, with its sweeping views over the bay. Come for a sunset cocktail, then settle in for some first-rate fresh fish, like "The Old Man and the Sea"—the catch of the day—and live island music on Tuesdays and Thursdays, live jazz on Fridays. The dessert menu’s not huge, but that hardly matters, since you’ll want to tuck into the fried ice cream—vanilla with a crunchy cinnamon-and-sugar coating.
MAGNOLIA WINE BAR & RESTAURANT
Turtle Cove, Providenciales
Magnolia’s elevated perch, on a bougainvillea-and-palm-fringed candlelit wood deck, gives it a rare view (on this relatively flat island) not just over the yachts of Turtle Cove but also out to the twinkling Grace Bay lights. It’s inside a small, family-run hotel a hop and a skip down the road from the Grace Bay resorts, and it serves dinner only. The alternately Mediterranean and Caribbean menu with Asian influences is as fab as the view: tempura shrimp, prosciutto-wrapped chicken breast, pepper-and-sesame-crusted tuna in soy ginger sauce, escargots in garlic butter. By the way, owners Gianni and Tracey Caporuscio came to the island on their honeymoon—and then came right back.
The Regent Palms
Grace Bay Beach, Providenciales
Provo’s latest hotel-dining hot spot (in the Regent Palms; see Sleep) has a colonial feel with a 21st-century twist: crisp white walls, arched windows, blue wooden armchairs, an airy pillar-lined terrace. German-born Torsten Rumprecht’s East-meets-West cooking (lemongrass gazpacho with conch salsa; miso-orange-glazed chicken) has been dubbed tropical fusion. A couple of nice pluses: You get to see a lot of the team making it all happen in the wood-burning ovens and tandoors of the open kitchen; and the wine cellar’s one of the best on-island. Before or after dinner (there’s no lunch here), sample a Green Flamingo (light rum, coconut rum, mint, lichee juice and a splash of blue curacao and ginger ale) in the sexy eponymous lounge bar.
SECRET GARDEN RESTAURANT
Salt Raker Inn
Cockburn Town, Grand Turk
If you make it over to Grand Turk but aren’t blown away by the idea of a feed at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville in the cruise-center tourista-palooza, stroll down to this appealing restaurant near the old prison. The hotel that houses it was built in the early 1830s as a shipbuilder’s house; it’s now an inn, owned since 1985 by an English couple and catering largely to divers. The modest but charming green-and-white eatery mixes delightfully simple island cooking—grilled fresh grouper, snapper and conch, curried goat—with international faves like spaghetti and meat sauce.
Turtle Cove Marina
Turtle Cove, Providenciales
After Provo’s surfeit of too-too fancy fusion, here’s a down-home (not to mention generally less pricey) alternative that’s been a fun crowd-pleaser for more than a dozen years now. Chef and "big boss man" Doug Camozzi has put together a nicely done middle-of-the-road menu that’s the same at lunch and dinner: pizzas, burgers, sandwiches and excellent cheese nachos, as well as a variety of more stick-to-your-ribs chicken and steak dishes. Doug’s "Conched Out!" section offers almost as big a choice as Da Conch Shack (above)—so what the heck, try the conch quesadilla or pizza. You eat surrounded by a marina, and later in the evening the (of course) tiki torches lend the whole affair a distinctly tropical-holiday feel. There's also a popular happy hour, except on Wednesday, which is crab night.
Northwest Point Marine National Park
Tel: 649-941-8133, 866-941-8133
In March 2006, the Singapore-based kings of sophisticated, understated extreme luxury plunked their first Caribbean property onto 99 acres at the end of a bumpy road amid the secluded, cactus-dotted scrubland of a national park on Provo’s northwestern tip. The place oozes Aman’s usual mod-zen-in-the-tropics look and feel, with highlights including a spectacular black infinity pool, a soaring bar area, a lovely beach and a first-class restaurant artfully blending Asian and Mediterranean styles. There are also two tennis courts (with complimentary racquets) and a good gym. Spa services are for the moment still in-room, and there's a golf course a half-hour away. The 40 freestanding one-bedroom pavilions have floor-to-ceiling glass on three sides (don’t worry, there are electric shades), with lots of soothing teak and slate and top-of-the-line mod cons.
GRACE BAY CLUB
Grace Bay Beach
Tel: 649-946-5050, 800-946-5757
One of the first (1993) luxe all-suite resorts on this dozen-mile beaut of a beach, GBC is still impressive, with 11 acres and 59 tasteful suites that not only sport flat-screen TVs/DVD players, kitchens and sea-view balconies but also run the gamut from merely roomy (at least 600 square feet) to downright enormous. In back there are a great pool with swim-up bar, a nearby bistro and a grownups-only area with possibly the TCI’s chicest lounge space and restaurant, Anacaona (see Eat). The Club’s latest pride and joy is the sleek black-marble-topped bar it claims is the Caribbean’s longest. Other on-premises perks include tennis and a gym; the Anani Spa, built in 2006, offers two beachside spa tents in addition to six standard treatment rooms.
GRAND TURK INN
Cockburn Town, Grand Turk
For more of an Old Caribbean vibe, you’ll want to give a whirl to Grand Turk island and its capital, Cockburn Town, even if just for a night or two (see Play). Properties tend to be smaller and guest-housish; the pick of the crop is this adorable white-clapboard bed-and-breakfast tucked behind a picket fence and run by Aussie sisters Sandy Erb and Katrina Birt. Decor in the five rooms is bright and cheery (expect rattan), and if you opt for the Conch Cottage you get not only your own kitchen but also a four-poster bed romantically swathed in gauzy white curtains. There aren’t a lot of amenities besides a sundeck, but restaurants, beaches and other attractions lie within easy walking distance.
Grace Bay Beach
Are you, by chance, fans of sleek, modern minimalism? Roughly halfway along Grace Bay’s Resort Row, The Sails, a 22-suite complex designed by Marcello Armani, an architect who hails from the Italian Alps, will float your boat. Fortunately, much of the interior decor is warm rather than sterile. Now, services are also minimalist—there are a nice pool and a concierge who can set up just about anything your little hearts desire but no spa (though there's in-room spa service), and you’ll have a kitchen instead of a restaurant. There’s plenty of all that a few steps out the door, though. So if you want to be left alone together, give it a thought. (For a similar setup in a very different style, check out the Tuscany, below.)
OCEAN CLUB RESORTS
Grace Bay Beach
Tel: 649-946-5880, 800-457-8787
One of TCI’s original big resorts (dating back to 1989), the Ocean Club is still holding up beautifully on a choice stretch toward the eastern end of Grace Bay Beach, and so is its near-clone, Ocean Club West, a 20-to-25-minute stroll down the beach. Both are colonies of three-story gray buildings with pink trim, done up in pre-glitz Caribbean style—tile floors, wicker, floral-print fabrics, etc. The 104 units at Ocean Club and the 88 units at Ocean Club West have (with the exception of a few studios) all the mod-con basics: great kitchens, washer-dryers and roomy screened porches or balconies. Two pools at Ocean Club and one at Ocean Club West, the wonderful Gecko Grill (see Eat), small spas, and gyms round it all out. It’s very laid-back, with a clientele fairly heavy on families, repeats—and honeymooners.
Tel: 649-946-7788, 866-388-0036, 877-754-0726
Several cays north of Provo, one of the Caribbean’s top private-island resorts (1,000 acres!) revolves around six three-bedroom houses and villas out by the beach, and 46 hotel rooms and suites in a gingerbread-trimmed two-story building set back on a rise. Decor in the hotel units and some of the beach houses and villas tends toward crisp and classic yet contemporary, with white-painted paneling, mosquito-netting-swathed four-posters and verandas with Balinese teak daybeds. The rest of the premises are coolly understated too, from the two restaurants to the 17,000-square-foot yoga/ayurveda-centric Shambala Spa. The pool’s gargantuan, the mile-long talcum beach a secluded dream. (Water sports are an option too.) And may we please count on you not to stare when you spot Bruce Willis or Donna Karan on the tennis courts?
Grace Bay Beach
Tel: 649-946-5096, 866-924-7223
About halfway along this magnificent strand, next door to Le Vele (see above), this boutique-scale (33-suite) resort with British-colonial styling is gracious indeed, thanks to attentive service. The romantic restaurant offers a modern Caribbean menu. Then there are the gingerbread-trimmed porch, lush landscaping, glam pool and fine thalasso (sea water) therapy spa set in a couple of beachside cottages. Mingle at the nightly cocktail party, or sequester yourselves in your roomy suite with its floaty white drapes, balcony, full kitchen, washer-dryer, trendy Indonesian teak furniture and four-poster bed. The cottage suites have claw-foot tubs. For a splurge, arrange your airport transfer in a Rolls-Royce. For romance with full service and high style, you’ll find yourself in a state of grace here.
THE REGENT PALMS
Grace Bay Beach
This distinguished 2005 addition to Resort Row feels rather European-manor-house-meets-the-tropics, with 72 romantic rooms and suites featuring clean lines and updated classic Euro styling with tropical touches—a wooden armchair here, a ceiling fan there. Amenities are top-notch (kitchenette, whirlpool tub, flat-screen TV); you can even request a pair of iPods at the front desk. The units are arranged around a giant free-form infinity pool and swim-up bar; in fact, it’s a restaurant too, so you can literally dine in the water. The elaborate 25,000-square-foot spa offers couples suites; try the mother-of-pearl exfoliation, which uses crushed conch shell. The main restaurant, Parallel23 (see Eat), is one of Provo’s very best.
SIBONNÉ BEACH HOTEL
Grace Bay Beach
Tel: 649-946-5547, 800-528-1905
The very first hotel built on Grace Bay in the 1980s (at the time it was called Le Deck) is probably its best deal today. Why? Well, to be blunt, its look is a tad old-fashioned compared with those of its gold-plated neighbors. But it’s still plenty attractive, and it’s been nicely renovated, its courtyard gardens boasting a pretty pool and a lush-oasis feel. The 30 rooms on two stories offer all the expected amenities, plus some stylish touches—funky-framed mirrors, wrought-iron bed frames. There’s a great little bar here too, as well as a terrific restaurant, Bay Bistro (see Eat). A beautiful bargain for sure.
Tel: 649-941-4667, 866-359-6466
At the easternmost end of Grace Bay’s resort row, the Tuscany’s not unlike Le Vele (see above)—essentially an intimate condo complex—but with a very classy Italianate up-at-the-villa kind of feel. Two five-story buildings are connected to the beach by a short boardwalk and to reception by a loggia-flanked courtyard centering on a long, elegant pool and a huge whirlpool. The 30 three-bedroom apartments are beautifully appointed with travertine marble floors and baths and full gourmet kitchens with granite countertops and brushed-steel appliances. All have dining rooms and screened-in balconies large enough for chaise longues and full-size outdoor table and chairs—where you can chill and gaze at the azure expanse. Services include your own local cell phone.
TURTLE COVE INN
Turtle Cove Marina
Suzie Turn Road, Providenciales
Tel: 649-946-4203, 800-887-0477
Not every place on Provo costs an arm and a leg. If saving is priority No. 1, this cozy two-story glorified motel just west of Grace Bay still manages to offer a tropical-resorty feel, thanks in part to its palm-fringed free-form pool area. It’s especially popular with divers, anglers and boaters because it’s right in the marina—which, by the way, is a great place for nightlife and for dining at spots like Magnolia and the Tiki Hut (see Eat), and even for a smidgen of kultcha at the local cultural center. Turtle Cove Inn also has its own good restaurant, Aqua. The 29 rooms are comfy and well-equipped—a step above standard-issue motel—and the beach is just a 10-minute walk away.
There are a whole lot of sandy stretches to choose from on these 40 isles. The international diva, of course, is Provo’s Grace Bay Beach, with its 12 miles of cake-flourlike sand lined with fancy resorts—though it never feels too crowded. (It was named after Grace Hutchings, an early settler who spent her honeymoon here in 1892.) If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a secluded castaway vibe, you’ll want to head to Long Bay Beach on the southeast coast, Malcolm Beach near Amanyara at Northwest Point or the mid-south coast’s Cooper Jack Bight and Turtle Tail. You’ll find good snorkeling off the sands at Smith’s Reef, Coral Gardens and Treasure Beach, on the other side of Turtle Cove from Grace Bay. Off Provo, castaway is the norm, as at Half Moon Bay in North Caicos, Mudjin Harbour in Middle Caicos and Grand Turk’s Pillory Beach and White Sands Beach.
UNDAH DA SEA
As a local T-shirt puts it, "This is a small drinking island with a diving problem." Well, there certainly are amazing dive sites throughout the TCI, particularly off Grand Turk (such as the spectacular walls in the Columbus Landfall National Park) and Salt Cay (great reefs and the 1790 wreck of HMS Endymion). Provo has a 6,900-foot vertical drop off Northwest Point, and Middle Caicos the biggest cave network in the Caribbean. Dive Provo (649-946-5029, 800-234-7768; diveprovo.com) can show you around and provide certification courses. Even if you don’t dive, there’s plenty of excellent snorkeling, especially at Smith’s Reef, Bight Reef and Coral Gardens; you can also try SNUBA (no certification needed) at Windsong Resort (649-241-7010; snubaturksandcaicos.com). Don’t want to get wet? Provo’s Reef Peepers (649-941-8605; reefpeepers.com) runs glass-bottom boat trips, and Undersea Explorer (649-231-0006; caicostours.com) offers a semi-submarine jaunt.
SAIL AWAY, SAIL AWAY
Throughout this boaters’ bonanza, plenty of sailing outfits offer a huge variety of options: snorkeling, picnic, or sunset cruises, around Provo or out to the many cays and beaches of TCI. A number of them will pick you up at your hotel. One of the best is Sail Provo (649-946-4783, 649-231-6178; sailprovo.com), which features an excursion to see the incredible mating ritual of the marine glow worm Odontosyllis, which lights up the sea spectacularly. Other good ’uns include Catch the Wave Charters (649-941-3047), Kenard Cruises (649-232-3866; kenardcruises.com) and Sun Charters (649-231-0624; suncharters.tc). For something a little more private, call Beluga (649-946-4396; sailbeluga.com).
A PINCH O’ PAMPERING
Far from all the resorts on Provo have spas, of course; if you’re really rarin’ for a rubdown, it’s Spa Tropique (649-231-6938; spatropique.com) to the rescue. Recovering New Yorker Meryl Cooper and her staff are now soothing and coddling other refugees in her cozy three-treatment-room day spa on the upper floor of a little Grace Bay shopping plaza called Ports of Call, along with outposts at Ocean Club, Ocean Club West and the Sands. (And their mobile server is happy to make house calls.) The Caribbean Coma package provides reflexology, hot stones, a European deep-cleansing facial and a full scalp massage—though you can also just grab a salt scrub or seaweed wrap. And you can pick up some of their very own Body Tropique salt scrub, foot scrub or aromatherapy to go.
CATCH CONCH FEVER
You’ve spotted this mighty mollusk on menus all over the island; wanna get to the bottom of what this conch business is all about? At Provo’s eastern end, Leeward, the staff of the Caicos Conch Farm (649-946-5643; caicosconchfarm.com) will show you how they raise the more than 5 million Queen conchs they supply to top island establishments like Amanyara and Bay Bistro: in trays, tanks, ponds, and (underwater) pastures. Founded in 1984 by a Navy engineer from Mystic, Conn., who got shipwrecked down here and never left (you can still eyeball his boat), it’s quite an operation. One of the highlights is a visit with Sally and Jerry, a pair of "trained" conchs. (You’ll just have to see for yourself.) There is, of course, also a gift shop (see Shop).
IT’S A GRAND OLD TURK
OK, "grand" may be pushing it, but to catch a slice of the Old Caribbean (not to mention what the Turks and Caicos are like outside the somewhat rarefied vacation isle of Providenciales), hop a puddle-jumper or a ferry over to the smaller island of Grand Turk (turksandcaicostourism.com/go/en/grand-turk.html) and the TCI’s sleepy capital, Cockburn Town (pop. 3,700). This handful of streets filled lined with ramshackle historical buildings is visited mostly by divers and day-trippers from the cruise ships that now call regularly. There are some shops and restaurants with local color, plus the prefab new cruise-ship center (see Shop) and a handful of appealing guesthouses (see Sleep). The small Turks and Caicos National Museum (Front Street, 649-946-2160; tcmuseum.org) is definitely worth a look for its shipwreck and Lucayan artifacts, historic photos and material relating to the U.S. space program (no joke—John Glenn splashed down near here).
GET REALLY SALTY
If you have to choose just one puddle-jump from Provo, you might be even more interested in Salt Cay (saltcay.org), a 2 1/2-square-mile UNESCO World Heritage Site (and a Turk, not a Caicos, by the way). It was once the hub of the salt industry and the de facto capital of these islands; now only about 65 people live in the picturesque stucco cottages among abandoned salt flats, vine-covered dunes, acacias, casuarina pines and palms—and 100-plus wild donkeys. You can lunch at Island Thyme Bistro (except on Wednesdays) or the Green Flash Café at Deane's Dock, have a look at the 18th-century church in Balfourtown, hike, take a dip and scuba or snorkel. Pick up a self-guided tour brochure from any island business.
ADD TO YOUR CAY COLLECTION
If you’re sports/adventure/nature enthusiasts or simply intrigued by some of the other island getaways, there are weeks’ worth of possibilities throughout these islands—some with tiny populations, others with none—sprawled across 93 square miles. The largest, rugged Middle Caicos, has a frigate bird sanctuary, craggy cliffs and really cool caves (the Caribbean’s largest system), which you can visit. Plus, of course, fab beaches. On the so-called Garden Island of North Caicos you’ll find Kew, the TCI’s best-preserved plantation, and colonies of pink flamingos, among many other birds. Tiny Little Water Cay’s specialty is thousands upon thousands of rock iguanas. South Caicos and West Caicos boast bodacious wall diving and boffo birding—and in West Caicos, the Ritz-Carlton Molasses Reef is slated to open in late 2008.
The TCI doesn’t do Carnival or Junkanoo like other Caribbean islands—things tend to be more low-key. But a couple of festivals dreamed up just a few years ago have really caught on. November ’08 marks the fifth year of the Conch Festival (conchfestival.com), when local chefs compete for the best dish, while belongers compete in conch knocking, skinning and blowing. There are also a treasure hunt and a sloop race—and did we mention there’s a lot of drinking? The day before is the Lobster Fest, which also involves a dance contest and a beach party. In late July and early August comes the Turks and Caicos Music and Cultural Festival (musicfestival.tc), also launched in 2003 and held at Turtle Cove Marina, during which local bands mix with such international stars as Ashanti, Jeffrey Osborne, Gregory Isaacs, Shaggy, the Haitian dance band Tabou Combo and BeBe Winans.
ANNA’S ART GALLERY & STUDIO
The Salt Mills
Tel: 649-941-8841, cell 649-231-3293
You’ll definitely want to check out the newish two-story shopping/dining/nightlife plaza the Salt Mills. And at front and center you’ll find this honey of a gallery run by Anglo-Irish Anna Bourne, an avid diver. She features her own contemporary glassware in vibrant blues and greens, as well as silk paintings of marine life (her seahorses—the only monogamous ocean creatures—are a honeymooner favorite). She also has a great cross-section of classy local-themed jewelry in silver, shell, pearl and coral, as well as work by other local artists, whether expats (Pat Moore’s cheerful, Matisse-like oils; Brian Webster’s nostalgic impressionism) or "belongers" (Dwight Outten’s spare yet colorful acrylics of island scenes; Judith Gueldes Kinsey’s sea grottoes and scenes of belongers on the beach or going to church).
The Regent Village
Just a few paces up the road from the Salt Mills, inside an elegant shopping plaza called the Regent Village, is another classy gallery, coincidentally run by another Irish expat, Mary O’Neill, from Waterford. There’s a similar expat-belonger mix of artists—more Dwight Outten; the very cool mono- and bichromatic splatter paintings of Dutch-born Deva Sage; the close-ups of striking, cigar-puffing island women by Sandra Knuyt; the soft, dreamy impressionist beachscapes of Laura Lancaster. Otherwise the feel here is more gift-shoppy, with standouts including shell candles and seashore potpourri, which, however, aren’t locally made. For that, check out the quality selection of straw work, such as Gwendolyn Laborde’s exquisite bags and bowls.
Caicos Café Plaza
Grace Bay, Providenciales
If you dig the distinctive look of Haitian art, seek out the work of the more than 30 artists at Virginie de Boer’s one-roomer, where the offerings range from primitivist to elegantly abstract, with a smattering of dramatic voodoo flags thrown in. The place became Provo’s first art gallery in 1990; since ’05 it’s been nestled at the back of a sweet little shopping plaza across from Ocean Club (see Sleep), which it shares with several other shops and the first-class Caicos Café (see Eat). The local artists represented are also Haiti-born, including Bendad Oduma (cool abstract paintings). There are some great earthy necklaces and other jewelry too, made of turquoise, amber and shells. (Rumeurs, next door, also has a handful of local trinkets, but it mostly imports from Indonesia.)
BLUE HILLS ARTISAN STUDIO
Blue Hills, Providenciales
Tel: 649-941-7639, 649-232-7639
Behind a picket fence, amid palms and pines, this low-slung aqua-and-white building on the beach a short drive west of Grace Bay is the outlet of the Middle Caicos Co-op, which now represents around 40 artists and artisans from all over the Turks and Caicos. There's a big variety of woven and sewn palm products—bags, wallets and fetching fanner baskets in all shapes and sizes—but there are also simple but moving works by Middle Caicos painter Dwight Outten (you might be able to get better deals here than in the fancier shopping-plaza galleries) and the fantasmagoric critters fashioned out of driftwood, shells and feathers by Norway-born Siri White (siriwhite.com). Other merch includes local CDs, maps, rag dolls, model wooden sailboats and sea-pea necklaces. Closed Sunday and Monday.
GIFT SHOP AT CAICOS CONCH FARM
Caicos Conch Farm
As you’ll see when you get down here (and as you can tell from our Eat section), the mollusk known as the conch is a big deal in the TCI, and its pink shell makes some mighty purty baubles. Run by Danver Fortune, the gift shop of the Caicos Conch Farm, near Provo’s eastern tip (see Play), certainly isn’t a huge or fancy affair, but you might well find it worth your while to pop up here not just for the fairly fascinating tour but also to see what it’s possible to do with a few pink shells: beautiful belts, earrings, necklaces, lamps, bowls and more, some matte, some glossy. You’ll also find miscellaneous other items, conch-related and not, along the lines of cookbooks, sponges, sharks’ teeth and rings. And do ask if there are any Queen Conch pearls in stock. Produced the same way as oyster pearls, they’re even rarer—only one in 10,000 conchs will produce one, and of those less than 10 percent are of gem quality.
CULTURAL MARKET PLACE
Grace Bay Beach between Ocean Club and Club Med
For pretty good prices on crafts, beachwear and more (not to mention right-on-the-beach convenience), head to this weather-beaten yellow-and-aqua clapboard mini mall comprising a handful of stalls and a simple little bar-cafe called Flamingo Grill. The vibe isn’t slick or commercialized, and though a certain percentage of the stuff is frankly standard tourist crap, there are also nifty little finds here and there. In particular, check out the two stalls of Oliques on the west side, a bevy of cool wood- and shellwork; colorful metal geckos, fish and seahorses; and a selection of paintings mixing Haitian art with local Top Wilkenson’s wonderfully funky ancient-Taino-motif paintings. Around the corner at H&A Souvenirs, Junie Stubb sells some cool island- and beachwear along with a nice selection of TCI straw work.
GRAND TURK CRUISE CENTER
Grand Turk may be the site of Cockburn Town, TCI’s capital and biggest town, but a shopping mecca it ain’t. If you’re staying or visiting here, the main game in town is this complex built fairly recently on 14 landscaped acres to service the ships that pull into the pier jutting into the Atlantic. Besides a pool and Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, there’s a 45,000-square-foot shopping center with some eateries, T-shirt shops and fairly standard-issue duty-free shopping (jewelry, electronics, booze and so forth). But several little shops are worth a peek, among them the Dizzy Donkey (check out its Potcake Corner, with items benefiting TCI dog rescue, as at Greensleeves on Provo—see below), the Philatelic Bureau (Turks and Caicos stamps are especially varied and collectible) and the Shell Man (no explanation necessary).
Greensleeves is in a small strip mall a bit off the tourist track between Grace Bay and the airport/downtown. Its stock of local merchandise includes island scenes from local artists like Pamela Leach, Trevor Morgan and Brian Webster. But what makes the shop extra special is its Potcake Corner, benefiting a foundation (potcakefoundation.com) that rescues the islands’ unwanted mutts and strays. (It’s "potcake" because the locals traditionally fed dogs whatever was left over in the cooking pot, compressed into cakes.) Here you’ll find great little items of glass, metal (precious and otherwise) and crystal jewelry, including some adorable bracelets and necklaces, interspersed with li'l ceramic doggie bones and paw prints (which also show up on bottle openers, butter knives, key chains, ceiling-fan pulls and lots more).
The Salt Mills
Tel: 649-941-4662, 649-243-4904
W.I.I.F. stands for West Indies International Furniture. And French-born expat Franck Aubert’s gorgeous home-furnishings emporium—resembling a higher-end Pier One, a few shops down from Anna’s Art Gallery in the Salt Mills shopping plaza—does indeed mostly specialize in exquisite, unusual teak, mahogany and rattan pieces that he imports from Indonesia in raw form and has finished locally. If you’re looking to add some island flava to your new household, you can get just about anything shipped, from a coffee table to entire bedroom, kitchen and outdoor furniture sets. Another cool and unusual product is glossy pink-white countertops of conch shells, ground and polished to a high gloss. If you’re not in the market for items quite so big and big-ticket, W.I.I.F. carries some of the TCI’s highest-quality craft items in straw, wicker, metal and wood—and you can get that polished conch in the form of kitchen trivets.