Grace Bay Beach has been called one of the best beaches in the world. But, what does it mean to be the “best beach?” If you close your eyes and imagine it, it could be anything from rocky cliffs over a slim, secluded line of sand, to tide pools surrounding a shell-pocked beach. But for most of us, it means two things. White sand as far as the eye can see, and blue water so clear that you can see through it like glass.
Sadly, this idyllic and serene beach dream is not always real. However, Grace Bay Beach, located on the island Paradise of Turks and Caicos, is as close to that dreamlike perfection as one can experience on this planet. First, let’s talk a little about the history of this paradise, and then get to why you must plan your next getaway to the Turks and Caicos.
Turks and Caicos: The History of an Island Paradise
Turks and Caicos, or more correctly, the Turks and Caicos Islands, are a group of tropical islands located in the West Indies. They consist of two groups of islands: the more significant Caicos Islands and the smaller Turks Islands. There are eight main islands, but in total, the group boasts 299 additional smaller islands. With a population of barely 31,000 inhabitants, they’re part of the British Overseas Territories. This puts them into the same category as the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, and Bermuda. And all are paradises in their own right.
The island and its indigenous population, the Taino people, were first discovered in 1512 by the Spanish conquistador, Juan Ponce de León. Following Spain’s colonization of the island, it passed from Spanish to French, and then to British control. Regardless of its political ownership, it also remained a favorite pirate hideout for decades.
It wasn’t until 200 years after Ponce de Leon’s landing that permanent European settlers arrived. The first ones were British loyalists, fleeing the now-independent American colonies to the British Caribbean ones. Over the years, however, a broad mix of Spanish, Portuguese, British, African slaves, and later free Africans began to call Turks and Caicos their home. This migration happened mostly by choice, but sometimes via shipwreck. Although, there are worse places to get wrecked.
The salt industry was the most substantial economic industry on the islands. However, these days, tourism has eclipsed the value of any natural resource, and the islands have also become a famous offshore financial center.
How to Reach Grace Bay Beach
Grace Bay is located on Providenciales. Also known as Provo, locally, Providenciales boasts the largest population of the Turks and Caicos Islands, while covering the third most significant area.
As a population center for the area, Providenciales is the home of the Providenciales International Airport. Major airlines such as Air Canada, American Airlines, JetBlue, United, and British Airways fly there, making it a prime arrival destination for travelers. The status as British Overseas Territory also makes it a convenient location by having very little to no visa restrictions for tourists. This benefit depends on your passport, of course. Furthermore, the local currency is in U.S. dollars, which adds to the ease many people will find when traveling there.
You can find Grace Bay Beach itself on the northeastern part of Providenciales. However, the island is small enough that once you land, local transportation should present no trouble due to the wide availability of hotel shuttle services and taxis.
Why Is Grace Bay One of the Best Beaches?
Calling something the best of anything seems slightly facetious. After all, what I like is not necessarily the same thing you do. Grace Bay Beach, however, might be an exception to subjectivity. Tripadvisor named it the world’s best beach in 2016, a distinction it can still defend today.
But what exactly makes Grace Bay the best? It’s difficult to describe something that is more than the sum of its parts. The beach itself consists of sand as white as pearls. The water is serene and clear, and the temperature and climate result in perfect conditions throughout the year. It’s also accessible without being overrun. But all of these things are just words. All the good beaches have the same qualities.
The real difference is harder to put into words, and the best way to ultimately phrase it is this: Visting Grace Bay Beach and seeing it for yourself will convince you. Feeling the silky sand underneath your feet and the refreshing surf washing over your toes, this beach is like seeing the ocean for the first time.
Humans are part of the natural world and crave relaxation in a natural setting. A quick getaway from the city, whether hiking the mountains or walking through a field, might be a profoundly relaxing activity. Being at a place like Grace Bay Beach, however, transcends this feeling of relaxation. It’s a sense of being content with yourself and the energy around you. Being one of the best beaches does not come from the quality of sand or water. It comes from the feeling you and everyone else has when looking out into the Atlantic. A sense that both humbles and connects you to the world. It’s spiritual.
Where to Stay?
Since the 1980s, Providenciales and Grace Bay Beach have been creating the best tourist destinations in the Caribbean. These beautiful developments, coupled with their size and accessibility, makes them a convenient destination.
The first of many commercial properties was Club Med. It still offers a premium, all-inclusive experience for those who do not want to worry about anything as soon as they’ve checked in. Since then, others such as The Sands, Point Grace, or Ocean Club West have opened resorts on the island. The dense competition and premium rates mean that it is nigh on impossible to make a wrong decision for a beachside resort experience.
Fortunately, if you are not big on the commercial vacation model, modern sharing-economy platforms like Airbnb offer travelers the opportunity to avoid the bigger resorts. Beachfront villas also provide a more secluded experience, especially when you are traveling in a group.
Activities in and Around Turks and Caicos Beaches
As one of the best beaches in the world, Grace Bay offers the usual beach purist’s delights: sunbathing, swimming, reading, snorkeling, and strolling. Beaches can make the mundane magical, don’t they? Grace Bay, however, gets bonus points for also being a natural reserve. As such, any activities that could disrupt the pristine, natural serenity of the place are strictly forbidden. This means activities like motor-boating and jet-skiing are not allowed.
For some, this is possibly a downside, but the policy results in a stunning underwater landscape. Grace Bay is also protected by a reef only a mile away from the coast. So, for the athletically inclined, this means they can swim out to see all kinds of undersea wildlife.
The remoteness of the islands also offers up some exploration opportunities. While you could stay on Grace Bay Beach, there are many tiny, uninhabited islands sprinkled around Turks and Caicos. You can charter a boat and spend a day on a private island or beach. As far as genuinely exceptional experiences go, having miles of beach virtually to yourself is up there. Alternatively, you could book a private fishing tour or a parasailing adventure across the archipelago.
The ability to explore the surroundings is also a reason for Turks and Caicos being a destination for world-class diving. With many remote cays reachable from Provinciale, the potential for underwater excursions is incredible.
Should you get into the mood for some sightseeing, Provinciale also offers a few places to see. Remnants of piracy in the Caribbean are sprinkled around the island at places like Osprey Rock and Sapodilla Hill. Meanwhile, ruins of old plantation houses hint at the colonial past of the island.
Turks and Caicos Awaits
The Caribbean has a magical pull. Even the most beach-averse person in the world cannot deny the natural, serene beauty of it. The Turks and Caicos beaches rank amongst the best beaches in the world for that exact reason. Their beauty, serenity, sand quality, and remoteness speak to us in a way that only a few places in the world do. They affect you deeply, in ways that mean so much more than just getting away from your job. The simple natural perfection speaks to us in a primal, settling way.
Like explorers hundreds of years ago, we yearn to see what the vast, blue expanse in front of us holds. Luckily for modern explorers, unlike for those of old, it’s only a flight away.