Providenciales, or Provo as is known locally, is the tourism capital of the smaller Turks and the larger Caicos, two autonomous British Overseas Territory groups of tropical islands in the Lucayan Archipelago of the Northern Caribbean Sea.
Found on the western end of the island chain, Provo is home to a tourist-bustling international airport, luxury hotels and sprawling white villas, exquisite restaurants and spas, bars, cafes, and a championship caliber golf course that all run along the 12-mile/ 18-km north shore of sandy Grace Bay.
Still, just a few decades ago, Providenciales did not have a single electricity wire, wheeled vehicle or full running grocery store. The development boom hit the secluded, sugar-white shoreline with tsunami strength.
Providenciales – The Cinderella Island of the Caribbean
How to Develop an Island
You won’t find any old colonial remains on Provo. Only half a century back, this whole area was pretty much salt flats.
The locals must have gotten used to the peace and quiet because nowadays, even if Providenciales is relatively safe from the crowds compared to other tropical beach destinations, the residents grumble about tourist invasions.
In spite of the growing numbers, solitude seekers can still find some hidden nooks and crannies among the coves and the cays of the island. Not to mention that the powder-white sand beaches stretch as far as the eye can see, leaving plenty of room for personal space.
Plus, it’s somewhat comfortable to still catch sight of makeshift shacks resisting the ever growing upscale residences.
Two flights a Week and One Hotel
As recently as 1964, roads, water, telephones, and electricity were absent. A World War II DC-3 plane would bring people in from Florida twice a week. Not too many people, though, because the accommodation options were almost inexistent. The Third Turtle Inn was the only hotel in an area of 98 km2
The island’s first large hotel and casino complex opened in 1984. The rest, as they say, is development history.
Resorts like Ocean Club, Seven Stars, Beaches, Grace Bay Club, The Palms, Gansevoort and West Bay Club opened their doors to willing tourists. An entire generation of retirees from around the world swarmed to the pristine shores, kindling a boom in the development of luxury condos as well.
However, the local flair persists, as well as that first gasp of surprise and wonder when the plane starts its descent over the island’s rugged ridges and the shallow, turquoise waters of Chalk Sound Park below.
Provo’s Main Attractions
In 2011, Trip Advisor ranked Providenciales the best beach destination in the world. The honor was well-deserved.
But to believe is to see. Choose from a plethora of boat charters and trips from Turtle Cove and Leeward Marinas to get to the next destinations.
Grace Bay beach
On the north shore, Provo wears Grace Bay as its crowning glory. The famous 12-mile Grace Bay beach – on which, to be fair, you cannot stroll for more than 3 miles in one direction before hitting the dead ends of Turtle Cove and Thompson Cay, is home to most of the tourism infrastructure.
Princess Alexandra Marine Park is the place to find Jo Jo, the famous bottlenose dolphin. Also, the world’s first Conch Farm teaches visitors how to grow conch from baby-size snails to four-year-old adults.
Snorkeling, Scuba Diving, Snuba, and Other Water Sports
Snorkeling enthusiasts of all levels can enjoy the world’s third-largest reef system right off the shoreline of the Bight Reef or off Babalua Beach. On smooth sea days, when you stare below the water surface, more than 100 feet of depth open to the eye.
The diving in Provo is world class. Beside the mile-stretching coral reefs, the island is also on route of the humpback whale.
Plus, if you’ve always wanted to dive but didn’t get around that diving certificate, Snuba will allow you to explore the depths while your oxygen reserves stay on the surface.
What about enjoying the heights? On Grace Bay you can windsurf, parasail, sail a Hobie Cat or take out a kayak or the paddleboard through the mangroves if you feel so inclined.
The wind-sheltered waters off Leeward and the cays provide better for waterskiing, tubing, and wakeboarding.
Long Bay Beach
The newest hot spot for kite surfers, Long Bay Beach lies on the southern, windward side of the Providenciales. Development planners are yet to infiltrate this area, although there is one luxury resort being built as we speak on the tip of the beach.
The Hole, a natural limestone sinkhole, is also to be found in Long Bay. It runs deep at over sixty feet and hits brackish water at the bottom.
A small-group kiteboarding lesson will run you $120, but you get the value of a certified instructor and cruising smooth waves.
Chalk Sound National Park & Point Marine National Park
The waters of the western half of Providenciales are the HD definition of ‘turquoise’. This vast blue blanket of water known as the Chalk Sound National Park is decorated with tiny mushroom-like islets along a 3 miles (4.8 km) long bay southwest of Downtown.
This is wilderness at home. The poisonous Coral Sumac tree is very common here, so take care not to venture too close in its vicinity.
Although the sound is nearly landlocked, the water here remains transparently clean and algae free. It’s well worth the long and twisty drive to reach the place.
Sharing the same part of the island is Northwest Point Marine National Park. The several salt lakes here attract migrant waterfowl, and the reefs offer beautiful snorkeling experiences.
Turks and Caicos Rock Iguanas
Where vegetation grows, iguanas bathe in the sun. These almost extinct lizards eke out an existence by foraging the Turks-head cacti for fruits, plants, and insects.
Sunset Spots in Lobster Season
Needless to mention it, but the sun setting over the Caribbean waters is not to be missed. All the better if you catch lobster season.
Infinity Grace Bay Club, formerly named Anacaona, ranks high with one the best lite bite menus on the island and prime sunset view for desert.
Or if you’re staying at the chic luxury resort Amanyara, order your dinner cocktails by the minimalist designed pool and wait for the stars to set in over the sea. Or just stay in and uncork a bottle of wine in your very own private condo.
Ganzevoort Grace Bay is the hot spot for dancing and live music on Friday nights.
No Jobs for the Weatherman
Opportunities for sightseeing, hiking, snorkeling, diving, kiteboarding, and really just relaxing are endless on this part of the Turks and Caicos Island.
You don’t even have to check the Providenciales weather forecast. Anytime of the year is great! This is where cold and warm, summer and winter, rain and sun melt into the always clear turquoise waters.