I have to warn you this is ridiculously long!
I can’t believe it has been almost a month since we returned from our idyllic trip to Turks and Caicos, and I haven’t written my trip report yet. Everything (well, except for a stomach bug 3 of the 4 of us suffered from) was absolute perfection.
DH and I traveled to Turks and Caicos for spring break in April with our children, ages 7 and 9. We flew on Jet Blue which was fantastic. We had a direct flight from JFK into Provo, and had no problems. One thing to note, our kids loved having satellite TV, but when you are out over the water, you lose your satellite signal. They offer free movies on the flight, but I didn’t realize the movies start when you get on the flight. My kids were able to jump in mid-movie, and on the way back they started the movie right away.
We arrived in Provo around 2 pm. There was a short line to get through customs and short wait to get our bags, but nothing too bad. We left the terminal and headed straight ahead to the Grace Bay Rental area. We rented a nice little SUV. Little being the operative word. We had to do some jamming to fit our luggage in, but we were able to manage it. We had no problems with Grace Bay Rental. They were pleasant to deal with in every way.
It was a short and easy ride to the Regent Palms. Perhaps it took ½ hour? I made DH drive because I was nervous about driving on the left. If I could change one thing about TCI it would be driving on the left! I didn’t drive for a week because I was too nervous.
The Regent Palms is just beautiful. The reception area has a roof, but open walls, which my kids couldn’t get over. Straight ahead there is a pretty garden with a fountain and then Parallel 23, where we had our breakfast every morning. The garden area is surrounded with cute boutiques and a small food shop. Just beyond the restaurant are the rooms. There are several (I never counted) buildings, maybe about 5 stories high. They ring the pool in a horseshoe shape, and the beach is just beyond the pool.
I think all of the buildings would have been convenient. It is a fairly compact property. One thing that surprised my husband is how close the neighboring properties are. The Somerset is to one side and the Alexandra is to the other. The Somerset buildings are so close I originally thought they were part of the Regent Palms property. This didn’t really bother us, but it was just surprising.
We were in an ocean view one bedroom suite and we were very happy with it. Before we left my son complained that he would have to sleep on a pull out couch, but once we were there, he never complained so it must have been comfortable. I didn’t want to ask because I didn’t really want to hear the answer! We were on the second floor. You walk into an entry way shared with another room – this would be great if you had family in the other room, you could lock the outside door and keep the inside doors open. After you enter your room, there’s a short hallway with a half bath with washer and dryer on the left. As you continue in, you go into the great room. The dining table, which seated at least 6, was on the right. The slider to the porch was straight ahead. To the left is the kitchen, with stove, coffeemaker, microwave, dishwasher, sink, fridge & freezer. The countertops are granite, appliances are top of the line - I think Viking. There is a bar with at least 3 or 4 bar seats. Beyond that, there was a comfortable couch, 2 chairs, coffee table and TV with DVD player. It was all VERY spacious and comfortable. On the private porch, there were 2 chairs and a small side table and, this was the best, a day bed. It must have had a real twin bed mattress on it, it was so comfortable. What a lovely place to hang out!
The entrance to the master bedroom was beyond the dining area. There was a very large bathroom, with 2 sinks, plenty of counter space, and a separate water closet (is that the polite name for it?) with a toilet and bidet. There was a separate room without a door with 2 side by side shower spouts and bathtub. Not a lot of privacy if you were sharing this room with friends or modest teenagers and you wanted to be getting ready while someone was showering. But it was absolutely perfect for us. We could all shower 2 at a time, making the process much quicker. The bedroom had a king size bed, large closet with safe, and some shelves. There really wasn’t much storage for folded items. We did over pack, but that is how I like to travel. Had there been tons of hangers we would have had plenty of space. As it was, I left most of my children’s clothing on a chair in the corner of the bedroom. There was also a TV, and 2 sliding doors that opened to a view of the water. We also had a water and pool view from the porch.
The beach and pool are just lovely. The pool is large and winding, plenty of room for everyone. While we were on spring break, I think most of the other schools in the US were done with their spring break, so it really wasn’t crowded. We could always find seats by the pool or on the beach. The pool had a swim up bar which we all loved, and the pool temperature was great – cool enough to be refreshing but not cold at all.
We spent most of our time on the beach. When you walk down the path, the hotel staff meets you and finds seats for you. There are lots of water sports available for free. We took out Hobie Cats, paddle boards, kayaks and borrowed snorkeling equipment. We bought beach toys at the store on the grounds, but then we found that there were abandoned toys on the beach near the water sports staff.
I was surprised that there was a fairly strong current on the beach and the drop off was kind of steep right off the beach. My kids at ages 7 & 9 are strong swimmers and I felt pretty comfortable with them swimming on their own, but if I had a toddler it would not have been ideal. I don’t know if it was just the time of year or the weather, maybe it’s not like that all year around. The water, of course, was clear and gorgeous. We borrowed snorkeling equipment and snorkeled off the beach. There was not a lot to see straight in front of the hotel, but if you drifted down toward the Alexandra there were lots of pretty shells.
As long as I’m on the beach topic, I’ll continue. We also walked down to Coral Gardens one day. We had heard it was 20 minutes away, it may have been a bit further but we were walking at a 7 year old’s pace. The snorkeling at Coral Gardens was amazing. I can’t believe there are such amazing fish in the world! My daughter had a little bit of a hard time with the snorkel, but I think that’s just her. My son definitely snorkeled without a problem when he was 7. There is a roped off area that you are not allowed into, but you stay just along the outside of the rope and there is so much to see. This is a must-do.
Of course, when we were at Coral Gardens, we had lunch at Somewhere On The Beach. I really, really enjoyed this. I had been eating a lot of fish, and I think I had a shrimp salad, but it was so nice to have Mexican food, even if I did still add shrimp on! Nice change of pace, nice relaxing atmosphere, good margaritas!
One day we drove across the island to either Sapodilla or Taylor Bay. We are still not really sure which one we ended up at! I do think it was Taylor, though. That was one of our best days! It was just so lovely. IT couldn’t be more different from Grace Bay. We loved staying on Grace Bay and definitely enjoyed all of the activity, water sports, restaurant options, etc., however, Taylor Bay was so tranquil and peaceful. We noticed that one of the houses that I assume was rented had a dock on the bay and had kayaks and other water sports type things. If you could rent a house with these things and either go with friends or family or else just be happy in your small group, it would be lovely. I think it might have been too quiet to just have the 4 of us there, but it really was so nice. The water is incredibly shallow and you can walk out FOREVER before it gets deep. The sand is so soft, it’s unbelievable. Softer than Grace Bay. It would be great with younger children. By the way, we had a hard time finding it. These are the directions I had found somewhere online, probably on Fodor’s.
“Sapodilla is reachable off the second left onto a dirt road after you turn on to Chalk Sound Drive. As for Taylor, left turn onto Ocean Point Cl. and the access point is right before the "Ocean Point" sign farther down the road. Be alert because they are both easy to miss.”
When we went to Taylor Bay, we had lunch at Las Brisas. This was a great choice. We had fried calamari and conch fritters for appetizers, but there were so many other tapas that looked so appealing. Unfortunately I thought those would appeal to my children the most, but I would have loved to have gone back for dinner and ordered more. I had a chick pea and Serrano ham salad in a light vinaigrette, and it was so delicious. It was literally chick peas and Serrano ham, I was expecting more greens, but I still really, really enjoyed it. We sat on the deck overlooking Chalk Sound. The color of the Sound is just unreal, it was just so idyllic.
Now I’ll move on to our meals. My daughter is incredibly picky. She only eats standard children’s menu fare, like pasta with butter or chicken nuggets. We were able to find something for her at each of the restaurants we visited.
We made most of our dinner reservations ahead of time, but some we had to change or make last minute. Our first night I thought we wanted to go to the Tiki Hut. They don’t take reservations and the gentleman my husband spoke to on the phone said it wouldn’t be a problem to walk in. Since we probably only got to the hotel at 3 or 4, we just didn’t feel ready to shower early and leave the hotel to drive to dinner, where we might have to wait for a table. A gentleman in the pool overheard our conversation and he suggested we go next door to Mango Reef at the Alexandra. We did and it was lovely. It was Saturday night and we walked by preparations for 2 weddings on the beach. We were able to eat in the dunes overlooking the water. The appetizers were not the best, and usually I DO think those are the best part of the meal, but whatever fish I had was delicious. It was easy, casual, definitely kid friendly and the food was pretty good.
Sunday I think we walked to Hemingway’s for lunch. It was delicious! Fish tacos! Very short walk from the Regent Palms, maybe 10 minutes, if that. Sunday night we had reservations at Coco Bistro. This was maybe our best dinner. This is not on the water, it’s in a shopping center, but you are in a garden with palm trees lit with rope lighting. The walls of the building are painted a deep red, giving it more atmosphere. I felt comfortable bringing the kids here. I’ve heard they’re very accommodating to children. I don’t know if I would have felt comfortable with a very small child, if they were loud or wanted to run, but I definitely felt ok bringing my kids there. The appetizers were delicious, but ironically I didn’t like my fish as much as I liked the dinner at Mango Reef. This is surprising because Coco Bistro is so highly recommended. My husband really liked his entrée, so I still very highly recommend this. The atmosphere alone makes it worth it.
I’m interrupting my restaurant description to talk about our boat tour. Monday we had lunch at our pool restaurant and then headed out for our ½ day Caicos Dream Tour snorkeling trip. The pick up area is right at the Alexandra, so it was essentially on our beach, which was really convenient. We loved this day. We went along Grace Bay and heard some of the history of the island and the hotels and condos. Then we went out to the reef and did some snorkeling. It was so impressive, but if for some reason you can’t make it out here, we saw a lot of the same fish at Coral Gardens. Still it’s very impressive. It’s a little disconcerting to snorkel with children in open water, but we never went far from the boat and my husband and I were each able to stay with one child, so it was fine. We were here for maybe ½ hour? I’m not sure. Next we boated over to a shallow area where we could dive for conch. You had to keep your flippers on even though it was so shallow because there were so many sea urchins. It was a little disconcerting but we didn’t have any incidents. You would not believe how many conchs there were, but they were almost all too small! We were there for quite a while before each family found one conch that was big enough. One of our guides pointed out the one that I ended up with. It was gorgeous!
Once we all had our conchs, we went to Iguana Island. One of the guides opened up the conch and taught us a bit about them (there was a lot of discussion on how to tell the male from the female! Pretty funny!) and then we were free to look for iguanas while they made conch salad. We saw a lot of iguanas, the kids were very excited, and then we headed back to our boat for the salad. It was simple but fresh and delicious! I really try to eat a healthy diet, but they served the conch salad with Doritos and it was really delicious that way, with a Turks Head beer. (They also had rum punch.) I think after that we headed back. The afternoon tour lasted from 1:30-5:30. It was a really enjoyable way to spend the day.
That night we had reservations at Baci, but that was when the stomach bug hit! My daughter was the first one to get it. We thought at first it was something she ate, but since others caught it later, we guess it must have been a bug. We ordered room service that night, which was fine. The menu is pretty limited but we were all able to find something.
Interrupting the food report, Tuesday night we booked a sitting with Brilliant by Tropical Imagine. Kellie was our photographer and I really liked her. I’ve just ordered some prints and I’m sure I’ll be thrilled with the results. We took our photos on the grounds of our hotel so it was nice and easy. I think the shoot took about 75 minutes.
Tuesday night is the night of the famous Somerset Beach Barbecue. This is right next door to the Regent Palms, so it couldn’t have been more convenient. The week we were there, they were offering the barbecue Thursday night too, but I’m not sure if that’s a year round thing. I’m sorry to say the barbecue did not go so well for my family. My daughter was really still recovering from her stomach bug and there was nothing there she would eat even if she hadn’t just had a stomach bug. I really do wish she would eat more food! My husband ran over to see what was on the buffet and we knew my daughter wouldn’t eat any of it, so we sat by the pool at the Regent Palms and had a drink while she ate something from the children’s menu. Then we headed over. The food was fine. We are really not all you can eat type of people so I’m not sure we got our money’s worth in terms of food. And my kids are just too shy to dance, so they weren’t into the dj and dancing. I suppose my son liked the bonfire a little. Anyway, my daughter was wiped out early, so my husband ate and then left right away with her. I stayed with my son but since he wouldn’t dance and it was just the 2 of us, we didn’t really do much. We left soon after my husband and daughter. Maybe if we were in a larger group it would have been fun? I don’t know. It’s so highly recommended I hate to discourage anyone from going, but it really wasn’t fantastic for us. Oh, my husband caught the stomach bug that night, and he said at first he thought it was the ribs, but I don’t believe that at all, since my daughter had been sick the day before, I think it was the bug, not any food!
Wednesday we booked an outing with Provo Ponies. I can’t believe they let children 6 and over, with no horse riding experience go out on their own horse, but they do and it was great! Neither of my kids had been on horses before and with the quick, five minutes of training, they were able to ride comfortably. Of course they chose the right horses for my children, so that was a factor. We rode down a dirt road to the beach and the horses went right into the water. It was so cool and bizarre. It wasn’t a very populated beach but I felt bad for anyone renting or owning a house on the beach since the horses poop in the water! But it really was such an amazing thing to do. Again, I highly recommend it.
Wednesday night we had a babysitter, which we arranged through the hotel. The first babysitter didn’t show up, but they were able to find another very lovely babysitter on almost no notice. She arrived about ½ hour after the other babysitter was supposed to show up, and they gave us our first hour of babysitting for free.
We had reservations at both Parallel 23, in our hotel, and Stelle, which is the new Italian restaurant at the Gansevoort. We like to go to the Gansevoort in the Meatpacking District in New York, so we thought it would be fun to see what the one on TCI was like. And we had been eating breakfast in the Parallel 23 space every morning, so we felt like we wanted to leave the property. It might have been a bit of a mistake. The décor was really cool, and there was some good people watching, but the food wasn’t really all that great. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t a “wow” dinner. It was also pretty quiet when we finished dinner, so while we originally thought we would hang out for a drink after dinner, we elected to just go back to our hotel bar for a drink. Our babysitter worked at Stelle and said they have a DJ Friday night, and we planned to go back for that, but the stomach bug hit again. I’ll get to that later!
Thursday, we ate at Caicos Café, which I really really liked. It was in a little shopping center, not on the water, but there was a lovely outdoor deck. I felt comfortable with the children here, but again, this was one of the nicer restaurants we went to, so you’d want to make sure your children are well behaved. They had the standard children’s menu fare as well. I think this may have been my favorite meal of the week. I honestly don’t remember what I ate at any of my meals, but I just know this was a good one!
Friday night we were supposed to have a babysitter and go to Anacoana. I was so, so looking forward to this, but as I was getting dressed to go out, my son got sick. The stomach bug struck again! I was so very disappointed! I didn’t want anything from the room service menu and we were so excited to eat at Anacoana. If we go back, I’ll want to plan our dinner at Anacoana earlier in the week in case something like this happens again!
Saturday was our last night, and had reservations at Bay Bistro at the Sibonne Hotel, I think 2 hotels down from our hotel. The hotels are so close that this was a very short walk - maybe 5 minutes? I don’t think I realized when we booked this for our last night that we’d be eating on the beach, but it turned out to be a good choice. My son was still not feeling 100%, but we all enjoyed our meal. Again, I don’t remember what I ate, but I do remember that I liked it, and the view couldn’t be beat!
We had to leave Sunday, and we hadn’t found time to go to Da Conch Shack, so we decided to swing by on our way to the airport. This was a good choice. It was not really that far from the airport and it was so amazing to sit at a picnic table under a palm tree on the beach for our last meal on the island. I had the conch combo; conch fritters and cracked conch (which is just fried strips of conch), served with rice and peas. Add on a rum punch and it was a great last meal.
Our airport experience was fairly uneventful but you need to know that it is not air conditioned (at least not that I could tell) and it was horribly crowded. Don’t wear jeans if you’re on your way to a cooler climate, stay in your shorts as long as possible! They sent us up to the roof top bar which was really just as crowded as the downstairs waiting area, and almost as hot. I left to buy water and was in line at the one gift shop for about ½ hour. I think there was a bar that sold some sort of food, but there was really nowhere to sit and it had a long line. I suggest eating before you go through security.
That’s the end of my very long report! I loved everything about Turks & Caicos. The people were so warm, I always felt safe, our hotel was everything we could have asked for, there were tons of great restaurants to choose from, and of course the natural beauty is amazing. I’m not sure I could quite commit to going there over and over as it seems so many people do. I know I would have an amazing time if I went back, but I just feel like I have to try every other island out there! I’ll have to do lots of research to be sure our next Caribbean island lives up to Turks and Caicos!
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I have to warn you this is ridiculously long!