Turks and Caicos Islands: Places to Explore


South Caicos

This 8½-square-mile (21-square-km) island with a population of only 1,400 was once an important salt producer; today it’s the heart of the country's fishing industry. You'll find long, white beaches; jagged bluffs; quiet backwater bays; and salt flats. The island is so basic and rustic that you may feel as if you are stepping back in time to a sleepier world, where you have to stop the car to allow donkeys and cows to cross the street.

You will see construction all over the island (two resorts are under development at this writing). As your plane lands, you can't miss the construction site for the Caicos Beach Club Resort & Marina sitting perched on a hill; it has changed developers several times and was first scheduled to open in 2005. Now seven buildings are in various stages of completion (the clubhouse is finished), so some progress is being made. When finished, the resort will be huge, with some 700 rooms, a casino, and a marina. A 200-room resort is also being built on East Bay Beach.

In 2008 Hurricanes Hanna and Ike gave South Caicos a one–two punch, and many of the buildings at Cockburn Harbour sustained substantial damage; island residents had to wait more than a month to have power restored. Although the island has recovered, the few dive operators have disappeared. The best way to dive (other than independently) is through Sea Crystal Divers from Salt Cay (this requires spending the night in Salt Cay because dive trips originate there).

The major draw for South Caicos is its excellent diving and snorkeling on the pristine wall and reefs (with an average visibility of 100 feet). This is a treat enjoyed by only a few, but it's practically the only thing to do on South Caicos other than to lie on the lovely beaches. Several local fishermen harvest spiny lobsters for the Turks and Caicos and for export. Making up the third-largest reef in the world, the coral walls surrounding South Caicos are dramatic, dropping dramatically from 50 feet to 6,000 feet in the blink of an eye.