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Please help a beach vacation novice: Turks & Caicos vs. St. John vs. ...?

Please help a beach vacation novice: Turks & Caicos vs. St. John vs. ...?

Old Feb 17th, 2014, 07:43 PM
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Please help a beach vacation novice: Turks & Caicos vs. St. John vs. ...?

My boyfriend and I (both mid 30s, no children) are looking for a Caribbean vacation in May. I have never been on any sort of tropical/beach vacation south of New England. My boyfriend has been to and really likes St. John, but he didn't really like the Bahamas. I thought we had pretty much decided on Turks & Caicos (and that's what I've researched the most), but I keep second guessing myself. If we do got to T&C we might go for a couple nights at Parrot Cay for R&R (I found a good deal) and then back to a (less expensive) Provo resort for more excitement. Here's what we are looking for:

-SWIMMING! Both in the ocean and I would love to stay somewhere with a great pool for a dip at the end of the day (I love really cool pools).

-I have never snorkeled but I would like to do it and see some cool wildlife. My boyfriend likes to dive, but he's pretty much a novice. Also paddle boarding and kayaking would be great. I like to be in the water/on the beach as much as possible.

-Scenery/Nature. Is the beauty of the TCI beaches enough to make up for the dry flat landscape? I would like something to take photos of.

-Getting around a little bit by bike/foot would be nice.

-A little bit of low-key "nightlife" would be nice-- basically just some good seafood restaurants or quiet bars with good cocktails, other people around, just something to do.

-We are going in May, so I'd rather not go somewhere where it gets much hotter/stickier by that time of year.

Would you recommend TCI or St. John? Is there something else you'd recommend for us? I ruled out Aruba right away because it looks a little boring to me (I know many people who LOVE Aruba, but I like a little more nature). Is TCI too much like Aruba? I ruled out St. Lucia and Saba because I'd like more beachy-beaches, though the nature and scenery does appeal to me. The architecture and sense I get from looking at Curacao and to some extent Barbados also appeals to me.

Ugh! Help! I'm confused!
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Old Feb 18th, 2014, 05:24 AM
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We have been to T & C, Aruba, Curacao and St. John.

Based on what you stated, I think T & C would work for you. However, to us it was too laid back and boring especially compared to Aruba. In T & C you really need to rent a car. The topography in T & C and Aruba are basically the same. Flat. T & C's Grace Bay beach though is absolutely fabulous.

T & C activities are mainly water related and driving around looking at the fabulous beaches. A few good restaurants. Not much of any nightlife or shopping. Aruba has tons and I mean tons of fabulous restaurants and bars. One of the experiences there is to try as many as you can. Aruba also has better nightlife options and shopping. I would definitely not call Aruba boring especially compared to those other destinations.

Curacao has inlets/coves of beaches on the West side of the Island. You need a car to get to them. The sand is made up of crushed coral. The downtown area is very nice with real department type stores. We found it difficult to get around without a car. No much of any nightlife either. We were bored. The highlight of our trip was scuba diving at the Aquarium.

There are many people on this forum who love St. John. We are not one of them. But if you like quite, laid back and relaxed with snorkel opportunities than it will fit. We also found it too boring. But, we like to blow and go on vacation.

Of those 4 destinations, we found the best snorkeling in Aruba. People are surprised to here that as Aruba is not know for their snorkeling as the water is not as clear as the other destinations, but in our experience we saw the most fish on our trip there. We went to Arashi Beach, Baby Beach, Rodger's Beach, the Mangel Haltos, The Antilla ship wreck and De Palm Island for snorkeling. There is no snorkeling from the resort areas.

Of all of those destinations, I would return to Aruba in a heartbeat. I would not return to any of the others. But, since it's your first trip and based on what you stated, T & C would probably be a good fit.
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Old Feb 18th, 2014, 05:55 AM
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Thanks for your reply! I'd love to hear from some others who have been to some of these places-- it's good to get perspective from actual people who have been there rather than just reading travel guides, and around where I live, everyone just goes to Aruba. My boyfriend was really young when he went to the Bahamas and St. John's with his family, and they camped, which sounds great but definitely NOT what I am up for this year!
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Old Feb 18th, 2014, 06:03 AM
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Oh also KVR, now that I think of it, it doesn't really surprise me that you saw more fish in Aruba's less clear waters-- I would guess the clarity of TCI would mean there's no much for the fish to eat.
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Old Feb 18th, 2014, 10:51 AM
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We've been to Aruba, T&C, and St. John. Of the three, I am totally obsessed with Turks and Caicos. Grace Bay Beach is spectacular. One of the most beautiful beaches I've ever seen, and that includes other Caribbean islands plus the Greek islands.

Taylor Bay is also gorgeous,especially at sunset. And so is Chalk Sound, anytime of day. But if you come to Turks, it's all about the beach, the water, some hikes, and excellent-but expensive- restaurants. There is very minimal sightseeing or nightlife.

Some mornings, I've been the only person on the beach in front of our hotel ( West Bay Club, The Venetian). Now that's heaven to me, but it might drive some people nuts.

Other than having similar topography, T&C is nothing like Aruba. Aruba can feel like Miami in the Caribbean. Very commercial,lots of shopping, cruise ships in town, always something going on 24/7. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's not what I'm looking for on vacation.

Good luck with your choice!
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Old Feb 18th, 2014, 01:13 PM
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I dunno, I kind of like the USVI. ;-) Your needs could easily be met. Don't know what kind of swimming you want, but the Beach to Beach swim is on May 24th this year. https://www.friendsvinp.org/news-a-e...-to-beach-swim
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Old Feb 19th, 2014, 05:08 AM
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Thanks for the helpful info! I still haven't decided, but at least I think I have narrowed it down to the two and it might come down to where we can afford to stay, etc. It's hard because I want too many different things in one vacation!
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Old Feb 19th, 2014, 05:51 AM
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If you want blinding white sand beach that goes for miles....go T&C. Some snorkeling, but limited.

If you want more hilly & lush, with great snorkeling, hiking, and some of the prettiest (smaller) crescent shaped beaches you've ever seen, go St John.

If you want built up, americanized, and touristy, go Aruba.
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Old Feb 20th, 2014, 10:04 AM
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Agree with Bassguy's summary. To add to it, if you want an upscale hotel on the beach with a cool pool go to T&C...lots of choices. St John is mostly (w/one or two exceptions) a villa rental island. Villas are not on the beach and you drive to the diff beaches.
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Old Feb 20th, 2014, 12:38 PM
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LOL, but true...

"If you want built up, americanized, and touristy, go Aruba."
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Old Feb 22nd, 2014, 04:06 PM
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I liked visiting St. John. It is beautiful with great beaches. However, for me, I like to be on the beach with an option to drive to other beaches. As mnag points out, you can't stay on most of the beaches in St. John and would have to pack up the car every day to go to the beach. Some people love that - a different beach every day - but it's not for me. T&C has a big range of places to stay on a fabulous beach with an option to drive to other beaches if the mood strikes. Great restaurants and a bit of low key nightlife make for a great vacay. Have fun
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Old Feb 23rd, 2014, 05:20 AM
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After 20+ islands Grace Bay, TCI is our favorite. Yes it's flat but oh that beach.

I agree with Gin. St. John is fabulous but I want to stay on the beach and not drive to it every day.
Barbados might work but it is busy like Aruba.
How about Anguilla? A bit hard to get to but gorgeous beaches and outstanding restaurants.
And if you really want to blow the buck, St. Bart's---fabulous.
Another outstanding choice is Grand Cayman. Again busy but fantastic beach & snorkeling.

Hope I didn't add to your confusion. Of all of these choices, Aruba is the busiest,most Americanized.

That siad, it would be Grace Bay for us. But I would stay right on Grace Bay so I'd have a choice of restaurants, etc. As far as photos, you will wear out your camera with photos of that gorgeous water on Grace Bay and over at Chalk Sound.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2014, 05:53 AM
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If you want to stay on a beach, be able to drive to other beaches, snorkel, eat/drink, St Thomas could fit your needs. All of those are available- plus day trips to other islands and even more beaches.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2014, 06:22 PM
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I've been to both Turks and Caicos and St. John.

I preferred snorkeling on St. John much more than Provo, mostly because of the accessibility of it. Most of Provo's is offshore, meaning you need to take a boat to get to it. St. John -- throw on your snorkel gear and walk out basically from whatever beach you are at. But, that also means you need to get to different beaches, so a car is a must.

Scenery: St. John is gorgeous -- the island and the water and the numerous beaches, simply awesome. Grace Bay is unbelievable. The water and the sand and the length of it, all just stunning. That said: Provo is the ugliest island I've ever seen. Nothing inland to take photos of. Not that it matters though, you'll be living and loving the beach!

Depending on where you stay, you could walk on either island with some ease. We rented a Jeep at both locations, but also walked a lot. Like I said, would suggested a car on St. John, but not on Provo, instead just stay centrally located on Grace Bay. I wouldn't do a bike on either though.

Nightlife: I felt Provo shut down early. Very, very quiet. St. John does have a cute little "downtown" with some fun "shacks" that I stay open late. Neither island is known for late nights though.

Also, having been to both in May, I have to say -- St. John does get sticky! Maybe that's because we rented a villa without air (compared to staying at a resort with air on Provo), but just thought I'd note that.

My opinion is probably very odd, but I have two little kids now so I see traveling very different than I used to. If you think you might have kids some day... Go to St. John now and save Provo for when you bring the little ones.

Good luck
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Old Feb 24th, 2014, 03:22 AM
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Hmmmm... I agree with much of the advice above. But there's no way that Provo's ugly! The main highway, yes, but Chalk Sound and Taylor Bay are two of the most spectacular places we've ever visited in the islands.

Of course you will need a car to get to Chalk Sound, Taylor Bay, and many of the island's restaurants. And I highly recommend getting one. Driving is easy, and far less expensive than taxis back and forth.

Now about nightlife: No doubt Turks is quiet, maybe too quiet for adults craving nightlife. St. John was slightly better- slightly-, but if you want real non-stop nightlife you may have to look at a place like Aruba or San Juan.

Lastly, about the weather: In May, most islands will be boiling hot. Make sure that you have AC if you rent a villa!
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Old Feb 24th, 2014, 04:48 AM
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I too agree with above, but must add, there's excellent off the beach snorkeling in Provo at Coral Gardens and Smith's Reef, but if pejita stayed in main hub, would have required a car to get to (but only 5 minute drive) Probably didn't venture as far?

I do get what the scenery compare is. St. John's take your breath away at every turn. But the beaches in TCI also take your breath away!

Both are awesome destinations! Just completely different from each other
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Old Feb 27th, 2014, 12:09 PM
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Just wanted to respond to a few of my comments. We rented a Jeep for the entire week of our stay on Provo. Yes, Chalk Sound is stunning, and yes, Taylor Bay is amazing! That's actually one of the reasons I recommend Provo with kids -- Taylor's Bay is beyond ideal for little ones! I guess I should have specified that the beaches and water are amazing around the island as well as Grace Bay, but the interior island, in my opinion, is rough and unattractive. We found nothing on land of beauty.

Also, we did snorkel at Coral Gardens and a huge portion was roped off due to fire coral, assuming it's always this case? I wasn't impressed with what we saw. It was okay, but I've seen better, especially compared to St.John. We did take a day trip with Caicos Dreams Tour and snorkeling off the boat was decent.

Either way, yes, each location does have pros and cons. Have a great trip with whatever you decide!
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Old Mar 1st, 2014, 03:21 PM
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After years of going to St. John, my friend and I have gone to T&C for the last two years. At St. John, we always stayed at Caneel, and you can't beat the snorkeling and beaches at the resort. However....we do love T&C. We miss floating in the water and watching the turtles, but Grace Bay is beautiful and where we stay is an easy walk into town. I like that many of the places in Provo are essentially condos so you don't have to go out for every meal.
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Old Mar 5th, 2014, 04:34 AM
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I've been to all and am currently enjoying a vacation in Turks and Caicos. Hands down, stick with your plan to come here. Aruba, although used to be nice, is very built up, not as beautiful and well, to be honest, has a cheesy factor. Meaning the type of tourist it attracts. Beaches are not as nice. Also, the island struggles with crime and poverty. St. John, although beautiful, has struggled with tourists affecting its ecosystem--meaning a lot of the reefs, due to sun and tourists, aren't what they used to be. I had been there a bunch as a kid, and went back a couple years ago. It was disappointing and sad, from what it used to be. Cruz Bay was dirty and touristy, and some of my favorite secluded beaches were secluded no more. Meaning, boatloads of tourists from St Thomas would arrive, snorkel, and take over the beach with their cellphones and cigarettes!! St. John is still beautiful, and it will be less crowded in May, but I think it's lost its charm. (However I do love the BVIs, I think they're a bit more protected and private that USVIs) I'm in my mid thirties, my husband and I love to travel, and I highly recommend Turks. Parrot Cay is isolated though, I'm not sure I'd stay there, unless you have time to do a few days there and THEN come to Grace Bay/Provo.
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Old Oct 6th, 2014, 03:16 PM
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Go to the Bahamas for sure. I was just in Nassau in August. The water is so warm. It's like bath water, no joke! Even at night time.
If you are looking for a little adventure, the crystal clear water provides for arguably the best snorkeling in the world. Took an hour-long snorkeling trip to a coral reef near the original "Gilligan's Island." Pretty amazing experience.
I'm planning on taking a trip back in January. It's a brand new property that is no doubt the most impressive in the area. Here's a link: http://bit.ly/BM-ResortMap
Also, happy hour drinks were very reasonable in Nassau, in my opinion.
Have an awesome vacation!
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