The family and I just returned from a wonderful week in Turks and Caicos. Turks and Caicos is a group of 40 islands and cays located just south of the Bahamas. It's beautiful beaches, variety of accommodations, safety and easy (and direct) flights make it a great family tourist destination.
We stayed at Villa Renaissance, a 28-unit resort located directly on Grace Bay. My husband and I have never been keen on taking the kids to a large all-inclusive resort. We understand their advantages, but we don't feel that they work for our travel personalities or for our kids. These reasons will be discussed in a later posting. Instead, we look for accommodation that has the following: a separate place for the kids to sleep, a fridge, and a washer and dryer. Villa Renaissance, with its luxurious one, two and three bedroom suites fit our needs. In fact, it did more than fit our needs...it was perfect. Villa Renaissance won the TripAdvisor 2010 Traveler's Choice Award for Luxury.
We rented a two bedroom, two bathroom suite that overlooked beautiful Grace Bay. To save money, we rented directly through the owner using VRBO.com, instead of through the resort (a savings of more than 50%).
Our particular unit was managed by Allied Management. They were excellent -- the daily cleaning was a treat, plus they found sand toys for my kids.
If travelling from Canada, both Air Canada and WestJet have direct flights from Toronto. At the time of this posting, WestJet had better flight times for kids.
My Mum told me, when I first started travelling with my oldest son, that the only things little children need on vacation is sand and water. This trip confirmed it. Our favourite days were spent on the beach making sandcastles, jumping waves and swimming in the pool. However, we did venture out to do a bit of exploring. Here are some of our activities:
Grace Bay is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and it certainly lived up to its reputation. As our condo/hotel was right on the beach we spent most of our week here.
Sapadilla Bay is also known as the "Children's Beach" as it has crystal clear and incredibly shallow water for at least 30 metres. While it is not easy to find, it is worth the drive if you have small children. Grace Bay was a bit too rough for our kids while we were there as a hurricane had threatened the area the week before. Sapadilla Bay was so calm and non-threatening to our boys that we visited it twice.
Las Brisas is located across the street from Sapadilla Bay, so is a great place to stop for lunch.
There are several boat tour companies in Turks and Caicos. We picked this one because of its reviews on TripAdvisor. We did the half day tour, which is a bit pricey, but we found it was well worth the expense as it offered something for everyone in the family: snorkeling, conch harvesting and a visit to see the iguanas. The half day tour says it provides snacks (including a conch salad) not lunch, so be smart and pack extra munchies for the kids.
The highlight of the tour was seeing my oldest son try snorkeling for the first time. The area where the tour takes you conch hunting is only about 3 feet deep, so he felt confident coming into the water with me. I think his total time in the water was about 5 minutes, but he spent the rest of the trip talking about how great it was.
This one hour semi submarine tour is an excellent way for little kids, and any non swimmers in your group, to experience the beauty of the reefs. Both my boys were completely enraptured seeing turtles, sting rays, blue tangs (Dory from Nemo), coral and other wildlife. The one hour time is perfect as they just started getting restless the last 5 minutes.
There are many incredible restaurants in Turks and Caicos. We choose to eat one meal a day at a restaurant, and to enjoy the rest of our meals at the condo. We find that this works for us as we don't become tired of eating out (my husband and I can only manage so many rich meals in one week) and the kids don't get tired of being constantly reminded about "restaurant behaviour". One trick that we used on this trip was to bring my iphone and our ipod with headphones. This is something that we do not do at home, so it was a treat for them and for us. The kids ate their meals first, and then watched a TV show while my husband and I enjoyed a lovely meal in peace.
Be warned that some restaurants are closed on Mondays or Tuesdays, so please check their hours before venturing out. Also, popular restaurants are booked up even during low season, so make reservations. For example, we were not able to get into Coco Bistro without a reservation.
We also noticed that the kids were served warm milk. We only ordered milk twice and stopped after the second warm milk. I mentioned it to my Mum, who grew up in Northern England, and she said that this was how she was served her milk at school as a child. Given that Turks and Caicos is a British Territory, I assume that this must be how milk is drunk on the island.
The Vix is located in Regent Village and is about a 5 minute walk from Villa Renaissance. This was one of our most memorable meals. They also serve a wonderful carbonara for children.
Located across the street from Villa Renaissance, the Saltmills Cafe is a mid range priced restaurant. They serve an all day breakfast with perhaps the best pancakes I have ever had. We ate lunch at this restaurant twice.
Hemingways gets raving reviews on TripAdvisor for their lunch time fish tacos. We missed lunch, but did eat a very lovely dinner here. Hemingways is about a 10 minute walk from Villa Renaissance.
Over priced and not very good Thai food.
Danny Buoys advertises itself as an Irish pub. However, it is one of those Irish Pubs where there is more non-pub food (pizza, pasta etc.) than pub food. It's not bad, but there are other, better options on the island.
A lovely restaurant with gorgeous views of Chalk Sound. This is a great restaurant to take kids to as there is both a pool and a beach. The food is good too.
Yoshis Japanese Restaurant
We put the kids to bed early one night and and got "carry away" (a.k.a Take Out for North Americans) sushi. Very good, and not badly priced...for sushi.
A great restaurant for kids. It's one of those relaxed places where people show up in their bathing suits. Located right on the beach, my kids played in the sand while my husband and I talked and enjoyed a beer.
Not a bad place, its biggest attraction is that it is on the water.
Island Scoop is a homemade ice cream stand in Grace Bay. The ice cream is good, but the best part for us was the large sand box with sand toys for the kids. Nothing like relaxing on the outdoor furniture while the kids play.
There are two grocery stores within walking distance. The first, Graceway Gourmet, is about a 10 to 15 minute walk from Villa Renaissance. It's the more high end grocery store (so be prepared for the prices) and is open to 9pm. The other grocery store, Graceway IGA, is further away and while we did not use it we heard it is better priced and open to 10pm.
Graceway Gourmet had everything we were looking for (even organic peanut butter) so it became our go-to grocery store while we were on the island.
We rented a car as we could not find a taxi company that provided car seats. While I have been in a taxi with the kids without car seats, I don't like it. The car also allowed us to tour the island which we enjoyed doing. While I would rent a car again, I would look into other rental car companies as our rental from Avis was quite expensive.