The prevalence of high-end boutique resorts in Provo means that consumers looking for a budget island getaway should reserve well in advance for the handful of moderately priced options. It's also useful to be on the lookout for package deals on hotel websites, online travel-booking sites such as Orbitz, Expedia, and Travelocity, or massive travel search engines like Kayak and Mobissimo. Check this guide's hotel reviews before you book, and see what other travelers have to say about TCI lodgings on Frommers.com message boards.
In contrast to what's available on Provo and Parrot Cay and Pine Cay (two privately owned Caicos Cays islands with hotel resorts), moderately priced lodgings are currently the main option in the rest of the Caicos islands.
Keep in mind that the government imposes a mandatory 11% occupancy tax, and many resorts charge an additional service charge of 10% or more. Also note that during high season -- and the Christmas/New Year's holidays in particular -- resorts have minimum-stay requirements. Hotels throughout the Turks and Caicos accept most major credit cards, except where noted.
Finally, as you can see when comparing winter and summer rack rates listed below, visiting Provo in the off-season can be considerably more economical than a high-season winter vacation. The most expensive time to come is during the Christmas/New Year's holidays; check each resort's website for holiday rates. Be sure to look for money-saving online package deals any time of year.
Provo's 19km (12-mile) Grace Bay is where most of the islands' resorts and hotels are situated. Provo's lodgings are an easy 10- to 15-minute taxi ride from the airport.
Finding Sundries on Grace Bay -- For visitors who find they've forgotten an essential toiletry, crave a snack or a soft drink (and want to avoid paying through the nose in a resort restaurant or bar), or need sunscreen or bug repellent, the Grace Bay area can be a tough place to locate such little conveniences -- unlike in North America, where 7-Elevens and other convenience stores and grocery chains are just around the corner. Vending machines are virtually nonexistent on Grace Bay. Graceway Gourmet (tel. 649/333-5000), across the street from the Seven Stars Resort in central Grace Bay (at Dolphin Ave.), is impressively stocked and more conveniently located than its (larger) sister grocery store, the Graceway IGA, on Leeward Highway (reachable by car or taxi). The Graceway Gourmet has basic supplies, fresh produce, meats and seafood, a salad bar, a deli, a coffee bar, even Wi-Fi; it's open 7 days a week from 7am to 9pm. A few other well-placed convenience stores are within walking distance of most resorts in and around Grace Bay supply the essentials and more -- including snacks and candy bars (all the familiar brands), beer, wine, and liquor, magazines, even local handicrafts. The following are open daily from around 9am to 6pm:
- The Sand Dollar at the Sands on Grace Bay
- Sand Castle Convenience Store at Ocean Club East
- Neptune's Nectar (in back of Ports of Call shopping village)
Those in the know say that this section of Provo represents the future of the country's hospitality industry. Unlike Grace Bay's long, developable stretch of beach, the beaches at the Northwest Point are serendipitous little coves with pockets of powdery white sand and turquoise seas. As the area develops, the plan is to create a lot of green-belted area and ensure no structure over three stories tall is built. The waters along the Northwest Point are part of the Northwest Point Marine National Park, a protected 8km-long (5-mile) reef system that features some of the world's top wall and reef diving.
Currently the Northwest Point has only two accommodations: Amanyara, and the Northwest Point Resort condominium hotel (www.northwestpointresort.com). To reach either, you travel through the Blue Hills neighborhood, where beachfront shacks dish out fresh conch dishes, good music, and a sunny barefoot vibe.
Rural, green, and charmingly slow-paced, North Caicos has its share of gorgeous powdery-sand beaches, which at press time you could enjoy with a few other lucky souls during stays at modest, moderately priced lodgings. The bones of the unfinished Royal Reef Resort overlook uninhabited Sandy Point, its completion still up in the air at press time.
The largest island in the TCI is also the least populated, and hotel/motel-type lodgings -- not to mention restaurants, grocery stores, and shops -- are almost nonexistent. Many visitors stay in rented villas. For a selection of villas, go to www.tcimall.tc/middlecaicos.
Tip: Don't forget to bring mosquito repellent, especially if you plan to visit some of the Middle Caicos Lucayan caves.