Surrounded by the world's third-largest coral reef, the Turks and Caicos Islands have some of the finest powdery-sand beaches and most ethereal turquoise seas in the world. Most are just minutes away from an airport, and you'll rarely have to vie for beach space with anyone else. Tour boats can whisk you to uninhabited cays where you can play Robinson Crusoe for a day. The waters are pristine and diamond-clear, and waves rarely rise above a gentle ripple -- perfect for young kids and snorkelers of all ages.

  • Grace Bay (Providenciales): These 19km (12 miles) of pale sands and azure seas are the pride of Provo; Grace Bay Beach was named the World's Leading Beach for several years running at the World Travel Awards. An increasing number of resorts and condo hotels have sprung up along the shore. Like much of the TCI, the beach is fringed by a coral reef system with fabulous snorkeling and diving.
  • Malcolm Beach (Providenciales): The traditional way to see this charming cove (often referred to as Malcolm Roads Beach) is with a 4*4 along twisting, bumpy Malcolm Roads. You can also access the beach by staying at Amanyara (the resort is adjacent to the beach) or by getting a tour-boat operator to take you there. Its waters are part of the Northwest Point Marine National Park.
  • Long Bay (Providenciales): The calm, shallow waters of this quiet beach on Provo's southeastern shore make it perfect for young children. Take a horseback ride on the beach here with Provo Ponies.
  • Sapodilla Bay and Taylor Bay (Providenciales): Part of the Chalk Sound National Park, these shallow bays along Provo's southwest coastline have soft, silty bottoms and stunning blue water.
  • Pine Cay (Caicos Cays): The money shot in many a photo spread of Caribbean islands is often this private island's perfect crescent of sand, ringed by azure seas. It's the front yard of the Meridian Club resort.
  • Parrot Cay (Caicos Cays): Another gorgeous private island, this one with a secluded beach graced by beach bums of the celebrity variety.
  • Sandy Point (North Caicos): Up until now, only boaters and those in the know found their way to this spectacular beach, within sight of the Parrot Cay Resort.
  • Whitby beaches (North Caicos): The coves of Three Mary Cays are prime snorkeling spots. Step into the shallows of the palm-fringed Pelican Point Beach (in front of Pelican Beach Hotel) and find conch shells of every size. Lovely Horsestable Beach has enjoyed its North Caicos seclusion for years (it's also a prime bird-watching spot).
  • Mudjin Harbor (Middle Caicos): This beach is as stunning seen from the limestone cliffs towering above as it is up close. You can explore the wind-swept coves and snorkel in the turquoise shallows below.
  • Bambarra Beach (Middle Caicos): Casuarina trees fringe this picturesque, untrammeled beach. Its shallow aquamarine waters are the site of the festive Valentine's Day model sailboat races, and the Middle Caicos Day beach party is held here in August.
  • Governor's Beach (Grand Turk): Grand Turk's most celebrated beach has great snorkeling and is a popular picnic spot under shady pines. It's in the Columbus Landfall National Park -- more about Columbus's "landfall" later -- and within sightlines of the Grand Turk Cruise Center, which welcomes mammoth cruise ships 4 to 6 days a week.
  • Pillory Beach (Grand Turk): The Bohio Dive Resort is set on this handsome stretch of Grand Turk beach.
  • The beaches of Salt Cay: This tiny island has some of the best snorkeling beaches in the Caribbean. The best slices of sand may be found on North Beach and Point Pleasant.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.