Text and Photos by Krisha Chachra
You don’t really need an excuse to escape to a beautiful Caribbean beach. But if you chose Grace Bay on the island of Providenciales (Provo as the locals call it) in Turks and Caicos, there must be something you’re celebrating. For us, it was our last hoorah for a memorable vacation before we became parents. My husband took it upon himself to surprise me by whisking us off to this unforgettable destination for our Babymoon.
Much like a “honeymoon,” a “babymoon” is the couple’s excuse to relax and take a vacation before life changes forever. My husband knew he had to make it special; we are beach people, and he had to find a spectacular one. We traveled to Bora Bora and Tahiti for our honeymoon, but our babymoon had to be something considerably closer for obvious reasons. He got on the Internet and searched “best beaches in the world”. When comparing top 10 lists from every legitimate travel site available, Grace Bay consistently landed near the top; it is easy to get to from the East Coast. He packed my bag and a passport and drove to the airport. Within 2.5 hours after our connecting flight from Charlotte, we were transported to arguably the most gorgeous beach in the Caribbean.
Grace Bay is a staggering 12-mile stretch of powdery white sand lining a backdrop of crystal clear turquoise water which goes knee-deep for miles. I have been to several beaches in the Caribbean, but honestly, Grace Bay drowns all the competition. The landscape is immaculate; the locals take so much pride in keeping their shoreline clean. No sign of trash; nothing floating in the water. No cruise ships or time shares allowed.
Most of the hotels are actually condos that are ultimately for sale – none of them with exception of the Seven Stars resort where we stayed, are allowed to be more than four stories high. The locals are self-policing, too. If anyone is caught harassing a tourist, they are reported to the authorities and reprimanded. The locals know how important the tourism industry and their beaches are to the economy.
They make it easy for Americans; although it is a British Overseas Territory. Local currency is the dollar, and ATMs are plentiful. Navigation around the island is easy if you remember to drive on the left. If that’s too much of a hassle, the locals will be happy to drive you, and their prices are fair and reasonable. There is a level of trust between people on this island – no one is here to cheat you or to haggle. In fact, most cab drivers will take you to your destination and ask that you call them back for a return trip; you pay them on your return.
The beach is untouched and not crowded. If you’re staying in one of the handful of resorts on the Bay, you most likely will have a beach attendant to serve drinks and food as you soak in the sun. The water is teeming with marine life; I found a brilliant orange star fish near the shoreline, but the conch is Provo’s main claim to fame. The locals farm them, sell their shells and eat the meat as a delicacy. Definitely visit a conch farm or go on a snorkel trip where a local swimmer will free dive to the bottom of the ocean to retrieve one for you. They will extract the conch, make a conch ceviche for you eat and teach you to clean the shell so you can take it home as a souvenir. If that’s too rustic for you, at least try the cooked conch fritters at the famous barefoot diver bar, Bugaloo’s.
Speaking of restaurants, Provo has plenty of good eats including a variety of establishments for the refined palate. The most popular, Coco Bistro, an open-air dining experience under the palm trees, requires reservations months ahead of time. We opted for the breathtaking sunset views of the bay and harbor at Magnolia on the terrace. For elegant, sophisticated flair, make reservations at Parallel23 to sample a fusion of exotic international flavors and Caribbean specialties.
But the real flavor of this island is truly experienced on the water. Grace Bay is perfect for anyone who wants to try paddle boarding, sailing or kayaking, as the water is calm and inviting for beginner water enthusiasts. If you’re more seasoned, venture to the other side of the Bay to Shore Club for some of the best kite surfing conditions in the world. Another popular water activity is horseback riding on the beach where the horses walk leg-deep in the ocean allowing you to graze your toes along water as you ride down the shoreline.
At the end of each relaxing day, we would sip cool drinks and unwind on the sand as the sun sank low on the water. Grace Bay was truly a paradise that gave us peace of mind and prepared us for the next grand adventure in our lives: parenthood.
Krisha Chachra is Vice Mayor of the Town of Blacksburg and a regular columnist and author who has traveled to over 40 countries in 6 continents and reported and hosted shows for public radio and television. Her columns are taken from her journals and personal insights from traveling nationally and internationally throughout her life. Her book about returning to Blacksburg, Homecoming Journals, may be found online or in local bookstores. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org