|In the 18th century, survivors of a French shipwreck washed up on a Caribbean island and called it La Providentielle. Later the Spanish changed that to Providenciales and today it takes the affectionate nickname of Provo. As far as places to wash ashore go, you couldn’t do better. There is something of a feeling of refuge to this little gem in the Turks and Caicos Islands. This is not the place for wild nightlife and thumping discos; this is a retreat to the simple beauties of beach and sea, in a friendly island environment that is just a short hop from Miami.
Various Hollywood personalities have retreated to the Turks and Caicos in search of that low-key, beauty-rich environment off some of the more beaten paths of the Caribbean circuit. Bruce Willis, Oprah Winfrey and Keith Richards own properties on the islands.
The Turks and Caicos even offer up their own version of the Grace Kelly story. American actress and model LisaRaye McCoy became the First Lady of the island in 2006 when she married the Honorable Michael Misick, the Premier of the islands. (Read more about her here.)
|Provo is home to glorious beaches including a 12-mile stretch of gleaming white on Grace Bay that is renown throughout the Caribbean, and in fact, the world, as one of the most beautiful. Calm seas lap gently at your feet and the shore is perfect for a morning jog, an evening stroll, an afternoon’s lounging by gentle seas (protected by offshore reefs) or even a late-night wade under the Milky Way.
An island vibe such as this calls for some accommodations akin to home. Ocean Club Resorts offer two locations on Grace Bay, and the spacious modern suites with full kitchens and laundry facilities, plus screened in porches give guests a sense of residence.
Relax or Play
Don’t let the laid-back label fool you. There is plenty to do if you tire of the beach: biking, tennis, world-class golf, sailing trips, and plenty of snorkeling and diving and water sports. Guests have access to the facilities of both resorts and can either go by shuttle or take a leisurely walk along the sand to the sister property. Kids are welcome, and the resorts provide toys for pool and sea, and nannies to give parents a real break.
What Lies Beneath (the Waves)
|Before the luxury accommodations began to appear on Provo, the islands were one of those best kept secrets of the scuba diving world. Though still not overwhelmed by divers, the cat’s out of the bag. Provo Turtle Divers has been around since 1970 (and both Ocean Club resorts can set you up with package deals). Thanks to currents and low rainfall, the visibility in the area is magnificent and the coral is abundant and healthy. Odds are good to see a turtle or shark and the service is top-notch.|
Visit a Conch Farm
|If you love conch fritters, you may want to see (or maybe not) where the delectable critters come from. The Caicos Conch Farm is the only one of its kind in the world. You can buy yourself a nice souvenir shell while getting a look at how these unusual creatures grow and reproduce. The farm itself prevents overharvesting conch in the wild and even returns a portion of the "crop" to the sea. It’s a guaranteed hit with the kids.|
|Caicos Café is a laid back gem but no one’s sluffing off with the food. French ex-pat Pierrik Marziou and his partner Daphne offer some of the best cooking on the island. Seating is on a tree-shaded deck and the atmosphere is of a neighborhood eatery. The seafood is same-day fresh and gourmet good. Just walking distance from Ocean Club West on Grace Bay. (Open daily noon-10pm. Ports of Call, Provo 649-946-5278)|
Turks and Caicos International Film Fest
|Did I say Hollywood escapes to the islands? Every year in October, Hollywood sets up camp in Provo, bringing in a variety of stars and filmmakers for a long weekend of film. Think of it as something like the drive-in of yesteryear. Pull up a beach chair after dusk and watch feature films, documentaries and shorts on a screen by the sea under the stars&ldots; and with the stars!|
TURKS & CAICOS PHOTO GALLERY: