Turks & Caicos: Closer than you might think

Grace Bay, Providenciales, Turks & Caicos

Grace Bay, Providenciales, Turks & Caicos. Beach Maniac photo.

Providenciales in the Turks & Caicos Islands just may be the best place for Americans to go for their beach vacation. This is the third in a series of posts as to why I think it is.

BeachManiacBlogWithText_150pxWhen I tell people I recently visited the Turks & Caicos Islands, they almost universally say, “Hmm. Where is that?” It sounds exotic, and it sounds like it is far, far away. But it is not. The Turks & Caicos Islands are in the eastern Caribbean, just east of Cuba, north of the island that makes up Haiti and the Dominican Republic and southeast of the Bahamas. In fact it is only a one hour-forty minute flight from Miami.

I live in the upper Midwest, and a flight to Providenciales, the main tourist island in the Turks & Caicos, is a one-stop flight, with a changeover in Charlotte on U.S. Airways (American Airlines). The islands are in the eastern time zone, which means just one hour difference from my home in Wisconsin and, of course, none at all for the entire eastern U.S. It took us about six hours to get to Providenciales from Milwaukee. Now compare that to a trip to Hawaii, which can take 12 to 15 hours, depending on your connections, and a five hour difference in time with a big jet lag hangover.

Here is a sample of recent flights from TripAdvisor:

  • From New York, one stop, 6 1/2 hours: $545
  • From Chicago, one stop, 5 1/2 hours, $755
  • From Atlanta, one stop, 5 1/2 hours, $762
  • From Miami, non-stop, 1 hour 43 minutes, $640

Yes, it is a ...

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Turks & Caicos: Great Resorts

Beaches Resort, Turks & Caicos. Beach Maniac photo.

Beaches Resort, Turks & Caicos. Beach Maniac photo.

BeachManiacBlogWithText_150pxProvidenciales in the Turks & Caicos Islands just may be the best place for Americans to go for their beach vacation. This is the second in a series of posts as to why I think it is.

Reason Number Two: Great Resorts

When we visited Providenciales recently, Diane and I stayed at the Beaches Resort on  Grace Bay, and we loved it. You can read more about it in the blog I posted shortly after we returned. Beaches is great if you are looking for the advantages of an all-inclusive resort and, of course, if you have children you really want to spoil. With its great pools and restaurants and beautiful grounds on a prime beach location, you just can’t go wrong. If you don’t have kids – or at least aren’t bringing them along – and are looking for a more relaxing experience, be sure to visit during a period when most kids are in school. We went in late April-early May, and the resort was relatively quiet. But Beaches is not for everyone, and Providenciales has several other great options. Here are the top-rated Grace Bay resorts on TripAdvisor:

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Turks & Caicos: Clear Water

BeachManiacBlogWithText_150pxProvidenciales in the Turks & Caicos Islands just may be the best place for Americans to go for their beach vacation. This is the first in a series of posts as to why I think it is.

Reason Number One: Clear water

Yes, there is clear water elsewhere in the Caribbean, but can it possibly be as clear as in Providenciales, the vacation center of the Turks & Caicos islands? I don’t think so. The white sand bottom and the calm, turquoise waters make the the Turks & Caicos islands among the best in the world for finding a beach to take a refreshing swim, snorkel, or participate in virtually any water activity.

Paddleboard1_300pxThe picture above was taken just offshore at Bight Reef on Grace Bay. Bight Reef offers extraordinary snorkeling from shore. Or you can just walk a little to the right or left for rock-free, crystal clear waters and soft sand. Stand in four feet of water and look down for a clear view of your feet caressing the sand.

The picture to the left shows Diane stand-up paddleboarding in about 10 feet of water. Note the clear view of the paddleboard’s shadow on the ocean floor. Amazing!

Read more about our recent visit to Beaches Resort in the Turks & Caicos.

Where is Providenciales?

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Beaches Resort + Grace Bay = Heaven on Earth

Stand-up paddling across the turquoise waters of Grace Bay.  Beach Maniac photo.

Stand-up paddling across the turquoise waters of Grace Bay. Beach Maniac photo.

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If you create the checklist of the perfect beach vacation, Beaches Resort at Grace Bay on the Turks and Caicos Islands just might have it all:

  • Crystal clear, calm, refreshing turquoise waters: Check
  • Water free of common ocean “ick factors” such as algae or jellyfish: Check
  • Expansive beach with soft but firm sand free of stones and debris: Check
  • Great snorkeling, even from shore: Check (Diving too if you are a diver)
  • An all-inclusive resort with multiple outstanding pools and restaurants, quality food, beautifully landscaped grounds, comfortable and clean rooms and friendly staff: Check

Simply put, Beaches at Turks & Caicos is all-around amazing! The beach is amazing! The water is amazing! The pools (and there are a lot of them) are amazing! The landscaping is amazing!

My wife Diane and I have been to several all-inclusive resorts and have liked them all, but Beaches takes it all up a notch. Now, we are not typical Beaches visitors. Our children are grown and we came to celebrate my wife’s 60th birthday and originally were looking at Sandals resort, but we really wanted to visit Turks and Caicos (recently named best island in the world!) so we figured we could make the family oriented (kids oriented) resort work for us as a couple.

We were right.

The resort has so much space and so many pools and restaurants and the beach is so expansive that we were able to enjoy the resort as a couple...

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Providenciales named world’s best island

Grace Bay. Photo by Tobias LIndman via Flickr (create commons license).

Grace Bay. Photo by Tobias Lindman via Flickr (Creative Commons license).

BeachManiacBlogWithText_150pxProvidenciales in the Turks & Caicos chain of islands – east of Cuba and north of Haiti – is the world’s best island for beach lovers, according to the TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice Awards for 2015. Providenciales has been under the radar for many travelers but in recent years has been cited repeatedly as hosting one of the best beaches – if not the very best beach – in the world: Grace Bay.

The growing popularity of Grace Bay has led to the development of upscale resorts, along with enticing bars, top-notch waterfront restaurants and shops. But its main attraction clearly is its perfect combination of clear turquoise waters and soft clean white sand.

Providenciales_MapTripAdvisor says: “The diving and snorkeling is as convenient as it is stunning, thanks to miles of coral reef that’s easily accessible from the shore. The upscale resorts and captivating beachscapes of Grace Bay make it a popular choice for waterfront escapes. The cliffs and crags of Chalk Sound make a lovely backdrop for kayaking the bright turquoise waters.”

One TripAdvisor traveler adds” “This is definitely one of, if not the most beautiful beach! Pictures do not do the beautiful shades of the blue waters justice. The sand is so soft and never to hot to walk on barefoot. And you can walk for miles. There is always a nice breeze and the water is perfect to swim in. Calm and refreshing. But, not cold. And it is not over crowded at all...

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Is Tulum the best beach in the Caribbean?

Tulum. Beach Maniac Photo.

Tulum. Beach Maniac Photo.

BeachManiacBlogWithText_150pxThe editors at Islands Magazine have put together a list of the 5 best beaches in the Caribbean, and Tulum, about two hours south of Cancun, Mexico, tops the list. Tulum, they say, “is where ancient Maya ruins line the coast atop 39-foot cliffs that overlook turquoise water and cotton-soft beaches. The views from the bluff impress, but a look back at the iconic Pyramid El Castillo is worth a swim out to sea.”

I’ll never forget the day I visited Tulum with my wife and sister. It was in late June and perhaps the hottest, most humid day I have ever experienced. We had an excellent tour guide, who was Mayan and very proud of his heritage and filled with valuable and interesting information about the ruins. However, 45 minutes into our tour, we were so hot and the beach was so close that we politely excused ourselves from the tour and climbed down the stairs to the welcoming waters of the Tulum Beach. It was the most refreshing swim I think I have ever had!

I since found out that while you can access that small beach from a wooden stairway from behind the center of the ruins, the better beaches are to the south of the ruins, along the road that goes to Boca Paila. You can access the beaches through the cabana resorts along the road. The sand is powdery with isolated rocks and the water is warm but the waves can be rough at time. Snorkeling is pretty good when the sea is calm.

Is Tulum the best beach in the Caribbean? Well, I don’t know about that, given ...

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Honolulu is top U.S. beach destination



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BeachManiacBlogWithText_150pxTripAdvisor’s list of top U.S. destinations for 2015 includes some of our favorite beach locations. Mixed in with urban locations such as New York City (#1) and Chicago (#2) are few great beach locations in the areas we tend to favor at beachmaniac.com, including Florida and Hawaii.

The top beach destination in our top areas on this year’s list are:

Honolulu_250pxHonolulu, Oahu, Hawaii (#13). TripAdvisor says: The mere mention of Hawaii is enough to prompt visions of grass skirts and colorful cocktails with tiny umbrellas. While you will find some kitsch in Honolulu, you’ll also find art museums, bike paths, and some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Popular Waikiki Beach has soft sands and great surf. For majestic Oahu views scramble to the top of Diamond Head – a 350-acre volcanic crater. Historic structures like Iolani Palace and Ali’iolani Hale are worth a visit on a non-beach day.

Miami_Beach_250pxMiami Beach, Florida (#14). TripAdvisor says: At the shore in Miami Beach, visitors can swim, surf and jet ski in the warm and crystal-clear Atlantic waters. You can also nap on the white sands, work on a tan or simply watch the beautiful people, especially at South Beach, a favorite of models and celebrities. We add this: Beach lovers need go no further than the famous South Beach to experience everything from amazing sun-kissed beach bodies to spectacular clubs that host one of the wildest night-life experiences in the country and beyond...

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Best beaches near Orlando

Daytona Beach aerial (2)

BeachManiacBlogWithText_150pxFor all the great entertainment the Orlando, Florida, area has to offer, its location in the north-central part of the state leaves it somewhat separated from what we here at beachmaniac.com feel is Florida’s greatest attraction: its beaches. But the good news is that if you are visiting Orlando, and you can tear yourself away from the amusement parks, you are a short drive from some great beach locations.

VisitFlorida.com recently pulled together a list of six nearby beaches on the Atlantic Coast, some of them just a one-hour drive from Disney World. We are not only sharing that list – and linking to TripAdvisor reviews of the beaches – but we are adding a few Gulf Coast beaches as well, since you can get to the Gulf Coast from Disney World in roughly an hour and half.

Atlantic Coast beaches near Orlando:

Gulf Coast beaches near Orlando:

Beach Maniac Blog by Bill Hurley

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Top 9 spring break party destinations to enjoy, or avoid

BeachManiacBlogWithText_150pxNo matter your age, if you are traveling during spring, you definitely want to know where the top spring break party destinations are. Why? Well, either you want to be where the party never stops, or – if you’re over 25 – you may want to stop being where the party is. With that in mind, here are 9 top spring break party destinations to enjoy, or avoid, as ranked by Fox News Travel (we link to TripAdvisor for more information about these beach destinations and so you can compare hotel prices):

  1. Panama City Beach, Florida
  2. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
  3. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
  4. Las Vegas, Nevada
  5. Miami Beach, Florida
  6. Cancun, Mexico
  7. South Padre Island, Texas
  8. Lake Havasu City, Arizona
  9. New Orleans, Louisiana

 

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Siesta Beach does it again: Named America’s best beach

 

TripAdvisor traveler photo

TripAdvisor traveler photo

BeachManiacBlogWithText_150pxThis kind of attention is nothing new for Siesta Beach, with its pristine, sugary white sand and wide expanse, but this Florida Gulf Coast slice of paradise has been named the best beach in America by the 2015 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards.

“I was totally blown away by how fine, soft, clean and uncrowded the beach was. My feet were in heaven,” wrote on recent traveler.

And while the sand is the main attraction at Siesta Beach, the island that serves as its home is also a big draw. The beaches of Siesta Key, just south of Sarasota, are lined with condos and hotels, but the island nonetheless has retained a quiet get-away atmosphere. You won’t find a lot of restaurants and bars on the beaches of Siesta Key, but that keeps it quiet and family-fun oriented.

The other top 10 American beaches in the 2015 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards, in order, are:

The Beach Maniac Blog by Bill Hurley

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