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Ask the Locals Travel Guide: Providenciales, Turks & Caicos

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Verandah, Providenciales, Turks and CaicosPeter Greenberg Worldwide Radio is coming to us live from the new Veranda Resort and Residences in Grace Bay, on the island of Providenciales in Turks and Caicos.

Locally known as “Provo,” the island has long been a favorite destination for diving, snorkeling, fishing, or just plain lazing around on the beach.

Keep reading to find out where to discover local island experiences … straight from the locals themselves.

Philip Shearer, co-founder, Big Blue Unlimited adventure tours

Looking for a hole-in-the-wall dive? That’s easy. Just head to Hole in the Wall Restaurant. This unassuming downtown spot is where the locals gather for jerk chicken and beer, while playing dominoes on the outside deck.

Conch ShellHit up Da Conch Shack for a perfect island day: right on the beach, conchs prepared every way imaginable (including fritters, cracked, stir fried, and curry) and its own rum bar. If that’s not enough, end the meal with rum cake topped with rum-raisin ice cream.

Mango Reef Restaurant & Bar, located in the Royal West Indies Resort, is one of the best places for French-island fusion from French chef Florent Sourmont. But even more than the food, Mango Reef stands out for its poolside setting and top-notch wait staff. The folks who work here really make it feel like you’re hanging out with friends.

Learn more about the region in our Caribbean Travel category.

Shell on the BeachPrincess Alexandra National Park is one of my favorite places. Hardly any tourists venture there because it’s not a traditional beach—it’s a series of mangrove channels stretching along the north coast, ideal for going for walks and even windsurfing.

Most visitors stay on the north side of the island, but the south side has its own personality that the locals appreciate. It’s mostly residential, so there’s not a lot in the way of restaurants and amenities. But from the south side you can watch the sunrise, there is a constant breeze, the water is shallower and warmer, and the coastline is rocky and dramatic.

Although Provo is the star of Turks and Caicos, I try to impress upon visitors that it’s important to travel to the other islands. Unless your desire is to lie on the beach (which is fine, if that’s the case), active travelers really should get out to the North and Middle Caicos and the various uninhabited islands and cays—ideal for snorkeling, kayaking and diving. That’s part of what my company offers and it’s an easy adventure from Provo.

Grace Bay, Turks & CaicosRashad Smith, personal concierge and island native

Like many others, Mango Reef is one of my favorite spots on the island. In fact, I’m trying to give it a break because all the waitresses and bartenders know me, so I should see what else is out there. But I’ll always return to my stomping grounds. It’s just a great place to sit at the bar for drinks, and it has some of the best lobster I’ve ever eaten.

Another favorite is Tiki Hut Cabana Bar & Grill in Turtle Cove, which has a similar atmosphere. You can sit and watch the yachts come in and dock while dining on local foods. Conch is always a good choice as it’s basically our unofficial local dish, which you can get prepared in hundreds of ways.

Learn more about Conchs in Turks & Caicos with this interview with Chuck Hesse of the Caicos Conch Farm.

Every once in a while my family and I will book a boat tour to the other islands beyond Provo. They’ll take us out snorkeling and conch diving, which turns into a competition to see who can collect the most.

TCI Ferry Then we’ll sail to one of the uninhabited islands for a beach barbecue. (There are several tour companies that offer this, but the one I used most recently is Caicos Dream Tours.)

It’s easier than ever to get to the other islands now that there is a daily ferry service from Provo to North Caicos. You can sail to North Caicos in the morning, spend the day exploring Whitby beach and other areas, and return by afternoon. North and Middle Caicos aren’t easily explore by foot or bike, so rent a car or hire a driver for the day.

For more information, visit www.turksandcaicostourism.com.

Don’t miss this Slideshow: Exploring the Underwater Wonders of the Caribbean

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