Cruise Ship Guests
Of the typical Caribbean cruise port stops, Grand Turk definitely offers a unique atmosphere, and is one of the best destinations for the beach and exploring on your own. Cruise ships land directly off the beach, so you can be relaxing in pristine and crystal-clear ocean water as soon as you step off the pier.
Booking your Grand Turk Cruise
The cruise center is owned and operated by Carnival Cruise Lines, which also operates the majority of cruises to Grand Turk. However, several other companies also operate routes here, including Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Windstar Cruises, Costa Cruises and Crystal Cruises.
It’s a breeze to land at the Grand Turk Cruise Center. You won’t have to deal with visa, immigration or customs issues. This complex has shops, restaurants, the largest Margaritaville in the Caribbean, the only Starbucks in the Turks and Caicos, and is the departure point for shore excursions.
It varies a bit according to each ship’s schedule, yet cruise ship guests unfortunately don’t have a lot of time on Grand Turk. Ships typically land mid to late morning, and depart in the afternoon. To get the most out of your visit, it makes sense to plan your day before disembarking.
One of our top recommended ways to spend your day is to explore Grand Turk on your own. The island is easy to navigate, and it’s simple to book your transport. Car and vehicle rentals are typically picked up and dropped off right outside the entrance to the Grand Turk Cruise Center. With your own rental, you’ll be able to discover the beaches and sights at your own pace, and you’ll be able to escape the crowds too.
If you’d prefer not to drive, taxis are readily available from the cruise center.
Exquisite beaches are a defining feature of the Turks and Caicos, and Grand Turk is no exception. Beautiful and diverse beaches surround the island.
The island’s top beach is the pristine Governor's Beach, which offers unbelievable sparkling waters and white sand. Considering the unrivaled quality of this beach, it’s surprisingly uncrowded.
The popular Cruise Center Beach fronting the cruise port doesn’t lag far behind. The ocean’s usually calm, clear and warm here, and there are complimentary beach loungers to relax on.
There’s a perfect beach for almost any activity. Cockburn Town Beach is near great restaurants and offers a historical backdrop, English Point is secluded, Pillory Beach has snorkeling, and East Side Beach and White Sands Beach are great for beachcombing.
All beaches and coasts in the Turks and Caicos up to the high tide mark are public and free-to-access. You don’t have to pay up to enjoy a non-existent “private beach”.
Snorkeling and Diving
Grand Turk is a world-renowned scuba diving destination. Abrupt and sheer wall sites, where the depths drop from around 40 feet (12 m) into the thousands, offer vibrant coral and varying marine life. You won’t waste time on long boat rides either, as many of the best dive sites are only minutes from shore.
Snorkeling is a bit of a mixed situation. There are definitely spectacular sites to be found, but most are too far off the coast to swim out to. A boat snorkeling cruise can get you to some great sights, or check out our snorkeling page for details on what can be seen from the beach.
The quantity and variety of marine life thriving at the reefs of Grand Turk is astounding. There’s colorful reef fish, lobsters, eels, turtles, stingrays, eagle rays, small sharks, vibrant coral, sea fans, and sponges.
Snorkel and dive excursions can be arranged through your cruise line, or private charters can be booked directly with local tour businesses.
History and Attractions
More so than the other islands in the country, many of Grand Turk’s attractions are of historical interest. The Grand Turk Lighthouse, Turks and Caicos National Museum, and old H.M. Prison are great places to visit, and the oceanfront and historical Cockburn Town offers remnants of British-Bermudian Colonial architecture. Cockburn Town is also a great place to get some food away from the crowds at the Cruise Center. The Museum has an exhibit on the Molasses Reef wreck, which is the oldest European shipwreck in the Americas to have been excavated.
Another fascinating sight are the old salinas from the bygone sea salt industry. The features near town still exhibit the brine gates and windmill pumps, in contrast to Hawkes Nest Salina near the cruise port, which has essentially become an extensive salt flat.
Gibbs Cay and Stingrays
Found off the east coast of Grand Turk, the small and scenic Gibbs Cay stingray encounter is another highlight of the area. At this small and uninhabited sea oat-covered island, friendly wild stingrays swim up to meet visitors. Discovering this island is a fun family vacation activity.
You’ll be able to snorkel with these majestic sea creatures in their natural environment, an all-too-rare encounter with wild animals. For those who may be unsure in the water, the white sands of the beach here and the views from the bluffs are also draws.
Although only a winter season activity, humpback whale watching is another interesting activity. The southern-most migration point for many western Atlantic humpbacks, the whales journey to banks around the Turks and Caicos and the Dominican Republic to mate and give birth.
It’s not predictable, however the opportunity to snorkel with these giant marine mammals may present itself. Swimming in the spectacularly blue ocean with whales is an unforgettable experience.
Boat Charters and Tours
There’s a wide selection of boat cruises and fishing tours for those who’d like to get out on the turquoise and blue ocean. Choose from a private tour or shared excursion.
A day trip on the water to explore our uninhabited cays is an amazing experience. There are quite a few little islands located within boating distance of Grand Turk, including Gibbs Cay, Round Cay, Long Cay, and Martin Alonzo Pinzon Cay, the easternmost land in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Exploring and Island Tours
Last but definitely not least is simply getting out and exploring on your own, one of our top recommended activities.
Grand Turk is an excellent place to discover by rental car, golf car or scooter. The island is small, it’s almost impossible to get lost, there are no dangerous areas, and there are many interesting sights and beaches to find.
Horseback riding is offered to cruise guests with rides on the eastern coast.
Several fishing charters operate from Cockburn Town with reef and deep sea sport fishing. However, be advised that due to the time constraints of cruise visitors, these types of tourists may find they don’t have enough time.
For shore fishermen, remember that all fishing requires a license and fishing in National Parks is prohibited. The Columbus Landfall National Park (named after Christopher Columbus' presumed new world landfall in Grand Turk) covers much of the western coast, starting from near the Carnival-managed Cruise Center.