Turks and Caicos Barrier Reef The Turks and Caicos Barrier Reef near Providenciales.
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The Location of Providenciales

Aerial view of the Grace Bay region of Providenciales
Grace Bay on the island of Providenciales.

Providenciales is the most developed and populated island in the Turks and Caicos, which is a British Overseas Territory located between the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas.

The island is situated about 575 miles (925 km) southeast of Miami, Florida, and 400 miles (644 km) from Nassau, the Bahamas. While it is the third largest island in the Turks and Caicos chain, it is objectively small—the island’s total landmass is approximately 37 square miles (98 km sq).

Providenciales is where most tourists arriving by air to the Turks and Caicos Islands choose to spend their vacation. This is largely due to its globally-renowned beaches—including Grace Bay Beach—the wide availability of luxurious resorts, and the many amenities you can find here, including shopping, water sports, fine dining restaurants , and a small nightlife scene.

The convenience of getting to Providenciales, compared to the other islands, is a big selling factor for visitors planning a vacation to the Turks and Caicos Islands. The island has the country’s largest airport, Providenciales International Airport (PLS), which welcomes flights from the U.K. and many North American cities.

For information on great things to do and attractions, see Things to Do and Beaches of Providenciales.

Location in the Turks and Caicos Islands

Calm and turquoise ocean water in the shallow Caicos Banks off of East Caicos
Calm day and crystal clear water on the Caicos Banks.

Along with many small islands and cays, the Turks and Caicos archipelago comprises eight major islands. These are West Caicos, Providenciales, North Caicos, Middle Caicos, East Caicos (uninhabited), South Caicos, Grand Turk, and Salt Cay.

Providenciales is located on the eastern end of the Turks and Caicos archipelago and is part of the Caicos Islands.

The Caicos Islands is one of two separate island groups that make up the country, and includes more than 90 named islands, cays, and rocks, as well as the major islands of West Caicos, North Caicos, Middle Caicos, East Caicos, and South Caicos. The other group is the Turks Islands, which includes Grand Turk, Salt Cay, and a handful of tiny uninhabited cays.

Geology and Topography

Grey reef shark and scuba divers in the Turks and Caicos
Scuba diving with Dive Provo. Grey reef shark on the Caicos Barrier Reef. The best way to see sharks is scuba diving at some of our amazing wall sites.

Providenciales is situated on an extensive underwater plateau, whose surface is blanketed by an incredibly turquoise, shallow ocean. The Caicos Banks is what we call these extensive and shallow marine banks, often less than 30 feet deep (9 m), that support Providenciales and the other Caicos Islands.

The entire Turks and Caicos chain is surrounded by approximately 340 miles (547 km) of barrier reef—one of the most pristine reef systems in the world. The country’s coral reefs create the conditions for abundant life to thrive, making the Turks and Caicos one of the best scuba diving and snorkeling spots in the region. Providenciales has a few great snorkeling reefs along its shoreline and many more accessible by boat.

It also supports great fishing, with the edge of the Caicos Banks being the best spot to reel in a sizeable catch.

Save for a few hills and low-lying cliffs, the island is quite flat. Its soft limestone foundation makes it difficult for plants to thrive here—most of the natural vegetation consists of small shrubs and arid plants.

How to Get to Providenciales by Air

The Providenciales International Airport (PLS) welcomes flights from more than two dozen cities across North America, including New York, Washington D.C., Miami, Toronto, Montreal, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. To get to the Turks and Caicos from the U.K. and Europe, travelers must depart from London Heathrow, which offers flights through British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.

Flights also depart from several Caribbean countries, such as Antigua, Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. For an up-to-date list of international flights serving Providenciales, see Flights to the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Above: Shopping plazas in the Grace Bay region of Providenciales.   Top right:  Top left:  The approach to Providenciales International Airport over Chalk Sound.   Bottom right:  Top right:  On the Caicos Banks near Long Bay Beach on Providenciales.  

How to Get to Providenciales by Boat

Aerial photo of Blue Haven Marina in Leeward Channel and Mangrove Cay
Blue Haven Marina at Leeward on Providenciales.

The crystal-clear, turquoise waters surrounding Providenciales entice many sailors and yachters who make it a stop on their sails of the North Atlantic and Caribbean. Conveniently located halfway between Florida and Puerto Rico, it is a great place to refuel.

Providenciales has several marinas that accommodate vessels of varying sizes, including the Turtle Cove Marina and Blue Haven Marina. Located on the northeastern tip of Providenciales, Blue Haven Marina is the door to the small islands and cays located up the chain.

Proper charts are a necessity for navigating in the Turks and Caicos Islands, as the shallow waters and reefs can be very difficult to navigate. Marine GPS map data tends to be quite accurate for primary routes.

All operators of pleasure craft sailing to or from the Turks and Caicos are required to complete a SailClear declaration at least 24 hours before arrival or departure.

Locations on Providenciales

Aerial view of Sapodilla Bay Beach in the Turks and Caicos
Sapodilla Bay Beach and Chalk Sound on Providenciales.

There is plenty to do on Providenciales, from luxury shopping and eating at great restaurants to beach-combing the northern and southern coastlines. Many of the island's top hotels and resorts are situated along Grace Bay Beach, which is the country's most popular stretch of sand and features calm, crystal-clear water. Other great locations to explore are Sapodilla Bay, Long Bay, and the picturesque Chalk Sound region.

Top-rated activites include booking a boat charter to explore the reef and small cays, kayaking and paddleboarding in the island's mangroves, shopping in Grace Bay's plazas, and trying the local delicacy, conch.