The top thing to do while on vacation in the Turks and Caicos (besides enjoying the beach!) is to take a boat cruise or charter on our incredible turquoise waters. There’s a wonderful collection of cays, snorkeling reefs, and attractions within easy boat access of Providenciales. There’s a wide selection of places to visit, and this guide will help narrow down the choices to those you won’t want to miss.
One major consideration that should be made when choosing a boat charter is the type of vessel, as it’ll be a determiner of what locations are possible on a trip. Vessels can of course be part of the attraction themselves, with sailboats providing their unique experience, or large yachts providing a spacious and luxurious setting, yet if the destination is important, select the right boat or yacht.
Generally speaking, shared boat excursions tend to visit a specific set of destinations that only vary if the weather dictates otherwise, and the largest luxury yachts are only able to stop at a relatively few places due to the water depth they require.
Typically, a private charter is the right choice when going beyond the popular and accessible stops.
What are the Best Boat Trip Destinations?
The Turks and Caicos offers some truly amazing coastal locations, and the main consideration when deciding on places to visit should not be what the best destinations are, rather, what are the best destination for the weather.
Typically, the best course of action is to defer to your captain’s destination suggestions, as they should have a better understanding of the weather and how it’ll affect various locations. Some charter companies may want to limit travel distances, but the fact is that most captains, especially on private charters, love being on the water in the Turks and Caicos and want to get out to the amazing places.
All the locations discussed here are in theory accessible from the island of Providenciales, yet not all charter companies and vessels may be willing or able to visit them.
The Caicos Cays
The small islands between Providenciales and North Caicos, often referred to as the Caicos Cays, are by far the most popular boating destination from Providenciales, and for good reason. Several incredible islands and miles of pristine beach are in close access from Providenciales, and barrier reef snorkeling sites at Leeward Cut Reef and off of Pine Cay offer beautiful underwater sights.
Little Water Cay
Starting on the Providenciales side near Leeward Beach is Little Water Cay, which is well-known as being a sanctuary for our Turks and Caicos Islands Rock Iguana. Boardwalks allow for close encounters with these docile giant lizards.
Half Moon Bay
Next to the east is Half Moon Bay, a beach and sandbar that filled in between Little Water Cay and Water Cay a few decades ago. The location now offers an incredible white sand beach on its northern side, and a sheltered shallow lagoon with turquoise water on its southern side.
Water Cay is connected to Half Moon Bay and continues to the east towards Pine Cay. There’s an exquisite and secluded white sand beach framed by low sandy cliffs that run across the entire northern coast of the island.
The beach on Water Cay blends seamlessly into Pine Cay, and continues as an exceptional beach. Pine Cay is a private island and is inhabited, with private villas and the boutique Pine Cay Resort. On the northeastern end of the beach is the sheltered Sand Dollar Cove, which is a calm beach cove that is accessible to all recreational vessels that operate from Providenciales.
Sand Dollar Cove
Sand Dollar Cove on Pine Cay is a great beach spot, and is adjacent to the shallows and sandbar system off of Fort George Cay. This spectacular place is especially so during low tide, when a few small sandbars are exposed out in the bay, creating tiny private islands in the clear turquoise water.
Fort George Cay
Fort George Cay is an island and protected historical site that offers beautiful beaches and interesting snorkeling. The cay was once home to a Loyalist-era fort, which unfortunately has subsequently been washed away by the ocean. However, cannons from the fort can still be seen in the very shallow water off the northern side of the island, and are fascinating to snorkel at.
The eastern casuarina-lined beach on Fort George Cay is another place to stop, and the trees offer some shade, making it a common place to stop for beach BBQs.
Dellis Cay is the next island in the string of cays. Uninhabited now, the cay is marred by deserted and decaying buildings from a failed development project. A sheltered cove and beach are found on the Fort George Cay side of the island, and the beach at the spot often has great seashell beachcombing opportunities.
Sandy Point Beach
Found at North Caicos at the far reaches of the Caicos Cays region is Sandy Point, which is another sandbar and shallows system that can be quite scenic. Due to the longer transit times from Providenciales, the only persons typically around are guests staying at the exclusive COMO Parrot Cay Resort on the private getaway island of Parrot Cay, which has attracted countless celebrities over the years.
Leeward Cut Reef
Leeward Reef, which is part of the greater Caicos Barrier Reef and located back near Providenciales, is the single most visited reef on snorkeling trips, and for good reason as it’s easy to access and is quite colorful. As a barrier reef site, vibrant yellow or purple sea fans cover the higher portions of the reef, and gullies and holes hide fish, lobsters, and small creatures. Typically, schools of yellowtail snapper, jacks, black durgon, or blue tangs hang out around the boats, and interesting trumpetfish, filefish, angelfish, and porcupinefish glide around the coral formations. Larger animal sightings include stingrays, eagle rays, and the occasional nurse shark. Leeward Cut Reef is inside the Princess Alexandra National Park.
The southern side of Providenciales doesn’t enjoy the same popularity that the Caicos Cays experiences, especially if the La Famille Express wreck is excluded, yet the last few years have seen quite an increase in the number of island hopping and beach cruising boat charters. The more remote south and west coast sites are top choices for those seeking marine wildlife encounters and varied snorkeling sites.
The La Famille Express
The most popular boat trip destination off southern Providenciales is (surprisingly!) the decrepit and dangerous La Famille Express freighter wreck in the Caicos Banks, which is favored as a site to jump off of (however, this is not recommended due to safety concerns). The wreck is rapidly decaying, yet still attracts a number of people. It is however interesting to see as it contrasts with the vibrant turquoise of the Caicos Banks. A superior jumping site is the West Caicos Marine National Park, where low cliffs line the breathtaking blues of the ocean.
One of the five little limestone islands that account for the name of the Five Cays community, Bay Cay has a tiny beach and is home to friendly iguanas. There are also some historical rock inscriptions.
Turtle Rock is located in the Caicos Banks between Taylor Bay Beach and West Harbour Bluff. This limestone rock split in half in times past, and offers interesting snorkeling. During typical east-southeast trade winds, the waters around Turtle Rock can be a bit choppy, yet when the weather is calm the spot is a fun snorkeling site.
West Harbour Bluff and Split Rock
The extreme southwestern point of Providenciales, West Harbour Bluff features a small cave, sheltered cove, limestone cliffs that offer great views, and interesting wildlife. Split Rock, as its name suggests, is a fractured part of the cliff, atop of which is an osprey nest.
This sand spit is located in the Frenchman’s Creek Nature Reserve on the southwestern coast of the island, and near West Harbour Bluff. Found here are sheltered waters, starfish, and a tranquil setting.
Wiley Cut is a remote and exquisite snorkeling reef on the southern reaches of the Northwest Point Marine National Park. This cut is the only viable passage for most vessels through the barrier reef between Providenciales and remote West Reef, so a greater number of boats than may initially be expected pass through the cut. Wiley Cut as a snorkeling site is usually only visited on private charters and on full-day dedicated snorkeling adventures.
Malcolm’s Road Beach
On the west side of Providenciales is the remote Malcolm’s Road Beach, a complex coast that’s in the Northwest Point Marine National Park. The national park has some beautiful and clear ocean water, snorkeling reefs, beaches, and the collapsed remains of the Thunderdome, a huge underwater cage that was created in the early 90s for a French challenge game show. The site is popular with local freedivers today.
French Cay is the most isolated island in the Turks and Caicos, being more than 15 miles (24 km) from any other island in the country. The small and flat cay is located on the edge of the Caicos Banks, and combined with the verdant marine life in the surrounding waters, the cay attracts large numbers of birds. Several small shipwrecks are in the area which are fun to snorkel at, and the shallows on the northern side of the cay often sees large numbers of nurse sharks during their mating season.
The large and beautiful island of West Caicos is an exceptional place to visit. The northern side has a long beach (albeit a little windswept and choppy during typical trade winds), and the west side, which is largely the West Caicos Marine National Park, features unbelievable blue water, cliffs that are fun for jumping off of, snorkeling sites, and is adjacent to the historical attraction of Yankee Town and the inland nature reserve of Lake Catherine, which is home to flamingos, egrets, herons, ducks, and other wading birds.
For those willing to spend a full day on the water and desiring to discover places that relatively few get to see, there are some truly special places in the Caicos Islands. Private charter companies are typically the only option to visit these remote places.
Little Ambergris Cay
Little Ambergris Cay, the low-lying nature reserve counterpart to Ambergris Cay, is a truly breathtaking place. The island combines beaches, sandbars, and pristine marine wetlands to an extent greater than elsewhere in the Turks and Caicos. Because of this, Little Ambergris Cay is an exceptional place to see a broad array of marine life, including sharks, stingrays, eagle rays, and turtles, and the crystal clear water makes it easy to see marine life.
From both the northern and western sides of the cay are complex sandbar systems, which are extensive. The surrounding water clarity and color only add to the beauty. Little Ambergris Cay is located in the general region of Fish Cay, Long Cay, and Six Hills Cay, so it’ll likely be possible to visit these other islands as well on a charter.
Fish Cay is located between Ambergris Cay and South Caicos, and although not large, is home to some unique features. On its sheltered side are some small yet pristine beaches. On the limestone bluffs above are some of the most picturesque Turks head cacti collections in the Turks and Caicos, where the iconic cacti are growing above the brilliant blue of the ocean. On the weather-beaten eastern coast are piles of boulders stacked by tremendous hurricanes in times past.
As its name suggests, Long Cay is a very narrow and long island, and is located near South Caicos. The island offers some of the finest views in the Turks and Caicos, as from the top of the ridge that spans the length of the cay is an amazing contrast between the deep blue of the Columbus Passage that separates the Caicos Islands from the Turks Islands, and the glowing turquoise of the shallow Caicos Banks.
Long Cay is also an iguana habitat, and off its sheltered west side beaches is some of the clearest ocean water to be had at a beach. On a good day, underwater visibility truly is incredible.
Six Hills Cay
No beaches are found on Six Hills Cays, yet the island is quite scenic and offers some great snorkeling. The cay is split in the middle and the interior of the two halves is saturated with mule pear cacti that are complete with giant needles. Overall, the cay is quite unique and scenic, and is well worth a stop when visiting Long Cay, Little Ambergris Cay, or Fish Cay from Providenciales.