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Turks and Caicos Islands
Turks and Caicos Islands
The Turks and Caicos Islands are a wonderful destination to explore by boat. There are countless uninhabited cays and beautiful secluded beaches to experience, as well as the excitement of simply cruising across the turquoise waters surrounding Providenciales.
A guided boat charter or tour is our recommended way to discover the pristine cays of the Turks and Caicos, yet there are several rental options if you’d like to be your own captain.
All of the boat rental and jet ski companies are located on the south coast of Providenciales, as this side of the island tends to have fewer navigational hazards and reefs, as well as more consistent ocean conditions.
The popular coasts of Grace Bay Beach, Leeward Beach, and the Bight Beach are located inside the Princess Alexandra National Park, where jet ski use is prohibited and there’s a 15mph (24kph) speed limit for watercraft.
It’s important to understand what’s feasible and what’s not with a rental boat and piloting on your own. The various Caribbean destinations have completely different boating environments. The Turks and Caicos has countless perfect cays and beaches to explore, yet most are not in access of the typical small rental boat.
Rental boats can be fun for simply cruising around the Caicos Banks near Providenciales, or for visiting Half Moon Bay when the weather’s good. They’re not suitable for most water sports activities due to the rental vessel types and difficulty of safely accessing and navigating much of the Turks and Caicos coastlines.
With the exception of unusually calm days (when the reefs wrecks, and snorkelling at Turtle Rock is viable), there isn’t much good snorkelling to be had at the destinations within easy access of rental boats.
Shallow reef fishing or conch collecting in the Caicos Banks is definitely an option, yet the best fishing spots tend to be found elsewhere.
If you’d like to snorkel, scuba dive, or visit the popular destinations of West Caicos, Fort George Cay, Parrot Cay, or French Cay, we highly advise taking a charter or scheduled boat tour with a qualified guide due to the distance and hazardous reefs. If you’d like to have more leeway in how your day on the water is spent, choose a private boat charter over the over a scheduled cruise.
It’s important to keep in mind that the waters of the Turks and Caicos can be very difficult to safely navigate, and hidden hazards abound. This is especially the case off the north coast of Providenciales, where reefs are common. It’s quite easy to make a mistake that may damage a vessel or endanger lives.
It’s critical that boaters understand and follow the advice and guidance of their watercraft rental company, especially in regards to areas to be avoided. Typically, a VHF radio is provided as part of the boat rental, which also the boater to contact the rental business, local marinas, and nearby vessels. Life vests or PFDs for all passengers should also be included. Much of the areas typically accessed by rental boats are also within cell range, so it’s often possible to call as well.
Accurate navigation charts and GPS data does exist for the Turks and Caicos Islands, yet these aides require a certain level of knowledge to safely use are not typically included with rentals.
Navigation becomes much more difficult after sunset, so we advise leaving ample time for the return journey!
As may be expected, weather can greatly affect boating conditions. If your vacation schedule allows, it’s best to plan your boating adventures for calm days with low wind speeds. We advise that you check the forecast before you book your adventure.
Breezy days can create localized waves and chop which can be unpleasant, as well as cause significant drift to vessels not under power.
The many channels between our islands and cays can also have strong currents due to normal tide changes.
The ocean swell also is a consideration. The south coast of Providenciales fronts the shallow and extensive Caicos Banks, and is hence largely immune to the region open ocean swells, yet localised wind can form choppy waves in the 1-3 foot (.3-1m) range.
Areas closer to the barrier reef and edge of the underwater plateau that supports our archipelago can experience larger waves caused by the open ocean swell. Rental boat use typically takes place on the southern sides of the Caicos Islands, which is largely protected from the swell.
If you’d rather have the convenience of having a knowledgeable and experienced captain piloting the excursion, see Providenciales Boat Cruises for charters and tour information.
Some local companies offer a guide boat to lead rentals, which is great if you’d like the excitement of piloting your own boat, without the concerns of navigation.
There are several fun and fascinating places to visit by boat from the south coast of Providenciales, all of which offer tremendous natural beauty to discover.
The iconic La Famille Express freighter became grounded on the shallow Caicos Banks off of Long Bay during a Hurricane. Today this shipwreck is a popular stop on boat cruises and tours.
The Turtle Tail coastline is located on the central south coast of Providenciales. There are several small and hidden beaches here and tiny limestone islands, including the scenic Bristol Cay, the Dick Penn Cays, and the Bird Egg Cays.
The isolated Turtle Rock is an interesting place to explore and snorkel. This tiny limestone isle split in half in past times, and the rocks and galleys here shelter fish, channel crabs, lobsters, starfish and coral. There’s also a small shipwreck to the northeast of Turtle Rock.
If weather conditions are windy, it may be a little too rough to visit or snorkel this location.
A bit more of a journey is the scenic coast of West Harbour Bluff, a site that hides a sheltered bay, tall ocean cliffs, a small cave, historical rock inscriptions, and interesting wildlife sightings.
There are generally only two types of watercraft available for rent (self-captained): small runabouts and sport boats, and small basic skiffs. Both of these classes of vessels are easy to operate.
Boat rental businesses will provide an introduction on the use of the boats and their compliment of equipment.
Jet boats and jet ski use is prohibited in national parks and nature reserves in the Turks and Caicos. Such protected regions include the Princess Alexandra National Park (which encompasses Grace Bay, Leeward Beach, Little Water Cay, Mangrove Cay, and Half Moon Bay), the Chalk Sound National Park, and the Frenchmans Creek and Pigeon Pond Nature Reserve. Hefty fines may be applicable for those caught!
A Turks and Caicos boat rental can be an unforgettable enjoy the day, yet it’s easy to run into difficulties or damage your rental vessel. We advise that only experienced boaters captain vessels, and that close attention is given to any guidance offered by your rental company.