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Cockburn Harbour as seen from Tucker Hill on South Caicos View of Cockburn Harbour, South Caicos.

Things to Do in South Caicos

Nature and Seclusion

turquoise ocean water off East Bay
The turquoise water off of South Caicos.

Experience the old Caribbean way of life on the small island of South Caicos. The activities and sights of this quiet island are perfectly-suited for the outdoor enthusiast and those looking for a secluded and tranquil vacation.

South Caicos was formerly the main salt exporting island in the Turks and Caicos. After the collapse of the salt industry, small scale fishing became the primary drive of the local economy.

There isn’t much happening on the island, which creates a unique perspective – a Caribbean island untouched by tourism. Miles of secluded beaches, the abandoned salt salinas and the old settlement of Cockburn Harbour await to be explored. Hikers and outdoor photographers will have fascinating and varied settings to explore.

Beaches and Coasts

panoramic view of the Highlands and Highlands House on South Caicos.
The Highlands of South Caicos.

When judged solely by the quantities white sand and turquoise water, the beaches of South Caicos aren’t quite up to the standard of Grace Bay on Providenciales, yet they aren’t without their special qualities.

The coasts of South Caicos include the beautiful beaches of East Bay and Long Beach, the shallow and sheltered Bell Sound, the hills of Highlands Bay, and the turquoise and blue Plandon Cay Cut Beach.

Beachcombing is excellent at many beaches, especially at those exposed to the constant eastern trade winds. There’s always something interesting to find – seashells, old bottles, sea glass, fishing floats and more.

The coasts often feature open conditions, and are consequently great for hiking. There are white sand beaches, limestone ocean cliffs, and semi-lithified rolling dunes.

The Sights and Ruins of the Bygone Salt Industry

The islands on the eastern half of the Turks and Caicos once support a thriving sea salt industry, which took advantage of natural marine wetlands and ponds to efficiently evaporate ocean water. The water would be let into the salinas through a system of channels and inlets, at which point the intense sun over the Turks and Caicos would crystal the salt.

At its heyday, South Caicos was exporting more salt than either Grand Turk or Salt Cay, annually producing millions of bushels of salt.

Sea salt production in the Turks and Caicos ended rather abruptly in the early 1900s, when the small economies of scale in the country couldn’t justify modern industrial and port infrastructure, and hence the end.

Ruins from every aspect of the salt industry still remain to be explored, many of which date back to the early 1800s. Low stone walls divide the ponds, intricate inlet and pump systems can be seen, rugged colonial warehouses still stand in Cockburn Harbour, as well as the unique Boiling Hole, an underwater cave system that was adapted to feed water into the salinas with the tides.

Water Sports and Activities

three kayaks off of East Bay Beach
Kayaking off of East Bay Beach on South Caicos.

With the advent of two luxury resorts, South Caicos is developing a well-deserved reputation as an exceptional water sports destination.

The flats and bonefishing of South Caicos, Bell Sound, East Caicos and Middle Caicos, all within easy access, are world-class and are beginning to attract global attention. Reef fishing is just as impressive, as the commercial industry can attest to.

South Caicos has long held the reputation as a scuba diving destination, and after a long hiatus due to Hurricane Ike in 2008, the dive industry is back. There are exquisite wall and gully sites to discover, abundant marine wildlife, and the Convair CV-440 aircraft wreck.

Kayaking and stand up paddle boarding are also amazing. The sheltered and winding mangrove channels of McCartney Cay, Middle Creek Cay, Hog Cay and East Caicos hide some of the best paddling in the region. The plethora of wildlife, including birds, turtles, stingrays and sharks is truly breath-taking.

Another great water sport is kiteboarding. Experienced kiters looking for a kite spot to explore other than Long Bay on Providenciales will be delighted by the consistent wind and countless flatwater and bay kiting locations.