The Wind and Breeze
Throughout the year, the Turks and Caicos typically experiences an east-southeast trade wind, with wind speeds in the 12-20 mph (19-32 km/h, or 10-17 knots) range.
Passing storms and squalls do shift wind directions at times, and excluding the rare tropical cyclone, such storms are typically seen during the winter months.
The Tide Forecast
As the Turks and Caicos is located in the tropical Atlantic, the high to low tide change difference, or tidal range, does not tend to be drastic, with a typical tide height change of about 1.9-3 feet (.6-1m). Abnormal tides, such as spring tides, may cause unusual lows and highs, yet these are never extreme.
Neap tides, experienced when the sun and moon are at right angles to each other (from the perspective of the Earth) and their gravitational pulls cancel each out a bit, tend to create the least tidal range and conditions that allow for the best underwater visibility, which is perfect for snorkeling and diving.
Keep in mind that many tide forecast websites base their island-specific Turks and Caicos tide table on harmonic predictions at Sandy Point on the island of North Caicos, and simply apply a slight modifier calculation to create a forecast level for each of our islands. This does not take into account the extensive and shallow Caicos Banks off the south of the Caicos Islands, which tends to delay tide changes at many adjacent coastal areas as water moves in and out of the banks.
The coastal areas on the Caicos Banks can be quite shallow in places, and many popular routes may not offer much extra draft for the common watercraft, especially at lower tide levels. We advise using accurate marine navigation charts.
Waves and Breaks
The Turks and Caicos generally doesn’t experience the huge waves that some other tropical destinations such as Hawaii, Barbados, and Puerto Rico see at times.
The ocean topography of the plateaus supporting our islands largely accounts for the lack of significant waves. Regions that do experience large breaks usually have complex submarine terrains that essentially funnel the open ocean swell to specific areas, where a gradually sloping ocean floor allows the waves to stack into a tremendous break.
The Turks and Caicos Islands however sit on two distinct shelves (the Turks Islands group and the Caicos Islands group) that have a rather abrupt transition from the surrounding 10,000-foot (3,000-meter) Atlantic Ocean floor to the very shallow water on top of the plateaus. Although supporting unparalleled wall diving, our ocean topography doesn’t lend itself well to large wave formation.
The best place in the country to watch the full glory of large breaking waves is either Northwest Point National Park on Providenciales or Mudjin Harbour and the Crossing Place Trail on Middle Caicos. Keep in mind that wave conditions are flat more often than not. These locations are great spots for watching the sunrise and sunset, which are typically just as impressive as the swell.
Amazing flat water kiteboarding and windsurfing can be had at many locations throughout the Turks and Caicos. Due to the trade wind directions, the best kite spots are typically south-eastern facing beaches on the south sides of our islands. The best such example is the popular Long Bay Beach on Providenciales, which is one of the top kiting locations in the region.
On the occasional days that see a northerly breeze, our spectacular north coasts and beaches become a bit more viable for kiting.
For the kiteboarding hotspot of Long Bay Beach on Providenciales, 20-30 mph (32-48 km/h) with an east-southeast direction is ideal kiting wind. For South Caicos, Grand Turk and Salt Cay, kiting wind speed may be a little less due to the lack of wind obstructions. See Turks and Caicos Kiteboarding for more information on this sport and the best kite spots.
The Turks and Caicos lacks the reputation as a surfing destination simply due to the unpredictability and inconsistencies in our breaks. At times we do see wonderful surfing waves, but the quality of the waves hinges highly on the swell direction. The conditions on the barrier reef off of the Caicos Islands may easily become messy.
Although a little more difficult to access from the surfer’s perspective, Grand Turk does see a better break at some offshore sites.