Turks & Caicos (or TCI) remains one of the best in the Caribbean

They are now called TCI. Located about 750 miles off the coast of Florida and south of the Bahamas, a chain of 40 small islands warm up in the Caribbean sun. For most of my career as a travel agent with Monroe Travel Service, they were known as Turks & Caicos, but today they are called TCI.

Now, as much as I love their new tourism slogan: TCI – Beautiful by Nature – it’s still hard to teach an old dog new tricks. Yet, like my clients Sarah and Kyle Dennis, who have just returned from a week’s vacation in the islands, it seems that old William Shakespeare was right when, in “Romeo and Juliet”, he proclaimed: “A rose by any other name smells so sweet.” Whether you say Turks & Caicos or TCI, this island paradise remains one of the best in the Caribbean!

“Getting to TCI was so easy – the air connections from Monroe airport were excellent. We just had to show proof that we were fully immunized,” said Sarah Dennis, “and we were heading to the beautiful villa you had booked About the only problem we had was that Kyle had a little trouble with the car rental at first Driving an American car with the left hand drive on the wrong side of the road has took a bit of getting used to. Luckily the roads are good and the traffic was light.”

“The only place we had been in the Caribbean was St. Barths and Grace Bay was definitely different. Palm trees sway in the breeze, waves crash on talc white sand and, the bluest ocean blue makes it picture perfect for a family vacation, but the quiet was deafening. It feels like TCI is the last outpost in the Caribbean, and it took a bit of getting used to a place not still infected by tourism.We soon found the feeling of peace and calm so very soul-soothing, not at all like the glitz and glamor of St Barths!

Now don’t get me wrong, I loved the chic resorts that looked straight out of a design magazine as well as the beaches and nightlife of St. Barts. Its St. Tropez French Riviera vibe makes it a place you go to see and be seen, but it’s not like Turks & Caicos. There’s no doubt that TCI can stand out as a stylish and exclusive Caribbean destination, but its laid-back vibe has more of an R&R (rest and relax) feel. In other words, instead of stargazing, our evenings were spent gazing at the stars!”

We could have lain on the beaches of Grace Bay from sunrise to sunset, but when there is windsurfing, snorkeling, diving, walking, fishing, surfing, from tennis, shopping and restaurants, life at the beach can get very busy. The first two days we started with breakfast in the villa, but that was before discovering several pedestrian-friendly breakfast spots on the main Grace Bay strip. Lemon 2 Go with their Vanilla Latte quickly became our morning ritual; we went there so many times that we filled out a punch card and enjoyed two free drinks!

Beach life quickly turned us into foodies. The kids loved the fried plantains from a food truck called Rooster TFC (by the way, which stands for Turks Fried Chicken), but Da Conch Shack with its conch salad and rum punch should be on everyone’s list for lunch ! For dinner, we were spoiled a few nights with private chef dinners, but TCI has so many cozy little places that we thought it was fun to venture out and try them. For anyone who loved Tamarin in St. Barts, OPUS is a must tell your Monroe Travel Service travelers.

Surprisingly, one of our favorite excursions was a guided eco-kayak tour through the mangrove shallows. We spotted and, with the help of our guides, learned about lemon sharks, sea turtles and conchs. As well as teaching us about life in the deep, they also encouraged us to soak up the local culture during the island’s Thursday night Fish Fry.

The kids insisted we try it, so if anyone is looking for a real taste of island life, I recommend this weekly event. Think of it as a nighttime farmer’s market, but with food, music, and crafts set up in tents. Locals meet, dance, drink rum punch from cut-up pineapples and eat. The celebration ends with a junkanoo parade involving lots of singing, dancing and a big drum as everyone jumps and squirms. What a crazy night and another fun memory from our TCI vacation.

It definitely seems like a trip to TCI turned out to be the perfect family getaway for the Dennis family from West Monroe. Instead of staying at BEACHES, the island’s most luxurious all-inclusive family vacation spot, or one of Grace Bay’s many gorgeous resort properties, we rented a 3-bedroom villa in Providenciales – or ” Provo” as we travel businesses are encouraged to call it – which turned out to be a great vacation for this family.

So folks, if you’re looking for a nice getaway with your feet in the sand, maybe the laid-back Turks & Caicos/TCI vibe should be on your travel radar. The islanders, who call themselves ‘belongers’, believe they are lucky to live in a place that time (and the crowds) have forgotten. Still, as a travel agent, I’d say we’re the lucky ones. TCI is one of the few places so calm and peaceful where you can go and forget about time!

Dianne Newcomer is a travel agent with Monroe Travel Service. For assistance with your next vacation, whether resort, cruise or tour, please call 318 323 3465 or email [email protected] com and one of our travel experts will be happy to refer you!

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