12 Ways to Get the Best of Pricey Provo
By Ginny Ripley
Staying and playing on The World’s Best Beach has its
price. Grace Bay in the Turks & Caicos Islands is universally acclaimed for its
drop-dead gorgeous 12-mile beach and neonic topaz water.
It enjoys elite status among scuba divers, yachties, land
developers and other discriminating travelers: in other words, it ain’t cheap!
But there are ways to get the best of pricey Providenciales,
known as Provo. The absolute best investment you can make on day one is a Gecko
Pass for $36/week, sold at most island resorts. Gecko stops are well marked all across the island. Just hop on the bright red shuttles
for fun, unlimited transport to all the most popular
restaurants, shops and resorts. Wish someone had given me this tip--a 5-minute
taxi ride to dinner on the first day tallied $30 round trip!
We bought the Gecko Pass the next morning, lesson learned.
The Gecko also stops at the IGA grocery store, another must
if you’re trying to cut costs. As an added bonus, Gecko drivers make the finest
tour guides around and can recommend excellent adventures and hotspots you won’t
find in a guidebook.
In Provo, you can easily spend over $100 every night on
dinner for 2, and that’s for a simple fish entree with one cocktail or glass of
wine. We had some sticker shock the first day, then started actively trolling
for restaurant tips from the locals. Three of the best suggestions (from the
Gecko driver) were Bonnie’s, Hemingway’s and Bay Bistro.
Bonnie’s parking lot was full when we pulled up—always a
good sign. Tourists were hard to find in the lively crowd, peppered with UK
accented locals who live and work in Provo. The menu was a pleasant
surprise—finally, a fresh catch of the day for around $12. After all, this IS a
tropical island, completely surrounded by fish! The atmosphere is festive, the
prices are reasonable, the island fare delicious.
Hemingway’s is right on Grace Bay, so the views and al
fresco dining are wonderfully romantic with live island music on Tuesdays and
Thursdays. More upscale than Bonnie’s, the menu is creative and well-priced for
delivering such a high-impact dining experience.
Owner Terry Drummey understated
it best: “We give the guest what they are looking for—good food, portions, price
and service in a relaxed and comfortable setting.”
I think Terry needs some spicy new adjectives!
Sibonne Beach Hotel is any budget traveler’s dream. They
have a superb location right on Grace Bay and rent rooms for $110 a night in low
season, 1/4 to 1/5 the rate of comparable luxury resorts. Their Bay Bistro
restaurant delivers the same unbelievable value. We splurged on fresh tuna and
mahi mahi, salads, wine and crème brulee for around $60.
Another money-saving tip: travel in spring or fall shoulder
seasons, when room rates plummet and 5-star resorts sweeten their deals. We
stayed at Coral Gardens on Grace Bay. During high season, our eye-popping 1,000
square foot oceanfront suite would have cost $550/night. Our October rate was
shaved to $400/night, which is far from budget travel. But it included an
impressive list of extras we dearly appreciated: a de-stress massage within 24
hours of arrival, free welcome cocktail, snorkeling excursion, martini evening
and free internet via Wi-Fi throughout the property. And every morning, we woke
up to a creative, off-the-menu breakfast daily, so filling we could usually skip
lunch. I’ve saved the best for last--all snorkel gear was included, so we could
enjoy a priceless underwater adventure every day!
Fifty feet away from Coral Gardens’ fabulous beach lies a
protected coral reef where guests can snorkel whenever they
want for free —just wade right in and let the magic begin!
Our favorite sightings were the huge, gentle green turtles
munching sea grass. I will never forget the surreal experience of floating above
a 4’ turtle, watching him slowly surface for air just a few feet from my (very
Another out-of-body experience was our close encounter with
JoJo, Grace Bay’s famously friendly wild dolphin. We heard he
takes an early morning swim along the beach most days. We got out around 8am one
morning on our little dollar store floaties, and kept our eyes trained on the
water’s surface. About ten minutes later, we were rewarded--and somewhat
alarmed--to see what looked like a shark fin slicing through the water towards
us. I tried to stay calm as the music from Jaws drummed in my ears. JoJo’s silky
smooth torpedo-shaped body circled us just beyond arm’s reach, and soon, he
glided on his way. Later in the week, we were happy to see him cavorting with
another dolphin which we named JoAnn. It was nice to see him frollicking with
his own species, perhaps with romance in mind.
I also recommend renting a light at the dive shop ($15) for
night snorkeling with baracudas and octopi on the
hunt--another exhilarating and inexpensive Coral Gardens experience!
While the island of Providenciales in the Turks & Caicos
Islands can be expensive, I’ve found that travelers can still watch their
budgets and enjoy a spectacular island vacation just 575 miles off the Florida
coast. Blessed with so many natural assets, it’s no surprise that prime real
estate is going fast. Yet, compared to other tropical destinations that have
been on the tourist map for decades, you’ll marvel at TCI’s pristine, uncrowded
Coral Gardens Reservations:
Toll Free US & Canada: 800-532-8536 or 800-950-2862
The Gecko 232-RIDE,
Sibonne Beach Hotel
get tourist board information:
All by Ginny & Mike Ripley