I'm wondering if I should post this or not. Why? Because we are having doubts about returning. And we've always loved it here. So let me tell you about it......
Providenciales, Provo for short, has always been one of our favorite Caribbean islands. It's small, 38 square miles, and is the most developed island in the Turks and Caicos chain. We've been going there for about 20 years. It's convenient for us in South Florida, taking only 70 minutes by plane from Miami.
Up until the 60's, Providenciales was inhabited by less than 500 people. There were no cars and few roads. In 1966, a group of men secured an agreement with the government granting them thousands of acres of Providenciales land in exchange for roads and an airstrip. Infrastructure was slowly added to the island as more developers arrived. In 1984 Club Med built a resort on the then-deserted Grace Bay beach. This sparked a truly amazing surge of development which continues to this day.
We love staying on the 12-mile Grace Bay beach; it's been referred to by Conde Nast as the “world’s best beach” and is the location for a number of lovely hotels and condominium resorts. But to be honest, we're thinking the Grace Bay area of Provo is completely over-developed. How can the island's fairly recent (by comparison) infrastructure keep up? Who is buying all these condos? Perhaps Europeans as Provo draws a large number of European tourists, although it seems to us rather a lot of rooms are vacant. And, there are lots of bargains to be had for hotel rooms, especially in the summer. So they must be hurting somewhat. In the winter, all bets are off. Just for fun, I'm going to watch to see if we are emailed "deals" on hotel rooms this December. So, the building continues....even on the relatively undeveloped northwest point of the island, an Aman hotel, Amanyara, opened up a couple years ago.
The island itself is not terribly attractive, made up of rugged hills and ridges, covered with prickly pear cactus and scrub. The main draw is the beaches anyway; absolutely gorgeous white sand and clear, turquoise water. My kids are divers and spend half of every day under water; the other half, they go snorkeling. There's every imaginable water sport available. And for golfers, there's a golf course on the island at the Provo Golf Club.
Because we're foodies, I'm pleased to report there are some excellent restaurants on Provo. However, while the hotel rooms are air conditioned, the restaurants are not. And in the summer, it's HOT. One hopes for some nice ocean breezes. There are all kinds of restaurants to choose from. You will find pizza joints as well as fine dining and there are a couple well stocked grocery stores for those who want to save money and eat in.
Here are the best of the best as far as we're concerned (not in any particular order):
Coyoba ( Divine lobster)
Caicos Cafe, an old favorite (Which has just been sold; we don't know if it will remain a restaurant.)
Anacaona at Grace Bay Club (The best food and look at the fun way the waiter delivered our champagne!
The last photo on the right is an infinity bar.)
Da Conch Shack (Fun, fun, fun. And the conch is fresh and delicious.
That's my lovely daughter!)
Amanyara (Divine. What else is there to say?)
As I mentioned, we like to stay on Grace Bay, mainly for the beach. And while there are many hotels on this island, here are three we love and a fourth for dreaming (and honeymoons):
Grace Bay Club $$$$
The Palms $$$$
The Sands $$
And of course,
As you know, water sports were not possible for me what with the cast on my arm. But we did find a plastic cast cover so I could at least take a dip. It couldn't go under water, but I could cool off. (No, my ortho guy does NOT do waterproof casts, if you can imagine a Florida doctor not doing waterproof casts!) So I walked, did a lot of sitting on the beach under a tiki hut and we ALL did a lot of reading. Here are just a few well worth your attention:
Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain (He's always entertaining!)
But Beautiful: A book about Jazz by Geoff Dyer (If you enjoy jazz, you'll love this!)
The Old Man and the Boy by Robert Ruark (Thanks for the recommendation, James of Man of the 50's.
Shadow Catcher by Marianne Wiggins
A Change of Climate by Hilary Mantel
Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the Dawn of the
Modern Woman by Sam Wasson (For movie-lovers)
Stettin Station by David Downing
One More Theory About Happiness: A Memoir by Paul Guest
Answered Prayers: The Unfinished Novel by Truman Capote (No wonder his old friends were all mad at him!)
The sand on the Grace Bay beach is firm and easy to walk on, so I walked miles every morning. We all got lovely tans, albeit mine, on my left arm, looks a bit peculiar now that the cast is off. (Yes, the cast is off. I now have a brace for 3 weeks.) The weather was perfect: hot and sunny. Very little rain. Doesn't this sound marvelous?
So why are we thinking we might not return?
1. The dive group we have always used, Big Blue, has decided to only do charters. The price is exorbitant of course, but there are enough celebrities and well to do visiting these islands to warrant it. We can't afford it. There are, of course, other dive groups, but the kids were very disappointed with them this year. The right dive shop is really important. Big Blue was fabulous. What a disappointment.
2. The price of dining out has gone through the roof. A dinner for three was easily $300, with tax and tip. We saved money by eating in for breakfast and lunch and I suppose you could do the same for dinner (many with small children did)....but where's the fun in that?
3. The overrun from all the development is killing the reefs. This is not a particularly environmentally-friendly island either. I hope they are trying, but I don't see the situation improving too much. I don't want to think about what is dumped in the ocean and they burn garbage and trash (including plastic) on one end of the island...you can see the smoke.
4. Crime. A problem here. The first night, someone siphoned half a tank of our gas. Then, while talking to our many old friends on the island we discovered: robberies at several hotels (there is one man, whose name everyone knows, who has formed a gang and they are the main perpetrators); one of our favorite chefs was shot three times (and survived) during a robbery; another was hit with a gun butt and needed 11 stitches. Know what? We don't need this. There are other islands that don't have these problems, or at least not to this extent. It makes all of us sad, but there it is.
I hope my review hasn't been a total downer, I really didn't want it to be; with caution, we were perfectly safe and if the diving issues do not concern you... which was one of our main complaints, please look into Provo for a vacation. It's child-friendly, we've always loved it and will always have fond memories of our years there. It's been fascinating to watch this island develop.
If you want more general info about Provo, check this NY Times aritcle... http://travel.nytimes.com/travel/guides/caribbean-and-bermuda/turks-and-caicos/providenciales/overview.html
Note: not one of us brought a camera! So we used a little Kodak. As a result, I don't have food photos and in the end, used lots that were online at restaurant and hotel sites.