• Sunday, September 27, 2020

caribbean islands open to americans

A Run For the Border - Turks & Caicos
August 12, 2020
By , Founder

You know that daydream you’ve had of making a run for it, like when you were about to lose it with homeschooling?  Well it’s happening – that daydream, that is.  Turks & Caicos is officially one of the few handful of places in the world welcoming Americans, and we have the inside track on the drill to get in.  It’s mildly complicated but yes, you can be on the beach with drink in hand within 3+ hours this summer. We’re always excited to use our passport, but this was exceptionally special in this COVID travel world.  

What to Know:  It’s a certain dedicated kind of traveler who is boarding a plane right now, so know whether or not you’re going to be comfortable traveling.  There’s no reason to push it if you’re not going to enjoy yourself.  Dr. Hillary Steinbaum, one of the top cardiologists in the US, gave us her advice on traveling for our health article, so give it a read as you’re contemplating your next move.  

First, it is an art of timing to meet the TCI requirements to enter the country.  A negative COVID test, specifically labeled a PCR test, is required.  This really just means a nasal swab, or otherwise known as the “brain tickler” as a thin wand is inserted into your nose.  We’ll tell you this is not nearly as bad as it’s made out to be, so put on your adult pants and bear it.  This can be done only 5 days before you enter the country, and you need to fill out the TCI form within 72 hours prior to arrival.  For those good at math, that means you’ll need your test back within 24-48 hours to meet the technical requirements for entry.  So skip the general clinics around the city which are running up to 10 days for results, and talk to your doctor.  Dr. Steinbaum, who we mentioned above, hooked us up with results in 36 hours.  If your tests however take a little longer, call the TCI number on their website to let them know your application, which cannot be submitted without a negative COVID test, is on the way.  This is one hotline they actually pick up, and one that is actually helpful.  

When you arrive, get ready to be squirted on your hands with hand sanitizer no less than 4-5 times from start to finish, from the moment you enter the immigration hall, to before you talk to the nurse to show your documents (keep the COVID and approval docs on hand with you at all times) and then head to immigration. There is an additional hand sanitizer before you reach customs as well.  It’s a hustle, but they’re taking it seriously.  

Now with that all out of the way, let’s vacation.  

The Highlights

·      The Water.  There’s a reason why people come here, and it’s the best beaches in the Caribbean and the most incredible, surreal, turquoise water.  Just looking at it takes your stress levels down and gets you into a vacation mode.  Rent a boat for a day as well to explore the islands and get on that gorgeous turquoise water.

·      Charming Conch Shacks on the beach.  When you arrive from the airport, immediately dip your toes in the sand at Omar’s, which is less than a 10 minute drive.  It’s right next to Bugaloo’s, another local favorite, but Omar’s has the best conch fritters in the Turks.  Don’t expect tuxedoed waiters; this is a shack on the beach and Omar could not be a more genuine host.  It’s a treasure for lunch, where your flight will likely be arriving right in time for some authentic island eats.  Also not to be missed is the larger and more decked out Da Conch Shack, which is another local spot but in a grander fashioned that attracts virtually every visitor at some point on isle.  Da Conch has the best rum drinks on isle and you can arrange horseback riding on the beach.  Not quite on the beach, but the $5 bar in Grace Bay is a local insider spot, where you guessed it, everything is $5.  It may not be a must but if you know it, you are a Turks insider.  

·      Snorkeling and diving.  This is a must, at least for 2 days if you’re a diver or hire a boat to take you out.  The marine life is surreal and you’re guaranteed to see schools of  colorful fish.  We would say that it was right on par or even better than the Great Barrier Reef which is overcrowded in the snorkeling centers and tends to scare away the fish. 

·      Beach time.  Did we mention the beach?  You should definitely allot at least an afternoon if not more to take in the white sand beaches.  If you want to go off site from your resort, Sapodilla Bay has some of the most beautiful beaches on the West Side of the island. 

·      Activities.  Besides sitting on the beach, get active with tennis, yoga, pilates, boxing, kite surfing, surfing, swimming, exploring old shipwrecks and horseback riding.  Whatever your interest, chances are you can make it happen as part of your vacation.  

Where you stay, will dictate your experience in Turks and Caicos.  This isn’t St. Barths where there is a ton of nightlife and shopping.  In fact, there’s really only one real club, which is Club Versace (a huka bar) which isn’t really open given the current climate.  The top two resorts, unquestionably in Turks and Caicos are Amanyara and Parrot Cay, but they could not be more different.  For a well-rounded trip if you’re staying a week, it’s worthwhile to do both.  

Amanyara is located on Provo, which is the main island with the airport and gives you relatively easy direct access, within 15-30 minutes, to the beach restaurants like Somewhere Café, Da Conch Shack and Omars. Also it’s easy, though expensive, to get around with taxis at night (around $100/hour or $125 each way) but well-worth it to go off-campus to Cocovan, (an airstream in a parking lot with excellent food) Cocobistro and The Terrace, among others on our restaurant list below. If someone is cool driving, a rental car is the most efficient way to get around on your own.  

Amanyara has the most luxurious rooms and is the best hotel on Provo.  It’s in a class of its own. Rooms are stand-alone pavilions where you can bike around the resort, or further villas have their own cart.  You can essentially create your own summer camp on the resort, where they have tennis pros for every level, a real boxing studio, pilates, yoga pavilion and a spa where some of the masseuses are from Bali, and will straighten you out.  Of course there is golf nearby and their beach is one of the most expansive in the Turks, where snorkeling is just a 10 minute ride away.  

The Beach Club has top notch sushi and other bites for daytime and evening, though for now is only open during the day.  Breakfast is top notch; we tend to stay away from the bread baskets but there must be something in the water.  The croissants are a must for breakfast. 

If you’re looking for the deserted island vibe, Parrot Cay is away from the mainland and a 35 minute boat ride on its own private island.  Its closest neighbor is North Caicos, where the locals mostly live and commute to the other islands for work.  Part of the COMO hotel group, which is the brainchild of Christina and Melissa Ong (hence the COMO brand) they are the real-life Crazy Rich Asians, from a family of Singaporean hotel titans with more diverse holdings than can be listed.  Parrot Cay is their special enclave, where their circle of friends like Christy Brinkley, Donna Karen, Keith Richards and Bruce Willis all have homes.  The vibe is casual beach chic, and where there’s not a bit of pretense.  The food is off the charts on the isle, where there’s a dedicated healthy menu that keeps the supermodels in residence in top form. We had the best cracked conch on isle at the restaurant, which is certainly not on the supermodel diet, but nonetheless a must.  Pool scene is split up into families in one area, and adults in another, and everyone gets lots of quality time on those loungers.  

So is it worth it to travel right now? Yes, especially when there are destinations like Turks and Caicos to take you out of the pandemic, if even for a weekend or week.  

The Restaurant List

Coco Bistro
Cocovan
Coyaba
Da Conch Shack
Omar’s
Somewhere Café
The Terrace