Voted the best island in the world in 2015, Providenciales in Turks and Caicos is a must for beach-loving families. But there’s more to this Caribbean island than white sand and turquoise waters. Here are four family-friendly activities we enjoyed on our last trip to Providenciales.
SURFside Ocean Academy has thrill-seekers covered. This locally owned and operated outdoor adventure company specializes in marine-based activities for families, including day camps, eco-adventures, water sports, pirate parties, and island tours. Want to learn a new water sport? SURFside has professional instructors for kiteboarding, waterskiing, wakeboarding, paddleboarding, and scuba diving. They can also arrange professional nanny services and swim lessons.
We were introduced to SURFside Ocean Academy through West Bay Club, where SURFside designs and operates the two kids’ clubs. If you’re lucky enough to be staying at West Bay Club or sister property Grace Bay Club, don’t miss out on their terrific activities for kids and teens. Our guided snorkel tour, a short walk from the hotel, began with instruction and a lesson on the local marine life. The kids took to our friendly and knowledgeable guide like a fish to water.
Locals and tourists rub shoulders and share some good eats at the Island Fish Fry, held at Bight Children’s Park every Thursday night. The Fish Fry brings together local artists and restaurants in an open-air, carnival-like atmosphere. Shop for souvenirs and handmade crafts at the small market, then enjoy island favorites such as conch salad, ribs, island mac and cheese, and, of course, fried fish. Seating is very limited, with only a handful of picnic tables.
The evening also includes performances by local musicians and cultural acts. If you stay late, you can join the colorful Junkanoo parade and dance along to the drums, bells and whistles. This is a family-friendly event, but if your children are sensitive to noise and crowds, arrive early to eat and shop before it gets too chaotic.
A visit to the National Environmental Centre is a fun and educational way to spend an hour or two. This small one-room science center has a variety of displays about the animals and plants found in Turks and Caicos. Children will enjoy the hands-on exhibits and colorful displays. The National Environmental Centre, in cooperation with the Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs (DEMA), offers a variety of youth programs, including a Junior Park Warden camp. The museum is located next to West Bay Club; admission is free, but donations are always welcome.
Caribbean Queen conch is a popular island delicacy, and you can get a closer look at it via the world’s only conch farm. The Caicos Conch Farm offers 30-minute tours, which begin with a presentation on the life cycle of this edible tropical mollusk. Visit the baby conch in their watery nursery, where kids are allowed to touch the tiny creatures. The tour concludes with an up-close encounter with Jerry and Sally, the resident conch mascots. They aren’t shy and will come out of their shells to say hello.
This attraction is very small and simple, but interesting and educational. One thing to note: The walkway along the sea to view the farm’s outdoor tanks and ponds is very uneven and missing the handrail in several spots. Keep an eye on little ones and leave the strollers in the car.
To sample some conch, try Bugaloo’s Conch Crawl on the south side of the island. It’s a relaxed beachside restaurant with beautiful views of the turquoise water. The seafood is fresh; in fact, your lunch may have been swimming in the bay minutes before you ordered. Dine on the shaded outdoor patio or sit with your toes in the sand on the beach.
The wandering chickens may entertain kids, but bring along something to keep them busy while you wait for your food — the kitchen was on “island time” during our visit. They do not have a children’s menu, but guests can request smaller portions.
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Editor’s Note: Denise experienced Providenciales as part of a media trip. As always, our opinions are our own. Photos by Denise Smith.
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