serenityMost of the tourism infrastructure in Provo fronts Grace Bay and the 12-mile long Grace Bay Beach, which is ranked consistently among the world’s best beaches. The waters are calm and the beach is wide. On the residential south side of the island, the shallow waters at Sapodilla Bay make it a great beach for families with young children.

Provo has experienced a building boom in recent years of largely upscale resorts and condos, but none of them are the high-rise behemoths that overwhelm other Caribbean destinations. In fact, with the exception of a several-year period when buildings could be up to seven stories tall, the government has restricted building height to four stories.

Both of the times I have visited Provo, I’ve stayed at Ocean Club Resorts, an all-suites resort with two properties less than a mile apart on Grace Bay Beach. Ocean Club was among the first tourism properties on the island, and developer Ron Ohliger said he selected the site because it was the perfect place to watch the sunset.

Both facilities consist of small groupings of three-story buildings with studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom suites. The grounds are beautifully landscaped, and it’s not uncommon to see a graceful crane enjoying the surroundings. All of the suites have kitchenettes, which, as we know, makes traveling as a family easier and less expensive! Ocean Club has a new Kids Clubhouse that offers half- and full-day sessions for kids 4 to 12 as well as dinner-and-a-movie sessions, so you can have some adult time.

I was lucky enough this time to be traveling on my own (serenity is much easier to achieve that way), but Provo is a family-friendly island. If your kids tire of making the rounds of the beach, ocean, and pool, take them snorkeling, horseback riding, or on a semi-submarine. There’s even the requisite miniature golf course.

With or without children, most visitors to Provo enjoy sailing. Sail Provo and J&B Tours are among the more popular companies offering boat excursions. It’s also possible to charter a private boat for your family or small group.

Most sailing excursions stop at one or more of the uninhabited keys where visitors can wade along the shore and find starfish and sand dollars on the deserted beaches. Little Water Cay, known as “Iguana Island,” is a popular day-trip destination that is home to more than 3,000 rare and endangered rock iguanas.

Many of the half- and full-day cruises take visitors snorkeling in the area’s pristine waters. Nearly 1000 square miles of coral reef surround the Turks and Caicos Islands, the third largest coral reef in the world. There are even excursions where you can dive for your own conch, which is then prepared onboard for lunch. (Skip the tour of Provo’s Conch Farm, which will likely bore most kids—and many adults.)

Ecotourism is growing in Turks and Caicos, and if you’re seeking serenity, communing with nature is a great way to get there. Big Blue Unlimited (www.bigblue.tc) offers land and sea adventures, including kayaking around Provo and excursions to the extensive limestone cave system on Middle Caicos and to the flamingo nature reserve on the “garden island” of North Caicos.

Eating out is one of the great pleasures on Provo. Restaurants can be quite pricey, so if you are trying to watch expenses, check out the menus before going. Here are a few worth the splurge (and a babysitter):

  • Coco Bistro -island-fresh seafood with a French flair and dining under the palm trees
  • Gecko Grille at Ocean Club Resorts -upscale restaurant serving Continental-influenced island food. Among the other top restaurants are the
  • Hillside Magnolia at the Miramar Resort – breathtaking views of Turtle Cove and fine food
  • Anacaona at the Grace Bay Club – five-star treatment.

For more casual fare:

  • Shark Bites -family friendly burgers, sandwiches and salads
  • Tiki Hut -$12 chicken and ribs on Wednesday nights. Both are at Turtle Cove Marina.
  • Da Conch Shack -a fishing boat delivers the just-harvested conch to the beachside restaurant just before noon, where it will be cut from the shell, cleaned, cooked, and on your plate within minutes.

For more information on visiting Providenciales, go to the official tourism website  and the unofficial “island newspaper.”  

Theresa Gawlas Medoff is an experienced travel writer who has traveled the world with and without her children.