Yes.. the water was THAT blue.
I am so lucky and grateful to have gotten to indulge in the beauty of Turks and Caicos. I can't wait to share my experience with you! I truly believe that wanderlust is a gene.. because nothing fuels my fire more than traveling in God's amazing world (other than racing). In this blog post, you'll read everything from logistics, things to do, what to expect, and how I maintained my active, health driven lifestyle while in paradise.
We flew through American Airlines from Columbus, to Charlotte, to T & C. My in-laws flew through Delta. Both our experiences with the airlines were fine; the hold-up was all due to weather. After reaching our final destination, logistics were a breeze.
Now, I must preface I did not set up this trip. Our rides from the airport were pre-booked for my husband and I which made this part extremely smooth. We used Platinum Express; they were very professional and friendly as they dropped us off at our hotel. To save a headache, I recommend figuring out rides from the airport to your hotel before you arrive. The airport was tiny; I liked it! It made the in-and-out easy because you didn't travel far for anything. There was little food so don't rely on eating meals at the airport.
We learned that there are 11 islands that people live on throughout Turks and Caicos. You can get to these spots via ferry. We stayed in Providenciales. This is the most popular spot followed by Grand Turk (capitol).
We stayed at the Ritz Carlton the entire trip; this experience was exceptional. Many of the activities and entertainment was booked through our hotel. However, there are many opportunities to stay in other accommodations and experience the same fun. The hotel was a newer Ritz property. Our room had an amazing view of the ocean and pools. The cleaners came both morning and evening to refresh towels, beds, clear trash and replace used essentials. There was a refrigerator and coffee maker, closet space, a huge French-bath tub, two sinks, and outdoor balcony seating. The room was 10/10.
The property had two pools; one adult only pool and one family pool. They had cabanas in which you could rent for the family or single chairs. I highly recommend doing this first thing in the morning as both beach chairs and pool chair were snagged quickly!
The best "sibs" I could ever ask for!
As a new Mendola family member, I've quickly become accustomed to loving a good spa moment. We all had great experiences; I had both a stress relief massage (firm pressure) and relaxation massage (soft). All the therapists were 10/10.
Ritz Carlton Spa
The hotel had a gym, in which I was a bit disappointed with. Don't get me wrong, I understand many people don't chose their hotel based on the gym. However, the amount of people that used the gym exceeded the equipment available. I learned quickly it was best to wake up early and be down in the gym by 7am to utilize the dumbbells and cardio. We had 24 hour access so I used it early in the morning before taking my clients.
The hotel had many restaurants. We ate at all of them! I will go into more detail on the restaurants below, but be sure to note that each one was fabulous. The price would absolutely reflect the food. The only "complaint" (dare, I say this.. shame on me), is the service was extremely slow, especially in the morning. Don't expect to eat and run here!
Food at the Ritz
I must mention they had a casino. I have never gambled until this year, so I honestly had no idea what I was doing. I am not a big gambler; especially because I seem to lose all my money (lol). But shout out to my sister-in-law, who had luck on her side!
Seven stars hotel was right beside us. We had a few experiences in this hotel including NYE dinner and watching the PSU game. This property may have been slightly bigger than the Ritz but seemed a little older. They had a few more amenities including a beach bar on the beach, pool bar and tennis courts.
If you're looking to stay in a villa, we were very impressed with the Shore Club. This was tucked away 15 minutes from the Ritz, but the property was BEAUTIFUL. We dined at the fabulous sushi restaurant and got drinks at the Almond Tree. As we walk amongst the villas, each were extremely private and spacious.
The Shore Club Villas
Things To Do
Commence all the water photos!
If you don't spend time on the beach at T & C... what are you doing!? This beach was one of the most pristine, clear, soft beaches I've ever experienced. Do yourself a favor and carve out 2-3 hours every single day of just laying in the sun. It's so easy to overlook the beauty in the moment, but I promise you don't get this water everywhere.
Water sports are very popular in T & C. Most of the adventures were booked right then and there; the excursion leaders and drivers would prop up on the beach and people would approach them to join in on the fun! My husband and I wanted to try parasailing but had little luck tracking down the parasailing company; so I recommend getting on the excursions first thing in the morning.
We pre-booked the Ritz excursion "catamaran + snorkel" which was a day trip away from the hotel to snorkel, hike around a private island and have lunch boat-side. This experience was so fun! We headed out around 10 am, got the low-down on how to snorkel, and were dropped into the ocean. Unfortunately, I forgot my GoPro at home but the reefs and fish were magical. Another participant said she saw a sand shark, too! After snorkeling for an hour, we were given a delicious lunch of chicken wings, pork sliders, salads, and smaller sides. They docked on a island full of iguanas, so we saw some slithery friends and chilled in the warm water before returning to the Ritz.
Shop Downtown + Explore Local Cuisine
There are a few "downtown" spots to shop and try local food. The Ritz was located right beside a string of beach shops, local conch bars and coffee shops. I found myself on this strip almost daily to get out and so enjoyed it!
The locals love conch; I am not brave enough to try. Conch is basically a snail that lives in the ocean. They love it! They also love pork, rice, and all the seafood. I picked the brains of some of our drivers and noted that Mr. Groupers and Da Conch Shack had some of the best local food. Although we didn't make it to those spots, they urged me to come back to try them (how do I tag my husband in this sentence?? ;))
Now, how did I maintain my fitness + nutrition goals on vacation? It was certainly easy on this trip. T & C serves up some of the best variety of local seafood; I never had to guess on what to eat each night. However, I'll give you a run down of how I made my fitness and nutrition goals a priority while still enjoying vacation:
Each morning, I completed a 60 minute workout. My goals were: 10,000 steps daily, workout each day, strength train every other day. I woke up early to hit cardio first. If I didn't need to strength train, I did 60 minutes of straight cardio. If I lifted, I would do about 30 minutes of cardio followed by my strength session. Before dinner, I'd check where my steps are. Normally, I would be over 10,000 steps but twice I found myself at 8,000. When this was the case, I didn't say "oh well"; instead, I made my husband walk to the coffee shop with me to get those extra steps in!
I worked out at the hotel every day but one. We traveled 10 minutes away to the local gym called Graceway Sports Center. This was definetly a fun experience! The equipment in the weight room, although very old, was perfect. They had every machine, barbell, weight, TRX, you name it! They also had cardio machines; however I stuck to just lifting weights. They had a huge sports facility including basketball courts, pools and outdoor soccer. Regae music filled the weight room and althought I was the only female, I was VIBING!
#2 Eat A Healthy Breakfast
Always start your day with a healthy breakfast. This just "sets the tone" for the day. My go-to the entire trip was eggs (either whole or whites), potatoes OR toast, and greens. This is a pretty traditional breakfast full of protein, fat, fiber and greens. I feel my best eating this way. It energized me the entire day with no cravings.
#3 Go To The Local Grocery Store
You might be wondering why we'd need more food in our room. This step in your health game simply helps you to not go down to the resorts shop and eat the pringles/m&m's (in which I'd do if i didnt have my snacks!). We bought carrots, hummus, whole wheat crackers and protein bars to keep in the room in case we needed them. By the end of the trip, EVERYTHING was gone.
Need a good nutrition bar that isn't full of fake, added ingredients? This trip, I loaded up on Picky Bars. I chose picky bars because they aren't loaded with fake ingredients or artificial sweeteners. They use dates and real dried fruit to sweeten the bars; I wanted bars with natural forms of sugar so I could be energized for the day's activities. They use nuts and seeds as healthy fats to keep me full so I wouldn't be caught hungry with no food. They also provide between 7-10 grams of protein; making this a great addition to hit my daily protein goals.
Now my favorite topic, food!
Shay cafe was located about 10 minutes away from our hotel (by foot). We really enjoyed this breakfast. There were a ton of healthy options on a huge menu. This spot was simple; order at the window, find your outdoor table and food was served in less than 30 minutes. I got an egg white omelet with toast. My husband also ordered the banana pancakes to split; these were excellent.
This Australian inspired spot was absolutely adorable! We ate brunch here after a workout and thoroughly enjoyed the food and service. After ordering at the counter, we found a spot outside and relaxed under the shade with our iced coffees. It was attached to the most cute flower shop filled with candles, body care and essential oils! I ordered egg whites, potatoes, sautéed peppers and smoked salmon.
Coyaba was our groups favorite restaurant of the trip. We walked as it was 15 minutes by foot from our hotel. The restaurant was quaint and dimly lit; most of the seating was open to the outdoors. Coyaba had an array of seafoods, steaks and pastas along with a fabulous wine list. If we ever go back to Turks, I'd put Coyaba as a must on our repeat list.
This restaurant had so much potential to be something grand. Walking inside was a treat as the high ceilings and bar brought an open-air feel to the high end vibe. Walking out back was an even better experience; you step away from the beach and into a tropical oasis of strung lights and huge tropical plants. It was absolutely stunning. I wish I could say the rest of the experience was as exceptional, but the service was terrible and the food sub-par. One of my in-laws had asked for an extra napkin, in which the waiter brought a few out (after 20 minutes). She went to take the second napkin and the waiter told her no, that she didn't need one and walked away. For being an upscale restaurant, you don't expect to be treated or talked to that way. The food was okay, but after our experience at Coyaba, it was hard to truly even compare.
Salmon from Opus
This was my favorite restaurant experience in T & C. We traveled about 15 minutes by taxi to the Shore Club where they had a few restaurants on sight. We grabbed a drink at the Almond Tree then headed to Sui Ren. This was a sushi spot that had traditional and non-traditional Japanese cuisine. Everything we ordered was excellent; multiple sushi rolls, sashimi, bao buns and sides!
On New Year's Eve, we made dining reservations at The Deck located in Seven Stars hotel. This spot was conveniently right beside us. We walked to the back of the property where this restaurant was perched right on the beach. For New Years, they had a huge buffet and entertainment. We thought everything on the buffet was five star. It was loaded with different proteins, salads, sides, and a smaller dessert table. The service was quick with our drinks. Post-dinner, we went to the bar to watch OSU football. It was a fun time!
If you're looking for a non-touristy, clear calm water, beach vacation.. Turks and Caicos is for you. We had such a fabulous time with our large family group. I can confidently say there are enough things to do if you're traveling with a family. There's also a lot of laid-back, easy chill vibes everywhere in case you don't want to do anything!
If you don't like the beach, I wouldn't recommend Turks and Caicos. There is nothing to do that doesn't involve the beach in some way. Many of the locals told us on their free time, they enjoy snorkeling, swimming, and engaging in beach sports. They also drink, a lot! So this goes to show beach activates are the way of life in T & C.