Providenciales

Providenciales—referred to familiarly as Provo by locals—is located in the Caicos archipelago and is the largest of the Turks and Caicos Islands. Almost all visitors who do not arrive aboard ships on Caribbean cruises will arrive on flights into the Providenciales International Airport on this island, while the main cruise port is located on Grand Turk Island.

Things to do in Providenciales include visiting what is billed as the only conch farm in the world, named the Caicos Conch Farm. Admission is fairly inexpensive and the tour, while fairly modest and lackluster, provides insight into the fascinating industry that provides about 85 percent of all the conch meat supplied to the United States. More importantly, the entrance fee helps to provide the funds to conserve the conch and prevent over-farming, which has happened to some extent with the abalone off the coast of northern California. Since the tour is so modest, most people include other Providenciales attractions along with this visit.

The island of Providenciales is the most developed and tourist-oriented of all the islands in the two archipelagos. This wasn't always so. As recently as the early 1960s, there wasn't even a single vehicle on the island. This changed in 1984 when the first of the island's major resorts was built. There are now several resort hotels (concentrated around Grace Bay Beach) and an 18-hole golf course. This island still maintains its laid back, lazy, and unspoiled atmosphere. There is only one casino, the Casablanca Casino near the Grace Bay Club.

High on the list of things to do in Providenciales is visit Grace Bay Beach, which is five miles long and boasts sugar-white fine sand. This isn't the only superb beach on the island. There are least four others that rank among the best beaches in the world. These include Long Bay Beach on the opposite shore from Grace Bay, secluded Malcolm Beach that requires a four-wheel drive vehicle to reach, Sapodilla Bay and Taylor Bay Beach that are both part of Chalk Sound National Park. Long Bay Beach has calm and shallow waters, making it excellent for family vacations.

The scuba diving and snorkeling in Providenciales is superb, as it is on most of the other islands. There are at least twenty excellent dive sites, including challenging dives and dives suitable for novices. The marine life is superb, with the kind of colorful tropical fish and coral and the larger species that provide the most thrills. There are whale sharks and huge manta rays, schools of playful dolphins, and hundreds of smaller tropical fish and stunning live corals. In fact, the best of the Providenciales attractions will be found in, on, or under the water. There is excellent sport fishing, sailing, and ocean kayaking. If you want to see the underwater life but don't want to get wet, there are glass bottom boat tours. During the winter months, this is one of the best ways to go humpback whale watching.

Other things to do in Providenciales include hiking in the rugged hills of the island and exploring Chalk Sound National Park. This park is three miles long along the coast and offers beautiful turquoise water, saline lakes that are popular for kayaking, and bird watching featuring plenty of waterfowl. The many Providenciales attractions have proved attractive to retirees from around the world, and there are a number of residential developments that add to the inventory of vacation rentals.

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