Last updated August 2019
The Turks and Caicos Islands are a group of stunningly beautiful islands in the Caribbean Sea. If you arrive at the Turks and Caicos Islands on an international flight, you are most likely to land on Providenciales. This island, also called Provo, has lovely beaches, lots of activities and numerous luxury hotels. For these reasons, many tourists opt to spend their whole vacation on Provo.
We have visited Providenciales on two occasions and enjoyed it each time. Among our fondest memories from the Turks and Caicos Islands are, however, the day trips we have taken to North and Middle Caicos. After a causeway was built, traveling between these islands became easy. Both North and Middle Caicos are sparsely populated, and the latter has under 300 inhabitants.
The first time we visited North and Middle Caicos was in 2014. In the span of a whole day, we only met a handful of people. We have never felt so off the beaten track, even with Miami just a 90-minute flight away. During our last visit in 2018, we met a few more tourists, but the feeling of remoteness was still very much present.
Back in 2014, when we stepped off the ferry onto North Caicos, we had very little practical information about the islands we were visiting. A tip from a friendly local made us head in the direction of Bambarra Beach on Middle Caicos. According to the gentleman this was the most beautiful beach on the Turks and Caicos Islands, while the beaches on Providenciales were “just OK.”
Since Grace Bay beach on Provo has been voted the world’s most beautiful beach many times, we were excited to find out if an even prettier beach existed. We therefore called the ferry office and booked ferry tickets to North Caicos for the following day. The ferry office was also helpful in ordering a rental car for us, and we were eager to pick up the car and set off in search of paradise.
The next morning, our car was waiting for us at the ferry dock on North Caicos. The standard of the vehicle was a little questionable, but as an adventure is an adventure, we jumped in and crossed our fingers that the car would hold up for a few more miles.
Finding our way from North Caicos to Middle Caicos was fairly straightforward. Locating Bambarra Beach was, however, somewhat more difficult. After driving back and forth for a while, and consulting our quite basic printed map (we had no GPS), we started to lose hope of ever finding the beach. It had been quite a while since we came across anyone we could ask for directions.
Luckily, just then we saw another car parked on the roadside. And after a quick conversation with the helpful couple sitting in the car, we were on the move again. This time we knew what to look for, and we found a good place to park near the beach not long after. Since our rental car was quite low, we didn’t take the risk of driving all the way down to the beach on the uneven ground.
Walking down the last stretch to the beach, we were feeling very warm and a tad nervous. Around us, there was constant rattling coming from the bushes, without us being able to see what was making the noise. We assumed it was iguanas, but never got any glimpse of the lizards.
Suddenly, the beach appeared before us, and we forgot all about what was hiding in the bushes. With bright turquoise waters and white sand as far as we could see, there was only one thing to do: jump into the ocean. Chilling in the shallow water, we felt like we had come to the perfect paradise, and we were not at all sorry that we were the only people on the whole beach!
A good while later, we headed towards another place we had heard was very beautiful: Mudjin Harbour. At Mudjin Harbour, ocean waves and cliffs meet in a dramatic spectacle, and the area is considered by many to be the most scenic place in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The coastline at Mudjin Harbour stretches for almost 5 kilometers and consists of many smaller beaches nestled between cliffs. We would have loved to explore this area more, but unfortunately, we were running out of time.
We finished our visit at Mudjin Harbour with a delicious lunch at the Mudjin Bar & Grill, perfectly situated overlooking the sea. As the only guests at the restaurant, we didn’t have to wait long for the food to arrive. The battered fish with lemon-peppered seasoned French Fries was so tasty, we ordered the same dish when we came back four years later!
As we had spent so many hours at Bambarra Beach, there was no time for more stops before returning to the ferry dock and catching the last ferry back to Providenciales. Feeling we had so much left to do and see at North and Middle Caicos, we decided there and then that we had to go back. It took a few years, but in 2018, we finally returned.
This time we did not have Bambarra Beach entirely to ourselves, but it was still just as beautiful as we remembered. Wanting to explore a bit more of the islands, we headed for the nearby Conch Bar Caves after our visit to Bambarra.
Conch Bar Caves is one of the largest cave systems in the Caribbean, and a guide is therefore mandatory for visiting. We arrived at the small ticket office without prior reservations, but luckily this was not a problem. The guide was ready in only 2 minutes. Just as we were about to go, another car arrived. We were told that we could go ahead and wait inside the caves while the guide greeted the other visitors.
Upon entering the caves, the first thing we noticed was the spectacular sight of stalactites and stalagmites. The second thing that caught our attention were the sounds. We realized we were not alone.
Before we could regret starting the tour and change our minds, the rest of the group arrived and off we went. The young guide led us around the caves while pointing out spots of interest along the way. The ground was quite slippery, and there was not too much to hold on to. Fortunately, the guide knew his way around the caves and warned us about the more challenging parts.
A few minutes into the tour, we were asked to turn off our flashlights. Moments later, the guide pointed his light beam straight up and onto a bat colony housed in the ceiling of the cave. As a result of the disturbance, the bats came rushing down. Watching the winged creatures flying all around us was a bit unnerving, and we must admit we felt relieved when they returned to their home above us.
The rest of the tour was equally thrilling. Deep inside the caves, we were once again told to switch off our flashlights, this time to properly understand just how dark it is in a cave. The darkness that surrounded us was more pitch black than we have ever experienced.
Since this was our first cave visit, we didn’t quite know what to expect from the tour. Moving around in the completely unknown surroundings made us feel a mixture of fascination and apprehension. Very high humidity, the unique odor, and the sound of hundreds of bats really got our senses worked up. It was exciting not to know what was waiting around the next turn, although somewhat scarier having to walk over narrow planks functioning as bridges. Fortunately, there were no cramped spaces.
After approximately 30 minutes, the tour ended. Exploring the Conch Bar Caves in Middle Caicos was an experience we will never forget.
We spent the rest of the day touring the islands, visiting more beaches and searching for flamingos. In 2014 we were lucky and saw some at close range, but this time we unfortunately did not see any.
Tired, but happy, we boarded the ferry back to Providenciales late in the afternoon. Our inner adventurers were thrilled after an activity-filled day. Nevertheless, both North and Middle Caicos still have a lot more we would love to explore. A third visit is therefore being planned!
Practical Information and Tips for Planning a Day Trip to North and Middle Caicos
Going on a self-guided day trip to North and Middle Caicos requires a little planning.
We recommend that you do the following, at the latest the day before traveling:
Book Ferry tickets via Caribbean Cruisin’. Ferry tickets can be booked online or by phone. Tickets for the round trip Provo-North Caicos cost $50 for adults and $30* for children under 9 years. Consider booking tickets for the earliest departure to make the most of the day. On Sundays, there are fewer ferry departures, and many shops, restaurants and petrol stations are closed.
Make reservations for a rental car. On our second trip, we booked with Pelican Rentals and were pleased with the state of the car we got. An SUV was $75* for a day. After our last visit, Caribbean Cruisin’ has also begun to offer car rental. Other rental companies are available.
Book a tour of the Conch Bar Caves. The caves are open from Monday to Friday, but guided tours on weekends are possible by prior arrangement. We didn’t book in advance, but you may want to call to make sure the caves are open. The tour costs $20*, and you get to borrow powerful flashlights.
Note! The cave tour is not suitable for people with reduced mobility or small children, as it has some challenging sections.
Download offline maps for North and Middle Caicos on your GPS or mobile, as mobile coverage may not be great everywhere.
Put some water bottles in the freezer. You will not regret being able to enjoy cold water throughout the day!
- The water bottles from the freezer (there are few shops on Middle Caicos, so it is important to bring plenty of water)
- Cash (cards are not accepted everywhere)
- A mobile phone
- A powerbank as backup charging for your mobile device during the day
- A printed map of North and Middle Caicos
- Shoes with good grip (necessary if you are going on the cave tour)
- Insect repellent
- Binoculars (for bird watching)
On the day of travel to North and Middle Caicos:
Arrive at the ferry dock in Providenciales at least 30 minutes before departure time. If the ferry is full, it may leave before the set time! To get to the ferry dock, follow the Leeward Highway all the way to the end in the eastward direction. On Google Maps, the ferry terminal is marked as TCI Ferry. There is free parking at the ticket office. It is not possible to bring your own car onto the ferry. The trip to North Caicos takes about 25 minutes.
The car hire company will meet you at the ferry dock, Sandy Point Marina, at North Caicos. Doing the paperwork should be quick. If you did not bring a map of the islands, ask to borrow one. Also, check that the car has plenty of fuel, and refill if needed at North Caicos before heading further. There are no petrol stations on Middle Caicos. Note: remember to drive on the left-hand side of the road on the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Go straight to Bambarra Beach. Do not be tempted to stop on the way if you hope to be the only one there. The drive takes about one hour. If you rent an SUV, you will have no problem driving all the way down to the beach.
Look for flamingos in Flamingo Pond at Middle Caicos. Here you can get relatively close to the long-legged birds if they are around.
Then go to Conch Bar Caves and join a tour.
Have lunch or early dinner at the Mudjin Bar & Grill.
Allow enough time to refuel the car before returning to the ferry dock. When we were driving back on our second trip, we found noone present at one of the petrol stations, and had to rush to find a new place to fuel up. The last opportunity to refuel before the ferry dock is in Bottle Creek.
Arrive at Sandy Point Marina at the latest 30 minutes before departure time. This is especially important if you plan to take the last ferry back to Provo.