This week’s dream: Off-season in Turks and Caicos
On Turks and Caicos, the beach sand is “as refined as cake flour” and the iguanas are as thick as thieves, said Andrea Sachs in The Washington Post. I visited the Caribbean archipelago in September—the slowest month in the June-through-November off-season— and was surprised by how much there was to see and do. Yes, you have to worry about the threat of hurricanes, and some of the eight inhabited islands feel nearly deserted. But the sea is calmer than in winter, and the hotel rates are halved. The stingrays, sea turtles, and flamingos will keep even a solo traveler company.
On Providenciales, Turks and Caicos’ most populated island, I stayed at Club Med Turkoise, the resort that launched the country’s tourism boom when it opened in 1984. Though the dated decor “took me back to the early frontier period,” the resort sits on “the Meryl Streep of beaches,” a regular winner on global top-10 lists. On one of my long walks, I ran into a man with a metal detector who manages Bruce Willis’ vacation house and spends off hours helping visitors find lost engagement rings and other irreplaceables. Later, I kayaked out to Little Water Cay, an iguana sanctuary. I screamed when the first lizard scurried past me, then cheered when I saw a piece of fruit in his mouth and three other iguanas chasing him. Four nights after the full moon, I joined a group catamaran tour to watch a monthly spectacle in which mating glowworms create an electric-green light show in the water just before the males perish. Each light was a condensed love story, but “with a Grimm’s fairy-tale twist.”
On South Caicos, I rode past flamingos while cycling around the huge salt ponds that brought wealth to the island in the 17th century. Until Morton Salt came along, North America apparently depended on the region’s salt. An islander taught me about “rake and scrape,” the national music, which features maracas, goatskin drums, and a saw. Each island, though, claims its own signature dish, with the local specialty on South Caicos being hash lobster, fried bonefish, and grits. “Some people still eat iguana, but it’s hush mouth,” he said. So I had to ask more. “Flamingo,” he said,“tastes like flamingo.” At South Caicos’ East Bay Resort (east bayresort.com), doubles start at $275.