JUST back from TCI where we stayed at Coral Gardens (Nov 25-Dec 2 2005).
Weather: The first 2 days, not so good (cloudy, misty, cool low 70s) but then it improved wonderfully (80's and sunny).
IGA Grocery: It's true--EVERYone goes there at least once... This was our very first stop. In fact, we WALKED to the IGA from CG (although I wouldn't advise it, no actual sidewalks) but took the taxi back which was a bit pricey. IGA stocks most of what you need. Loaf of bread $3.29, peanut butter $3.99, jelly $3.99, 6-pack beer (ANY brand, including Turks Head, the local) $12.99, Nestle (small) bottled waters, a case of 24 for only $6.99 (best deal in the store), Lysol disinfectant spray $7.99, dishwashing liquid $1.99, Cave rum $16 (it's $10 at the airport)
CORAL GARDENS: We originally stayed in a small (one room) garden view, but upgraded to a 1-BR oceanview, and it made ALL the difference in the world! Wow! Great view from balcony, very clean, staff attentive! Charles is 5-star PLUS! Truly one of the friendliest guys you will ever meet--ANYwhere. Introduce yourself!! He's a real gem. Ricardo, Bentley, Hugh, Nuwan, Minor, and Angie were ALL super fabulous! Service with a smile, and they are genuinely wonderful to work with! Please tip! (tell them Diane from Detroit said hello!) On our last day, we gave them Detroit Pistons NBA caps and they flipped out! They LOVED the little gifts, if you can, think ahead and do something similar from your hometown! Angie's famous rum drinks are FAB! Don't leave TCI without trying them!!
BREAKFAST: Simply delicious. Scrumptious made-to-order omelettes and mango pancakes, served fresh to you as you stare out at the ocean! (This was included in our CG package, but we always left a few dollars for tips and it was MUCH appreciated!)
THE GECKO! We bought a pass for about $56 (for 2 people) for the week, unlimited rides, VERY worth it. We always tipped our drivers $1 or $2 each time, they REALLLY appreciated it! Why drive when you can enjoy cocktails and leave the driving to someone else? Besides, with all the construction, the roads are chopped up and bumpy.
CONSTRUCTION: You've read it, you were warned. No matter where you stay, whether at CG or at the very upscale (very $$$$$$) Palms, you'll hear and see construction. We visited The Palms and enjoyed a poolside drink but could still hear the construction next door. It's everywhere, just deal with it. The only downside (and again, you're being warned) is that along with construction, you get heaps of concrete, and unfortunately--litter. We were kinda surprised at the litter but we're hoping it's gonna improve. (They need more trash cans on the island, in general).
SHOPPING: Hardly any at all. For a fashionista like me, just deal with it. This island is still developing so you won't find shops like you do on other islands. There are a couple of duty-free shops and a cool surf shop, but not too much else.
SNORKELING: Excellent at Coral Gardens, and yes, other tourists will visit our beach for snorkeling, which is OK and accepted. We saw 2 sea turles, many parrotfish, tons of yellowtail snapper (the friendliest of all!) and (gasp!) a 4-foot barracuda, silver/gray! Take your disposable underwater camera!
BEACHES: Stunning beaches as you walk past Beaches resort, toward The Palms and beyond. We walked ALL along the beach, literally for HOURS AND HOURS, take your camera along the way!
OTHER RESORTS: Beaches is definitely a family place, mostly kids running around, crowded, NOT a place for singles or even couples! Surprisingly nice (and huge) pool but the beach was crammed with little kiddies. The Palms is by far the most upscale, most elite, most $$$$$$ (bling bling) hotel at this time-- the staffers there seemed genuinely pleasant without being overbearing. We visited Club Med-Turkoise (we got a visitor pass for 1 hour, it was almost like pulling teeth to get in there!), it was OK, but no one was in the pool (seemed odd), eating arrangement is like a huge college cafeteria (no intimacy), I guess it was OK for the 'all inclusive' aspect. Didn't impress much. Seemed to cater highly to singles who are 'looking' for other singles.
The Sands is very nice and a bit less pretentious than The Palms. The beach at Point Grace was stunning.
RESTAURANTS: Hemingway's tops my list--we ate there twice--tell Mr. Carter that Diane from Detroit sent you! If you reserve in advance, you can get a table near the beach, very nice! Prices reasonable: Breakfasts in the $8 range; lunch prices average $8.75 (“Papa” Burger, Chicken sandwich, fish & chips, grouper tacos, all served w/fries or salad); dinner prices $17-$26 (entrees include grilled chicken curry, rack of lamb, filet mignon, crab cakes, hot shrimp/lobster pasta)…Magnolia's was upscale and nice but rather pricey $$$$... Iguana's had great food and a nice bar area-- we stopped at Bambooz's for drinks, but no crowd there...on Friday nite, we went to Calico Jack's for their live entertainment –fun to see the locals; food was pretty decent. Don't freak out about the reviews telling you the prices are too high... you can get a great meal for about $15-25 at many restaurants (not including drinks), if you stick with chicken entrees. Many restaurants offer great hamburgers at reasonable prices. Go to Tiki Hut--they had great red snapper and it's a nice beach bar joint, reasonably priced. No alcohol sales at the IGA on Sunday, so stock up in advance and enjoy a cocktail on your veranda (or on your beach chair while watching the sunset!!)
BOAT EXCURSIONS: We heard great things about the Sail Provo trip but ran out of time...instead we went on the all-day Middle Caicos trip with Lucky Shamrock (that's his real name), our guide-- the boat ride was quite long but worth it to see a stunning beach on Middle Caicos--the bat cave tour is OK (if that's your kinda thing) and the lunch on the beach was OK, but overall the trip was VERY pricey $$$$$ so beware. We saw Bruce Willis' home on Parrot Cay (no one was home) but again, beware of the long boat ride, it wasn't a leisurely sailboat--it was a faster boat that was bumpy and had NO bathroom on board (!)
MOSQUITO BITES: No bites the first few days, but as the weather got hotter, I got a lot of bites. Be sure to bring a bottle of cheap rubbing alcohol which really helps. And don't wear perfume when you go out at night!
OVERALL: TCI is a beautiful place to vacation! Beaches are quite stunning, take plenty of film! Construction is everywhere, but to be expected. The people are friendly. Introduce yourself to the staffers and don't forget to tip :)
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Coral Gardens Resort is located directly on Grace Bay Beach and miles of white sand and turquoise ocean. We are directly in front of the best snorkeling reef on the island "Alexandra Marine Park". We are a deluxe Boutique Resort consisting of three unique buildings built along the beach with lush gardens and two swimming pools. The resort is directly on Grace Bay Beach, which was voted as one of the world's Top 10 beaches by Conde Nast Magazine. We have spacious and fully equipped one, two or three bedroom condo suites, as well as Garden Rooms are tastefully decorated with Italian tile flooring and muted tropical colors. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Coral Gardens Hotel Providenciales
- Coral Gardens On Grace Bay Turks And Caicos/Providenciales