Boasting miles of soft-sand beaches with fewer crowds than most Caribbean beaches, the six-and-a-half-mile island of Grand Turk has managed to maintain its authentic island feel. Locally owned tour businesses dominate (although many partner with cruise lines), and there is a refreshing lack of hotel chains or fancy waterparks occupying prime beach space. Although it can feel lost in time, Grand Turk still offers something for passengers of all ages — if you know where to look. Excursions can be found on land or sea for families, single cruisers, couples or elderly passengers, and this list will help select what shore adventure is right for you.
Families With Young Children
Discover the marine life in the shallow waters of Gibbs Cay.
Cruisers are transported by boat to the nearby island of Gibbs Cay, where they’ll snorkel over the coral reefs teeming with colorful fish. And there will even be time to interact with stingrays in their natural environment. Kids will love petting and swimming with these majestic creatures in the shallow water. The two-hour excursion has a minimum age of 5 years old and is operated by Oasis Divers (through Carnival Cruise Lines).
Cost: Tours cost $60 per adult and $44 per child through Carnival Cruise Lines and may vary on other lines.
Families With Older Kids
Ride an ATV around the island.
Guides meet passengers at the port before embarking on a unique course around the island past wild horses, donkeys and pink flamingos. You’ll drive past a beautiful private beach and up to a lighthouse, then off to a former U.S. Air Force base and a few surprises in between. Helmets with built-in earpieces allow you to hear your tour guide narrate as you go. This is a perfect adventure for teens (or really anyone), but they must have a valid driver’s license to drive the ATV; otherwise, they must ride with someone who does. Tours are available through Holland America, Princess and Silversea for around $100 per person. You can also book on your own by contacting Funtastic Tours. Closed-toed shoes are required.
Stroll along the coastal bluffs at the Grand Turk Lighthouse.
Built in 1852, the 60-foot-tall Grand Turk Lighthouse has become a symbol of the island. Although you can no longer access it, great views can be had from the grounds (which several donkeys call home). The coastal bluffs make for a romantic stroll and excellent photo opportunities. There’s also a small gift and snack shop at the keeper’s house. Renting a car and combining this stop with others is the best bet because it takes about 30 minutes to get there from the port, and a lighthouse visit won’t take long. Arrive early to skirt the crowds. Car rentals start around $80 a day with Tony’s Rentals, and the lighthouse has a $3 admission fee.
Relax at the postcard-perfect Pillory Beach.
An absolutely gorgeous stretch of paradise, Pillory Beach grants postcard-perfect views of azure waters and soft white sand. Bohio Dive Resort is located at the beach, with a casual bar and restaurant offering reprieve from the sun. The beach has the benefit of amenities like lounge chairs and snorkeling gear, without all the cruise-ship crowds. A cab from the port costs around $8 each way.
See the island from a Segway …
Round up your cruise friends and take off on a Segway adventure where buses can’t visit. The two-hour tour also includes riding along the white-sand beaches, past historic buildings on Duke and Front streets, and even by a few of the original cannons used to protect the island. Transportation is included from the port with Oasis Divers. Tours cost $99 per person.
… or explore it with an electric Hummer.
Introduced in December 2015, the two-hour Hummer sightseeing tour is creating the latest excursion buzz. Friends can pair up (two per electric vehicle) and listen through Bluetooth headsets as guides lead the way to John Glenn’s space capsule, the U.S. Air Force Base, and the old jetty — with panoramic views and wild birds scattered along the way. Tour prices vary depending on the cruise line and depart near the port. A valid driver’s license is required and the prices range between $79 and $99 per person. At the time of publication Funtastic Tours website was not updated with the tour information, so it's best to call or email.
Go diving at the famous Grand Turk Wall.
Diving is an excellent option for solo travelers, because a certain sense of camaraderie exists on the dive boats. For more than 30 years, Blue Water Divers has been taking visitors to the famous Grand Turk Wall in Columbus Landfall National Park. The wall starts at depths of 25 feet, and dive sites vary in their array of sponges and marine life. A cab costs $5 to Blue Water, and divers should book in advance. A two-tank dive (for certified divers only) costs $150.
Do a little snorkeling and stand-up paddle boarding.
The challenge of stand-up paddle boarding (a watercraft that lies flat on the water’s surface) can lead to some instant bonding over spills and successes. Carnival has a two-and-a-half-hour beginner tour that combines a little workout with some beautiful underwater scenery. Snorkel a coral reef (and probably see nurse sharks) and spend time on the beach. Be aware this can be challenging in windy conditions. This excursion is available for $70 per person with transportation.
Relax at a beach house.
Escape to a beach house for a day of rest and relaxation through one of Carnival’s new tours, “Home Sweet Home.” Guests are transported from the port and greeted by a host. Lounge in the sun, read a book, snorkel or kayak for an easy-going day. Local drinks and cuisine will be served, and you will also learn about the history of the island. Tours cost $99 per person and last four-and-a-half hours.
Escape the sun on a trolley tour around the island.
The two-hour trolley tour around Grand Turk is a great option for those with limited mobility, with an interest in history, or anyone who needs a break from the sun. The informative guides really make this tour stand out with fascinating details about Grand Turk’s past and the modern way of life on the island. The guides also give pointers on where to dine or how to get the best bargains. The open-air tram leaves from the port and includes two stops (the lighthouse and Cockburn Town or the Turks & Caicos National Museum) and time for shopping. Tours cost around $25 per person.