Contrary to its name, Grand Turk is actually a small island measuring just 6.6 miles long. It’s nestled in the Atlantic Ocean (not the Caribbean Sea as most people think) and is famous for its world-class scuba diving and snorkeling.
Even with the development of the cruise port terminal, Grand Turk has kept its small-island charm, giving it a tranquil feeling. Here are 10 of the most popular things to do in Grand Turk.
Board a power catamaran from the cruise terminal for a thrilling ride to snorkel with nurse sharks then have rum and relaxation on Cotton Cay, an island located three-and-a-half miles from Grand Turk. The “Splash and Dash” tour can be booked through Grand Turk Shore Excursions (part of Ocean Vibes). Grand Turk Shore Excursions has an excursion desk at the port right past the duty-free area. Book your excursion with one of the representatives there or book a similar excursion through the cruise line. Tours last two-and-a-half hours and cost about $85 per person.
Get a bird’s-eye view with Mountain Air Helicopters by soaring over the cruise ship center and a 190-year-old shipwreck while spotting sharks, whales and stingrays from the air. The tour is offered through the cruise lines, with transportation provided. Total tour time is an hour, but flights last about 12 minutes (it’s a small island) and cost around $120 per person.
Chukka (a Caribbean Adventure tour operator) features a ropes course challenge through Carnival Cruise Lines. The course sits 45 feet in the air, with ladders, rigging and zip lines next to the Grand Turk Lighthouse, giving climbers jaw-dropping ocean views. This attraction is a great option for families, however, some age restrictions apply. The excursion takes about two-and-a-half hours and costs around $85 per person. Be sure to wear your sneakers.
For history and culture, the Turks and Caicos National Museum (a $5 cab ride from the port) offers guided tours that provide fascinating tales of shipwrecks, early inhabitants and the salt industry. And the view of the ocean from the balcony will certainly take your breath away. Cruisers get a discounted rate of $5.
After the tour, visitors can walk along the historic district of Cockburn Town or explore the adjacent botanical garden.
Another excellent option for families is the snorkeling and stingray encounter at the secluded island of Gibbs Cay (about a mile off the coast of Grand Turk). Through Papa J Tours, visitors can get up close with gentle stingrays and go snorkeling at a coral reef. Arrange to have the guide meet you at the pier on arrival; he or she will then take you on a short boat ride to the island. The tour lasts an hour and a half, and snorkeling gear is provided. The cost starts at $55 per person. This specific tour can only be booked through Papa J Tours. The cruise lines offer similar tours, but the cost tends to be higher.
With more than 40 dive sites, Grand Turk is a scuba diver’s dream, and its centerpiece is a gorgeous reef wall (known as “the wall” in the diving world) in Columbus Landfall National Park that drops to a depth of 7,000 feet. Visibility is outstanding, making it easy to find sea turtles, stingrays and an abundance of tropical fish.
A cab will cost $5 from the pier to Blue Water Divers, but book reservations in advance. A two-tank dive costs $150 for certified divers only.
Governor’s Beach is a quiet place to unwind away from crowds, with sugar-white sand, stunning water and small coral patches for snorkeling. There are no vendors, so stop at one of the local stores right outside of the cruise terminal to pick up lunch and bring with you. A row of shade trees sets the stage for a perfect picnic. A taxi costs around $4 each way.
If you don’t feel like wandering far, the Grand Turk Cruise Center has plenty of entertainment. There’s Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville, a massive swimming pool, a beach, shops, bars and the Flow Rider surfing simulator (the same one that is found on some Royal Caribbean ships).
Oasis Divers has a glass-bottom kayak and eco tour down a river along mangroves and coves. You can spot numerous birds on shore and view tropical fish and plant life through the kayak bottom. Transportation is provided when booking through a cruise line. The tour lasts two hours and can be booked through the cruise ship.
Get off the path with Zoom Zoom, a new company offering guided excursions lasting about two hours that wind through back trails and beaches for a different side of the island. Look for the signs on your left when you get off the ship; the ATVs will be waiting just outside the cruise center. Yes, they’re that close. Tours cost around $75 online.