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The Sands at Grace Bay Named a 2017 Family Vacation Critic Favorite

Great News…The Sands at Grace Bay has once again been named a 2017 Family Vacation Critic Favorite!

According to Family Vacation Critic, “Favorites” represent those that really go above and beyond. To achieve this status, our hotel has received a rating of 4+ from Family Vacation Critic’s editorial staff and at least 75% of family reviewers have recommended our hotel by giving us a 4+ rating in their review. Family Vacation Critic is published by online travel specialist The Independent Traveler, Inc — a subsidiary of TripAdvisor LLC. Thanks to our team at The Sands for making this recognition possible!

The resort is pleased to share some of the top reasons why families are raving about their visits to The Sands at Grace Bay – especially during these summer school vacation months:

1. Families Receive Significant Resort Savings During Provo’s Low-Season – Late spring and summer is known as the Caribbean’s low-season and is the time of year when families can receive resort discounts and deals, reduced airfare costs, and plan a much more affordable trip to the first-class destination of Providenciales, Turks & Caicos. From May 1st through December 19th, families will receive their 4th Night Free or can stay 7 nights for the price of 5, plus they can take advantage of reduced low-season rates starting as low as $195 per night at The Sands at Grace Bay. To reduce vacation costs even further, the resort’s spacious 1, 2 and 3-bedroom suites are ideal for families who wish to share accommodations. Plus, the suites feature all the comforts of home including nicely equipped kitchens and dining areas that provide families with the convenience of enjoying self-prepped meals when they desire during their stay.

2. Free Added-Value Resort Amenities Offer Endless Opportunities For Having Fun Under The Sun – One of the greatest benefits mentioned by families who stay at The Sands at Grace Bay is the array of added value amenities that guests may enjoy during their stay including free use of watersports equipment, bicycles, a weekly cocktail party, three swimming pools, a basketball/tennis court that is lit for night play and more. To fully appreciate the resort’s Grace Bay Beach location, families with older children take advantage of the resort’s kayaks, snorkeling gear, stand-up paddleboards and Hobie Cats. Resort bicycles offer a fun way for families to explore nearby areas together. Families often bring the resort’s snorkeling gear to the nearby Coral Gardens snorkeling site, one of the most popular snorkeling areas for families in Providenciales. The shallow waters that can be accessed right from the beach, the diversity of fish, the clearly marked boundaries, and the safely roped off area make this a great spot to bring children and beginner snorkelers.

3. Free Family Friendly Events & Activities on The World’s #1 Beach and Around the Island – Families can enjoy an array of affordable and optional day excursions during their trips to Providenciales, including snorkeling and conch cruises, horseback riding along the beach, sunset glow worm tours, semi-submarine underwater adventures, kayak nature tours and much more. There are also fun, free kid-friendly attractions and events that take place around the island. Provo’s weekly Thursday night Fish Fry features freshly caught fish and seafood, local bands and entertainment, dancers and much more – for a fun night that celebrates all things “Turks & Caicos.” The Turks & Caicos National Environmental Centre is a free and informative way for families to learn about the wildlife, habitats and ecosystems found throughout the Turks and Caicos Islands. And finally, the world-renowned beaches surrounding Providenciales are always a family favorite activity.

The Sands at Grace Bay’s 4th Night FREE and Stay for 7 Night for the Price of 5 promotions are valid for new bookings made on all room categories for travel April 22nd through December 19th, 2017. Travelers can book the resort’s promotions online at – 4th Night Free promo code is “4NF17”; Stay 7 Nights, Pay for 5 Nights promo code is “7FOR5-17 ” – or travelers can call toll-free from the U.S. (877) 777-2637; from Canada (800) 567-5327; or contact a travel agent for reservations.

Turks Caicos Information

‘Is It Safe to Touch Coral?’ and Other Questions About the Caribbean

Smith's Reef Turks and Caicos
Smith’s Reef Turks and Caicos. Photo by Flickr user Tim Sackton. Image license: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).

One of the questions we frequently get from our gets here at the Sands Resort: “Is it safe to touch coral?”

Our typical answer: “Although it’s generally not safe for you to touch coral here in the waters of Turks and Caicos, it’s definitely not safe for the coral. With that in mind, we’d like to provide a brief summary of coral etiquette: how to enjoy and protect coral reefs in Turks and Caicos and the rest of the Caribbean.

Smith's Reef, Turks and Caicos Islands
Smith’s Reef Turks and Caicos. Photo by Flickr user Tim Sackton. Image license: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Coral Species of the Caribbean

There are about 65 species of hard corals in the Caribbean. Corals provide protection and shelter for many species and protect the coast from erosion and flooding caused by strong currents and waves. The Caribbean is home to its own unique coral reef biota, a direct result of the closing of the Isthmus of Panama 3-4 million years ago. After that, the Caribbean was isolated from the Pacific Ocean.

The Basics of Coral Biology

Corals themselves are in fact colonies of very small animals. The corals live in colonies that may taken hundreds of years to form. The visible part of the coral is its skeleton, while the animals themselves live inside as part of an interconnected colony. The corals feed on plankton that drifts by, and also often form a symbiotic relationship with algae.

In exchange for a safe place to live, the algae use photosynthesis to convert carbon dioxide from seawater into energy for the corals.

Hard corals

Corals can be divided into two main types: hard corals (also known as stony corals, or scleractinians) and soft corals (gorgonians or octocorals). Stony corals are the most important reef builders, but organpipe corals, precious red corals, and blue corals also have stony skeletons.

Soft corals

Soft corals differ from hard corals in that they don’t produce a calcium carbonate skeleton, so they’re not as rigid as other corals. In addition, these corals usually have a unique bumpy or feathery appearance, due to the particular way they grow.

Coral in Turks and Caicos

At least 60 species of coral live in the waters off the Turks and Caicos. Hard coral varieties include staghorn, elkhorn, pillar, star, and brain. Sea fans, sea whips, and sea plumes number among the soft varieties.

Coral Reefs in Turks and Caicos

The Turks and Caicos Islands are home to one of the longest barrier reefs in the world – it’s over 125 miles long, and protects the north shore of the island of Providenciales. The barrier reef is and an ideal spot to observe humpback whales, and with underwater visibility exceeding 100 feet in most locations, the coral reefs, sea mounts and sea walls that surround the islands are perfect for encountering schools of tropical fish, sea turtles, eagle rays and even sharks.

There are also reefs closer to our resort on Grace Bay Beach.

Coral Gardens

Also known as Bight Reef, the Coral Gardens snorkeling area is just a short walk down the beach from the Sands at Grace Bay resort and is one of the most popular snorkeling areas in Providenciales. The shallow and calm waters that can be accessed right from the beach, the diversity of fish, the clearly marked boundaries, and the safely roped off area make this a great spot for families and beginners to snorkel.

Smith’s Reef

Smith’s Reef is actually a number of reefs located close to Turtle Cove, a resort area to the west of the international airport.

Smith’s Reef is a bit isolated and can be a little harder to find than other popular areas, so be sure to ask our concierge for directions.

Other conditions to be aware of at Smith’s Reef include tides and currents. Snorkelers should also watch out for Lionfish. Lionfish are an invasive species that have become common in some parts of the Turks and Caicos. While Lionfish are not aggressive, their spines are poisonous.

Fire Coral in Turks and Caicos

There are several species of coral-like “fire corals” (hydrocorals) that can give stings if touched. It might hurt instantly, or there may be delayed pain or itching, kind of like a jellyfish sting. These stinging corals are typically marked and identified, but it’s one more reason to never touch corals when you are snorkeling.

How to Protect Coral Reefs

The number-one thing to remember about touching corals is that you, as a human, pose the most danger.

Simply touching corals to see what they feel like can cause the death of an entire colony. Oils from your skin can disturb the delicate mucous membranes which protect the animals from

Needless to say, walking or standing on coral will kill the living coral polyps that are the builders of the reef structure. So, as a rule, never stand on coral to adjust mask. Swim well and clear of the reef and kick to keep head out without the possibility of kicking the reef, or search for a sandy or coral free shallow place to stand. Don’t touch, pickup or hold reef life.

5 Ways to Protect Coral Reefs Anywhere in the World

You can also protect coral reefs from just about anywhere in the world. Here are five ways to help:

1. Help reduce pollution

Walk, bike or ride the bus. Fossil fuel emissions from cars and industry raise lead to ocean warming which causes mass-bleaching of corals and can lead to widespread destruction of reefs.

2. Research what you put on your lawn

Although you may live thousands of miles from a coral reef ecosystem, these products flow into the water system, pollute the ocean, and can harm coral reefs and marine life.

3. Don’t litter

Don’t leave fishing lines or nets behind in the water or on the beach. Any kind of litter will harm the reef and the fish.

4. Support reef-friendly businesses

When you travel, ask your dive or snorkeling operators how they protect the reef. Be sure they promote reef-friendly activities, and ask if the organization responsible is part of a coral reef ecosystem management effort.

5. Practice safe and responsible diving and snorkeling

Remember, do not touch the reef. Contact with the coral will damage the delicate coral animals.

Turks Caicos Information

Day Trips and Excursions in Turks and Caicos

turks and caicos snorkeling map


The Turks and Caicos Islands lie in the Atlantic Ocean to the east of the Bahamas, and about forty minutes by plane from Miami and the North American mainland.

The archipelago of 40 cays and islets sits on a sea mount rising up from the Atlantic Ocean. Each cay is unique and provides a glimpse of life in the Caribbean in times gone by.

turks and caicos photos
Image from Wikipedia

If you can ever drag yourself away from beautiful Grace Bay Beach, an entire world is awaiting you here to explore in the Turks and Caicos.

Here are some easy day trips from The Sands at Grace Bay.


Caving on Middle Caicos

This adventure begins with a scenic boat ride from Provo to North Caicos—you can most easily get to the caves of Middle Caicos from North Caicos—where you’ll stop along the way to snorkel on the barrier reef.

Middle Caicos itself is home to just 300 full-time residents. It’s a wonderful day trip by boat from Provo.

North Caicos

After landing on North Caicos you will set off to explore the conch bar caves and venture deep inside the earth with your native guide to view stalactites and stalagmites, bats, white owls and incredible limestone formations.

North Caicos. Image by Flickr user kanu101. License: 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

North Caicos itself is largely undeveloped. Visiting the island offers a look at Turks and Caicos the way it used to be. The trip to North Caicos can and makes for an interesting day trip from Providenciales.

Learn about planning day-long Turks and Caicos tours through the Sands at Grace Bay >>

Middle Caicos

However, now that you’re on North Caicos, continuing to travel on to Middle Caicos is well-worth the effort. A narrow sandy causeway connects the two islands. While it is possible to walk the trail to reach Middle Caicos, it would take far too long.

Ali West
Image by Flickr user Ali West

Instead, rent or arrange transport to take you to Middle Caicos and its caves.

Image by Flickr user Tim Sackton. Mudjin Harbor, Middle Caicos, Turks and Caicos Islands
Mudjin Harbor, Middle Caicos, Turks and Caicos Islands. Image by Flickr user Tim Sackton. License: 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

The caves of Middle Caicos are located close to Mudjin Harbour. The limestone bluffs offer some truly unforgettable views of spectacular seascapes here.

Image by Flicker user Ali West. Middle Caicos.
Middle Caicos. Image by Flicker user Ali West. License: 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Besides awe-inspiring views Mudjin Harbour features some truly gorgeous beaches.

Dragon Cay, a small limestone cay, is accessible from the beach at low tide.

Dragon Cay
Image by Flickr user Tim Sackton. Mudjin Harbor, Middle Caicos, Turks and Caicos Islands. License: 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

But even if the tide does not cooperate, the beach at Mudjin Harbour provides a unique place to splash in the sea and relax on the beautiful white sand.

Middle Caicos Caves

The Turks and Caicos are famous for having the largest above-ground cave network in the entire Caribbean and a private tour is just the way to explore it. Some of the most striking caves are found on Middle Caicos.

Middle Caicos Caves
Image by Ali West. License: 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

The caves, since they’re above ground, can be explored easily by anyone (with the proper footwear), and offer an interesting glimpse at the natural history and cultural heritage of the Caribbean.

Only recently rediscovered, the caves were once the home of Lucayan Indians, and it’s thought they sheltered in the caves during hurricanes. The Village Caves and the Conch Bar are the most frequently visited caves on Middle Caicos.

Learn more about our Middle Caicos day excursion.

Take a Trip to Caribbean Paradise on South Caicos

Located to the southeast of Middle Caicos, South Caicos is not a day trip. Instead South Caicos is a destination in its own right. It can be accessed by water taxi, but it’s far easier to fly there.

Image by Flickr user spezz. License: 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

South Caicos is a private island. There is accommodation there, but the island is best known for being the location of summer homes and villas of movie stars.

Brian Brake
Image by Flickr user Brian Brake. License: 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Most of the activities on South Caicos involve the water: windsurfing, kiteboarding, snorkeling and scuba diving and even some fishing.

Brian Brake
Image by Flickr user Brian Brake. License: 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

South Caicos is surrounded by shallow shoals and flats—perfect for bonefishing. Airboats are available to take anglers out to the best bonefishing spots.

Exploring Providenciales

Even if you don’t have time to do a day trip to explore more of the Turks and Caicos, our very own island of Providenciales.

Leeward Beach, Provo

Leeward Beach, on the northeast end of Provo, provides a secluded, spectacular beach to explore.

Christine Jackowski
Image by Flickr user Christine Jackowski. License: 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Leeward is a fantastic place to watch the sunset. Leeward is also close to Mangrove Cay, a nature reserve.

Daniel Ross
Image by Flickr user Daniel Ross. License: 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Mangrove Cay provides an excellent place to explore by kayak or stand-up paddleboard (SUP).

SUP is a popular activity in the Turks and Caicos. Our own stretch of Grace Bay Beach on the leeward side of  Providenciales is perfect for it.


Providenciale’s Iguana Island (aka Little Water Cay)

Just off the northeast, leeward tip of Providenciales Little Water Cay, better known as “Iguana Island.”

The cay is a wildlife preserve for iguanas. It can be reached by water taxi from Blue Haven Marina in Leeward and is the perfect family day trip in Turks and Caicos.

Andy Atzert
Image by Flickr user Andy Atzert. License: 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Little Water Cay is indeed inhabited by a colony of friendly iguanas. They are herbivores (the iguanas eat plants) and are quite friendly and sociable.

Tim Sackton. The Turks and Caicos rock iguana (Cyclura carinata).
Tim Sackton. The Turks and Caicos rock iguana (Cyclura carinata). License: 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Get Help Planning a Day Trip in Turks and Caicos

If taking a day trip with your family to explore the Turks and Caicos sounds interesting, here are three trips put on by Caicos Dream Tours that pick you up right in front of The Sands at Grace Bay and fantastic exploration in some of the Turks and Caicos’ must-see spots.

reef tours grace bay

Plan Your Excursion

The excursions may be conveniently booked by guests of The Sands at Grace Bay at our Tour Desk, located by our main swimming pool. Learn more here.


Spring and Summer Savings On Grace Bay Beach, the #1 Beach in the Caribbean

The Sands resort is offering a number of spring and summer savings on Grace Bay Beach.


The Sands at Grace Bay is tempting spring and summer travelers with its 4th Night Free offer combined with the resort’s reduced low-season rates for stays between May 1st through December 19th, 2015. Guests will also enjoy an array of free offerings and optional excursions fit for all ages and interests, as well as our idyllic location on Providenciales’ world-famous Grace Bay Beach that was recently named the #1 Beach In The Caribbean by TripAdvisor’s 2015 Travelers’ Choice Awards.

In addition to offering affordable spring and summer rates in the Caribbean’s most sought after beach vacation destination, travelers will benefit from the following added-value amenities and freebies during their stay: complimentary use of watersports equipment – including kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, snorkel gear and Hobie Cats; bicycles for island exploration; a Tuesday Manager’s cocktail party; three free-form swimming pools; a tennis/basketball court, and more. Plus, the resort’s luxurious studio and suite accommodations feature all the comforts of home – complete with modern kitchens and appliances, dining and living room areas, screened-in balconies, washer & dryers (in most units), free Wi-Fi and more.

The resort also offers an endless variety of optional excursions that allow guests to explore the world-renowned coral reefs, pristine island beaches, and unforgettable experiences unique to the Turks & Caicos Islands. Caicos Dream Tours offers a popular half-day Snorkel & Conch cruise and a full-day Dream Day Getaway charter that includes snorkeling along stunning barrier reef formations, stops to breathtaking beaches of uninhabited islands, diving for conch shells and a beach BBQ. Provo Ponies offers guided horseback rides to some of the most secluded beaches of Providenciales where the shallow waters allow guests to take their horses into the ocean. Local tour providers also offer glow worm tours, scuba diving excursions, fishing charters, eco-kayak tours, kiteboarding lessons, sailing and much more. These optional excursions can be conveniently booked by resort guests through the resort’s Tour Operator Desk.

The 4th Night FREE promotion is valid for new bookings made on all room categories at The Sands at Grace Bay, for consecutive stays of four nights or more started and completed between May 1st through December 19th, 2015. The free night is not transferable or redeemable for cash, and is not applicable for groups.


The Sands At Grace Bay Is Named A “Family Favorite” Hotel By Family Vacation Critic

TripAdvisor’s family travel site, Family Vacation Critic, has just released its first annual hotel awards and The Sands at Grace Bay received a “Family Vacation Critic Favorite” 2014 Award based on expert and consumer feedback. We are honored that our resort was named one of the Top Caribbean Family Resorts & Hotels by this leading family vacation website! More information on this Family Vacation Critic award is below (taken from a Vacation Family Critic press announcement):


“Every hotel listed on Family Vacation Critic has been hand-chosen by our editors as being appropriate for families, so this award really highlights those that go above and beyond,” says Lissa Poirot, editor of Family Vacation Critic. “Finding a true family-friendly hotel can be challenging, but these hotels have received a seal of approval from real families, and can truly identify themselves as places that family travelers have rated the best.”

To be named to the list of Family Vacation Critic Favorites, hotels must have met the following criteria:

o Hotel must have been personally vetted and visited by a member of Family Vacation Critic’s editorial team, and receive either a four- or five-star editorial rating.

o Hotel must have been recommended by 75% or more families who have reviewed the property, with a four- or five-star review rating.

The elite group of hotels meeting the requirements represent the top 12 percent of hotels listed on the Family Vacation Critic site.

For more information on the winning hotels, visit 2014 Family Vacation Critic Favorite Hotels.

Things To Do In The Caribbean

Visit “Iguana Island” On Your Next Turks & Caicos Trip

We often recommend that guests and families staying at The Sands at Grace Bay consider planning a visit to “Iguana Island” during their Turks & Caicos trip.

Several Providenciales tour providers offer round trip boat rides and snorkeling excursions that include a visit to Little Water Cay – aka “Iguana Island” – a small, protected cay that is home to thousands of endangered Turks and Caicos Rock Iguanas.

This is one of the only places in the world where you can spot these unique iguanas in their natural habitat – and is top attraction for kids.

These large lizards may look scary at first, but they are actually harmless and shy herbivores. A walking trail through Little Water Cay offers visitors an opportunity to view these incredible reptiles up close, as they sun along the sand and rocks of their protected island.

little water cay 2 iguana

Reef Peepers offers a popular half-day snorkeling trip with a visit to Iguana Island that is ideal for families with children 3 years and older, and includes convenient resort pick-up and drop-off by boat. This three hour snorkeling adventure features a 40-foot catamaran boat ride to Iguana Island, snorkel stops along the barrier reef, and time to relax and swim along Providenciales’ secluded beaches. For reservations, tour times, and rates, visit the Reef Peepers website.