One of the reasons we decided to go to Turks and Caicos for our second overseas getaway since Jacob was born, was because of all the fanfare that Grace Bay Beach had earned the top spot on TripAdvisor’s “Best Beach In the World” for two years in a row (2017/2018) AND managed to make the top 5 in 2019 as well. That’s a pretty strong case for being the best beach in the world.
So does it live up to the hype?
For starters let’s say this – Grace Bay Beach is, and I do not use this term lightly, spectacular. I’ve seen that word used to describe a lot of places (no, the view from your building of the Raritan River is not SPECTACULAR, it’s fine, but there’s nothing about the Raritan that is “spectacular”) that are most decidedly NOT spectacular. Grace Bay is.
The sand is fine and white – which means it doesn’t get very hot. The water is clear and that beautiful shade of turquoise that is usually associated with Pacific island paradises. There’s also a reef about a mile off the coast that is cool to see, and also limits the size of the waves. This makes water sports much easier, although we didn’t really do any of that since we just were looking to sit on a beach for this trip. It’s also extremely accessible from any of the dozen or so hotels that are built right on it. Finally, because the water is so clean and clear, and shallow, the turquoise color really extends all the way off to the reefs in the distance. This is a pretty unique feature, and not something you really see very often in the Atlantic.
But is it really the number one beach in the entire world?
I think the better question is how can such a subjective question be even remotely valid in the first place! How can anyone rate something that is entirely dependent on the eye of the beholder? Well, TripAdvisor has a way – they allow people to rate places they go. So in the beach category, Grace Bay has a nearly 5 star rating with over 7,000 reviews… That’s uh, pretty good! But their 2019 winner, Baia do Sancho in Brazil is ALSO at just under 5 stars with over 8,000 reviews, so that’s…better? I don’t know? How can anyone really decide?
Here’s the thing though, from my subjective point of view, I don’t think anything can really compare to what we saw in French Polynesia – especially Bora Bora. Not only did you have the turquoise colors that everyone is obsessed with when it comes to tropical vacations, but because there are varying levels of water depth there, you have many different shades of blue, sometimes all within sight of each other. You also have mountains and all kinds of other crazy geological features coming out of the water in many places – you just don’t really have a lot of that around here.
But maybe you don’t care about that? Or maybe you don’t really feel like traveling 20 or so hours to get to a beach? And that’s perfectly valid, because Turks and Caicos is only about 3 hours away from NYC. Way easier to get there than anywhere in the Pacific. And if you’re not looking for the party vibe that you get somewhere like the Dominican Republic, or the incredible family-friendly resort experience we had in Jamaica, or the adventurous temptation of Bermuda, this is really an excellent option.
The fact that pretty much all the beaches in TripAdvisor’s top 10 are on the Atlantic or Caribbean, tells me that at least some of these rankings are due to ease of access. Hard to get 7,000+ reviews in places that just don’t have a lot of visitors – but those are exactly the kinds of places you’d want to go.
The one thing that I was a little let down by though was the sun does not go down into the water. Because of the way the bay is shaped, the land kind of hooks around right where the sun goes down. Not only that, they’re apparently building a 12 story Ritz-Carlton right there, so now that sun goes down behind a building. Don’t get me wrong, the sunsets were still beautiful, but if you’re imagining seeing the sun going down into the ocean…you’re going to be let down.
So yeah, you should definitely go to Grace Bay at least once in your life. We will definitely be back the next time we want a relaxing beach experience and don’t have 10+ days to kill. But if you’re expecting some kind of otherworldy experience at the “most beautiful beach in the world” – I don’t know folks. It’s certainly beautiful, but I think that objectively speaking it’s just hard to compete with Moana-like vistas of the Pacific in this part of the world. That’s not a knock on Grace Bay – it’s just reality.
Verdict: A beautiful and relaxing use of the time that is given to us. Just be realistic about your expectations.
Just a quick note on photos – I rarely use filters for my photos because there’s nothing more disappointing than getting somewhere and expecting to see some crazy Avatar/Pandora looking place, only to realize you’ve been misled. I DO adjust some of the color/brightness levels of my images a bit so as to better reflect what it looks like in real life. The iPhone has a great camera, but with these kinds of rich colors, it often misses the mark and needs some manual adjustment. But if you go to these places this is really what you will see, I assure you!