If you’re looking for white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and superb snorkeling, then the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos are two of the Caribbean’s best destinations. However these destinations are quite different.
Choosing whether to visit the Bahamas or Turks and Caicos for that once-in-a-lifetime holiday or honeymoon can therefore be difficult. Having visited both, we compare them below, and show you what each has to offer.
We look at which has the better beaches, nightlife, what activities you can do in each, how the vibe compares, and more!
Turks and Caicos vs Bahamas: Stunning Beaches and Scenery
The Bahamas, with its countless islands and beaches to discover, is huge compared to Turks and Caicos.
In fact Turks and Caicos, although made up of 40 islands and cays, has just 242 miles of coastline. In comparison, the Bahamas has 3,542 miles of coastline!
However whilst both nations have gorgeous white sand beaches, the beaches and swimming water in Turks and Caicos is superior to much of the Bahamas.
Furthermore, the most popular sites in the Bahamas tend to attract hawkers who can be quite persistent. Turks and Caicos, on the other hand, has avoided this fate at their most popular beaches and destinations. As a less busy destination, the most popular beaches in the Turks and Caicos are far less busy and touristy than the most popular beaches in the Bahamas too.
However, the advantage to the Bahamas is that with so many islands, there’s a bigger variety of things to do. Each of those islands has a different personality – some are great for nightlife, others for relaxing, and others for water-sports.
The Turks and Caicos is more of a nation where life is laid-back, and vacations tend to be focused on relaxing, sunbathing and swimming.
In essence, the Turks and Caicos is rustic and remote, compared to the Bahamas which is far more modern, ‘Americanized’, and lively.
Below we show you some of the scenery you should expect in each country. We then compare the culture and nightlife in both. Spoiler alert: they are very different!
You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to beaches in the Bahamas, which has countless sandy bays and coves across 655,000 square kilometers!
One of our favorites is Greenwood Beach on Cat Island. This long sandy stretch is far less touristy than other beaches.
If you are adventurous enough and travel to the remote islands, it is still possible to find beaches all to yourself in the Bahamas. In fact the beaches and swimming water in the outer islands of the Bahamas is very similar to what you would experience in Turks and Caicos.
Iconic beaches such as Pig Beach on Big Major Cay are a must visit too. This beach is famous not for the turquoise-hued waters, but the pigs that swim here! Visiting this uninhabited Bahamian island can be expensive though. (Recommended: The Best Island in the Bahamas For You).
A more accessible, and equally iconic beach, is Gold Rock Beach in Grand Bahama. Regarded as one of the best swimming spots – and beaches in the Caribbean – the sunsets here are unparalleled. In fact it’s the sunset reflecting off a nearby cay that gives this beach its name.
The Bahamas also have some of the world’s best diving spots in arguably the world’s clearest water. And with 340 days of sun a year, there’s rarely a day when scuba diving and snorkeling isn’t possible.
Exumas Cays Land and Sea Park is probably the best snorkeling experience in the country, where you can see a huge variety of colorful sea-life. A great underwater camera – such as this one – is a must.
Turks and Caicos
Turks and Caicos is all about beaches – which are some of the best, if not the best, in the Caribbean. With only eight inhabited islands – from forty – there are many secluded and remote beaches to discover too. However even the most popular beaches don’t tend to get that busy.
At Grace Bay expect unbelievable white sand set against sparkling clear turquoise water. The calm swimming water here is perfect for snorkeling, and the sunset is breathtaking.
Long Bay Beach is another spectacular setting. We recommend it not just for the gin-like water here, but because you can go pony trekking in the sea! Provo Ponies does trekking tours along the beach – and in the sea – with their gang of rescued ponies. It’s an unforgettable experience.
You may have guessed it by now, but activities in the Turks and Caicos are mainly centered around the coast. One of those is snorkeling, and luckily, with such clear calm swimming water, many of the best snorkeling spots are actually accessible from the beach.
A couple of our favorite snorkeling spots are Bight Reef and Smith Reef just off the shoreline at Providenciales – named ‘Provo’ by locals. Expect to see sting rays, sea turtles, eagle rays and colorful reef fish.
Turks and Caicos vs Bahamas: Explore the Sights and Experience the Tropics
Along with the natural scenery on offer, both the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos have a wealth of attractions and cultural experiences worth checking out.
The Bahamas has quite an American vibe to it and is clearly more geared towards tourists. The Turks and Caicos, on the other hand, feels more laid back and Caribbean.
When it comes to nightlife, the Bahamas wins hands down. The islands come alive at night, with good bars, restaurants, and casinos to enjoy. The Turks and Caicos, however, is a lot more subdued when the sun goes down, and it can be a struggle to sometimes fill your evenings.
The Bahamas is a fascinating mix of culture, with African, British and American influences. But with its close proximity to the U.S., there’s a very ‘American’ feel to the tourist hot-spots in the Bahamas.
However, the Bahamas still has much culture on offer.
The vibrant rhythmic national music of the Bahamas, Goombay, was created as a way for slaves to pass down traditions and customs. Goombay continues to this day, and is a staple of fun summer festivals in the country. The Heritage Museum of the Bahamas in Nassau is a good place to visit to find out more about the history of the Bahamas.
There’s no doubt that the Bahamas is also a country synonymous with having a good time, so if you fancy a flutter then head to Paradise Island. Here you can try your hand at the casinos, and grab a beach-side cocktail at one of its high-market resorts.
For something a bit more historical then visit Fort Charlotte, which sits on a hill overlooking Nassau. The 18th century fort will introduce you to what the Bahamas was like when piracy was rampant a few centuries ago.
Turks and Caicos
The culture of this Caribbean paradise is a mix of influences from the native Taíno people, Europeans, and African slaves. The result is a colorful set of beliefs and traditions that can be seen in the art and music that emanates from Turks and Caicos.
Many tourists don’t discover this side of Turks and Caicos, but for the visitor who wants to learn about this nation’s history, a trip to Cheshire Hall in Providenciales is a must. The ruins there represent what’s left of 5000 acres of slave plantation, and it’s one of the country’s important historical landmarks.
Hundreds of years ago, slaves in Turks and Caicos invented a form of music unique to the archipelago – ripsaw. The rhythm is created using a handsaw, and nowadays is accompanied by various other instruments. The Somewhere Cafe and Lounge in Providenciales often has a ripsaw band playing on a Sunday night.
In general nightlife is quiet in Turks and Caicos, however there is a small casino called Casablanca in Grace Bay. There is also a Fish Fry on Thursday evenings in Bight Park, where you can try locally caught seafood as well as listen to music.
Da Conch Shack – a stunning beachside restaurant in Provo – also has live music in the early evenings during some weeks.
Turks and Caicos vs Bahamas: A Taste of the Caribbean
Both island nations will provide a treat for your taste buds, with cuisine focused around seafood.
Fried conch (aka cracked conch) is a popular dish in the Bahamas and is served in a variety of ways – look out for it on menus. Baked crab is another dish that’s very popular – it’s made up of crab meat, bread crumbs and egg, all baked within the crab shell itself.
As for what to drink, coconut water in the Bahamas is a no brainer! You also have to try Switcha, which is a sort of lemonade, except it’s made with limes.
Want something a little stronger? The beers made by the Bahamian Brewery are definitely worth trying, as are the delicious rum cocktails served up and down the archipelago. The Yellow Bird is a favorite rum cocktail of many Bahamians.
Turks and Caicos
Unsurprisingly, cuisine in the Turks and Caicos is heavily seafood based.
Conch is especially popular, with Conch salad, Conch fritters, and cracked Conch all on the menu throughout the archipelago.
Other seafood favorites include crab and rice, lionfish, and lobster and chips!
As for what to drink, like most Caribbean islands rum is the spirit of choice here. There’s only one Turks and Caicos rum, Bambarra Rum, so getting your hands on some is a must.
Bahamas or Turks and Caicos: Which is the Better Choice?
Both are great destinations, but certainly suit different vacations.
The Bahamas’ most popular islands and beaches can be packed and noisy. However with so many beaches and islands, it’s still possible to find remote secluded spots all to yourself. If you have longer than a week or two for your holiday and want a bit of an island hopping adventure with some lively nightlife and many activities, then the Bahamas would suit you best.
The beaches in Turks and Caicos are unparalleled in the Caribbean, so if incredible beaches are your main priority then this nation is the better choice. This nation is very laid back and quiet compared to the Bahamas, so Turks and Caicos is the perfect place if you want to relax and unwind.