If you’re looking for white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and a laid-back vibe, then Barbados and Turks and Caicos have it all. However these islands are quite different.
Choosing whether to visit Barbados or Turks and Caicos for that once-in-a-lifetime holiday or honeymoon destination can therefore be difficult. Having visited both, we compare them below, and show you what each has to offer.
Barbados or Turks and Caicos: Stunning natural scenery
For tourists looking to sunbathe and swim, the Turks and Caicos archipelago with its 40 beautiful islands and cays is the natural choice. The beaches in this island nation are arguably some of the best in the Caribbean too, and with 242 miles of coastline – compared to Barbados’ 60 miles – there’s many to choose from. The swimming water in Turks and Caicos is unrivaled as well.
Therefore if you’re wanting a holiday which is focused on sunbathing and island hopping, then Turks and Caicos will suit you better than Barbados. However Turks and Caicos is more expensive than Barbados in regards to getting around, accommodation, and food.
While Turks and Caicos wins when it comes to beaches, Barbados does have a lot more to do when it comes to excursions – such as visiting a rum distillery, museums, and even live sport.
The infrastructure and public bus system in Barbados is also very good. That means you can get from beach to beach, town to town, in Barbados a lot easier and cheaper than in Turks and Caicos. In fact that is one of the reasons Barbados makes our list of five cheapest Caribbean islands.
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!
Barbados is perfect for sun, sea, and sand, but the island itself can be easily explored within a week.
Make your way to Oistins and Miami Beach for great swimming waters and one of the best sunsets in the Caribbean. Beaches in Barbados can get busy with tourists though, and it’s harder to find a secluded beach here than it is in Turks and Caicos.
However you can find turquoise water and golden sandy beaches up and down Barbados. One of our favorites is Bottom Bay. It’s not a great swimming spot, but it’s secluded, romantic, and with swaying palm trees it has a real desert island feel to it.
Barbados’ teeming sea-life can also be viewed when out and about swimming and snorkeling. Bell Buoy reef, near Accra Beach is the perfect place to spot angel fish and parrot fish. A great underwater camera – such as this one – is a must.
While at Carlise Bay Marine Park you can dive among numerous ship wrecks that have been taken over by colorful fish, nurse sharks, and manta rays! Some of the best reefs to explore in Barbados can be found in this.
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 often don’t feel busy.
At Grace Bay expect unbelievable powder-white sand set against sparkling clear turquoise water. The calm swimming water here is perfect for snorkeling, and the sunset is breathtaking. This is one of our top five beaches in the Caribbean.
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.
Barbados or Turks and Caicos: Explore the sights and experience the tropics
Along with the natural scenery on offer, both Barbados and Turks and Caicos have many attractions and cultural experiences worth checking out.
Barbados is more geared towards tourists but is also a laid back island. Turks and Caicos feels more Caribbean, rustic and remote.
When it comes to nightlife, Barbados definitely has more going on. The island comes alive at night, with good bars, night clubs, and restaurants 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.
With a mix of West African and British influences, Barbados is a fascinating country with a rich blend of Caribbean traditions and a culture that emerged out of plantation slavery economy.
Historic Bridgetown is where you should head if you want to learn about the colonial past in Barbados. A walking tour will introduce you to the country’s tumultuous past, and the colonial relics and architecture that still stand today. You can also tour St Nicholas Abbey, a Jacobean plantation house.
As with many countries that were colonized by the British, cricket quickly became the national sport and a way to beat the occupiers on the playing field! Take a trip to Kensington Oval Barbados to watch a game.
Barbados also has one of the oldest horse race tracks in the world, the Garrison Savannah. Situated just outside of Bridgetown, locals and tourists mix on race day as excitement builds. In fact a visit here is on our list of the best things to do in Barbados!
There are no casinos in Barbados though, as they are illegal. So if you want to try your hand at blackjack, you’ll have to holiday elsewhere.
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 here represent what’s left of 5000 acres of slave plantation, and it remains 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 on some nights.
A taste of the Caribbean
Both island nations will provide a treat for your taste-buds, with cuisine focused around seafood.
Fish features heavily in Barbadian cuisine, and fried flying fish is one of the national dishes of Barbados! However with such a mix of cultures here, food is influenced by West African, British, and even Indian tastes.
Here popular dishes include chicken curry, barbecued pig tails and even Macaroni pies!
Just like many Caribbean islands, rum is the drink of choice in Barbados. Luckily for visitors, they make great rum too! Get yourself along to Mount Gay Rum Distillery for a tour and some free tasters.
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.
Barbados or Turks and Caicos: Which should you choose?
Both Turks and Caicos and Barbados make excellent holiday destinations, and both have gorgeous beaches and vibrant cultures.
However if beaches are your main priority, and you’re looking to relax and unwind, then Turks and Caicos will probably be a better holiday destination than Barbados. The island is very laid back, quiet, and the beaches are unparalleled in the Caribbean.
Barbados has some great beaches too, but also has a fun nightlife, good excursions and decent shopping. That makes it the best destination for tourists looking to do a little more than just sunbathe and swim.
Recommended for your trip to Barbados or Turks and Caicos
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