Trip Report Turks & Caicos - Beaches Resort

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smackboy1

Registered
Messages
43
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34
Location
Mid-Atlantic, USA
# of dives
100 - 199
Our family just returned from a week long all-inclusive vacation at Beaches Turks & Caicos. We had been to Beaches two decades earlier so it was an easy decision to return for the sun and fun and diving. @loosenit2 and @flashnick wrote this excellent trip report which pretty much still holds true.


So I'll try to provide some updates and other tips and tricks we learned to get the most out of a dive trip to maybe the biggest all inclusive resorts in the world - 5 different villages, 8 swimming pools, 22 restaurants, 3 well equipped 46' dive boats (FantaSEA, JealouSEA, LegaSEA).

In general we were pretty impressed with how Sandals/Beaches handles everything in a stress free one price vacation experience. We chose Butler Elite level accommodations because this was our first family vacation in 2.5 years. We stayed in the Italian Village which is next to the dive shop. Other accommodations close to the dive shop are the Seaside Villas and Caribbean Village East Wing. At the time of booking TCI and the US still had COVID testing entry requirements and TCI had a medical insurance requirement. At the time of travel both countries' had rescinded testing requirements. TCI requires travelers to be fully COVID vaccinated, but no medical insurance required anymore. There were no mandatory COVID restrictions at Beaches. Some guests and staff optionally wore masks, but it was rare. There were CO detectors in all our sleeping areas.

One thing we noticed immediately is that Beaches is a little disorganized and short staffed. We were supposed to be greeted by SUV limo and whisked away to personalized butler check in. At the airport arrivals it was chaos. No limo in sight. There was a huge long line of people waiting for van transport to Beaches. We had to ask for help tracking down our missing limo driver to take us to the resort. And when we got there we had to wait around for our butler and wait some more to check in. Throughout our stay we noticed a lot of things operated on "island time". Food or drinks were sometimes delayed at even the upscale restaurants. Pool towels were not always refilled. Sometimes there were lines at restaurants or activities. We were told that many staff left for the new Ritz-Carlton. The experience wasn't terrible, but reality didn't quite match the spit and polish expectations of the Beaches advertising. This contrasted with another 5 star resort at TCI we visited on the same trip, which really does have excellent timely service.

Our family of 4 has 3 divers and 1 non-diver. Luckily the non-diver enjoys late nights of karaoke followed sleeping in, then hanging out by the pool in a cabana sipping frozen cocktails. Diving at Beaches is all about the convenience and less about just the diving. I could roll out of bed, to a room service breakfast and walk onto the dive boat. Then after the dive I could walk off the pier and into the pool for beer or cocktail or grab lunch at several different restaurants. There are so many different activities to do and luxuries to enjoy that it can satisfy the divers and non-divers alike.

Beaches is primarily a family resort so it has many rules to ensure a safe experience. Maybe some overly strict rules. Our last dive was 13 months ago so we all did pool refreshers at home before our trip. If we had not, Beaches would have required pool refreshers at extra cost of $140 each. Before we were able to dive we all had to attend mandatory orientation, which is a 30 mins tour of the facilities and explanation of the rules. The annoying thing is that even though we arrived at 15:30, the orientation only occurs at 08:30. The morning dive boats leave at 08:00 so we couldn't dive the next morning - SMH. Another example is Beaches won't allow diving within 24 hrs of flying, even though DAN and PADI recommend 18 hrs.

Most mornings there is a 2 tank dive that departed at 08:00 from the pier. Check in is at 07:45. I think Sun there is only a 1 tank AM dive. Afternoons there is a 1 tank dive that departs at 14:00; check in at 13:45; return around 15:30. MWF the boats go 45 mins to Northwest Point for the better, deeper dives and returns around 12:00. TThSa AM, all the PM dives, and the night dives, they stay in Grace Bay which is a 15 min ride. Signing up for dives is an in-person pen and paper affair. Usually divers sign up a day or two in advance, although it's possible to sign up for the whole week. There's no penalty for cancellation and many divers cancel last minute or no-show. Up to 2 dives/day is included in the Beaches stay. Additional dives cost extra ($100?). 1 tank night dive is available and always costs $100 extra and they will go any night as long as at least 6 divers sign up. Night dives depart around 18:30 - 19:00 and return around 20:30 - 21:00. We didn't go on one, and I don't think night dives are that popular. They put around 20-25 divers a boat and fill the boats according to check-in order. So on more than one occasion by checking-in late, we were on the boat with fewer divers. All gear can be rented and is included. Mostly Scubapro rental gear. BCDs are not weight integrated but include an SMB (no spool). I don't know if they provide computers. The equipment is well used, but fine. Weight belts are used for rentals. Considering many divers were women and children, there were never enough 2 lbs trim weights on the boats, so I grabbed them as soon as I got on board. The DMs dive a super shallow profile of about 30 mins and you have to follow the DM so exceeding NDL wasn't ever an issue. Every dive ended with a safety stop and there's a hang bar with extra surface supplied regulator. The dive shop has rinse tanks, outdoor showers, gear storage room w/ hangers (unlocked). Almost everybody borrows the gear. There only a handful of divers with their own gear, including our family. They have nitrox but the compressor was broken the whole week. Nitrox is extra cost but completely unnecessary for the diving profiles. For extra cost guests can get PADI certified, take specialty courses, take DSD, learn to SNUBA.

It's follow the DM cattle boat diving. I never saw anybody diving their own profiles the whole week. Water temp was a consistent 80F and viz probably 100' most of the time. The DMs dive very very conservatively. So AM dives might be 60' floor and PM dives might be 40' floor. It might be 4-10 divers in a group. The dive site is captains choice which means we dived the Cathedral both AM and PM one day - except the AM dive was 60' and the PM dive 40'! I would have been pissed off except that JoJo the dolphin popped by the say hello on the PM dive which kind of made it all worthwhile! The sites we dove in Grace Bay were not bad. But the coral and the reefs are not as vibrant as they were 20 years ago when I was last at Beaches. I thought the reefs and diving were better further afield at Northwest Point. Because of the depth restrictions we really couldn't go down any of the walls or trenches. The DM turns the dive when the first diver hits 1500 psi. It wasn't uncommon for many divers to end their dive with 1500 psi unused gas. Divers were a mixed bag, but many were inexperienced or returning after years of not diving or newly certified divers. Lots of teenagers and families diving together. DMs, instructors and captains were all very competent and excellent. Customer service was generally very good. Everybody set up their own gear, but help was always available. Most of the dive instructors and boat captains are locals. I believe there is at least one DM is from Mexico and one DM is a tech diver from upstate NY and I think Captain Rick is from the US. Beaches does not allow non-divers or snorkelers on the dive boats which is a bummer if families with non-divers want to enjoy the reefs together.

The diving is mostly good. Good amounts of reef fish among the hard and soft coral. Trigger fish, wrasse, parrot fish, leather jackets, tangs, squirrel fish, eels, crabs, sharks, barracuda. I would say lots of macro life, not so much bigger sea life. The coral is distressed in some areas and seemed to be doing well in others. They tend to revisit the same sites in Grace Bay so it can get repetitive. We did get to dive Thunderdome at Northwest Point, which has since collapsed into a wreck since the last time we dove it. I didn't figure it out until late but if you want to dive a particular site (or not repeat a site), it never hurts to politely ask the captain. For the whole week the weather was great. Sunny days except for a few short rain showers. No cancelled dives. The sea was calm. Because the shallow dive profiles, the SI were really short. Maybe 30 mins. There was iced water and sandwiches and pastries. I would not say Beaches is set up for photographers and videographers. There's a camera table (which nobody respected) and a camera rinse tank (mostly unused). A lot of GoPros, but didn't meet any photographers. TBH, the cattle boat diving is not suited to shooters. There's no solo or buddy diving and everytime the DM finds something, it's a tornado of fins and elbows descending upon it. Beaches is a great place for families to get certifications. Always lots of students in the pool and on the boats and the diving is very safe and easy.
 

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smackboy1

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Messages
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Location
Mid-Atlantic, USA
# of dives
100 - 199
Because we had a non-diver we did some other activities. Beaches includes boat based snorkeling in Grace Bay. There are several 1 hr trips during the day where they drive 10 mins into the bay and unload snorkelers onto a reef for 30 mins. It's meh. With 40 people in the water at once, there's not much to see. Maybe a turtle if you're lucky. Beaches provides all the gear and a safety vest mandatory. No whistle is included but we brought our own. The site is kind of flat and monotonous. We also paid extra to go on the Pure Snorkeling Adventure excursion. Turns out it's operated by Caicos Adventures. This was worth it. They picked us up at Beaches to the south side of the island and we took the Caicos Cat catamaran dive boat to West Caicos, an uninhabited island about 45 mins ride. They took us to 3 isolated snorkeling sites, including Blue Lagoon and Pickering Place. Blue Lagoon was spectacular. Shallow water cove teeming with soft coral and marine life. It was as populated with marine life as any dive site. We swam amidst the 3D rock and coral formations. Pickering is a 60' dive site with a seemingly bottomless wall drop off. Next time I go I think I'll make my own plans to dive midweek with Caicos Adventures. They will pick up from Beaches at 08:00 and do a 2 tank dive in West Caicos and return back to Beaches around 15:00 pm. West Caicos is isolated so the reefs there look much more pristine and alive than in Grace Bay. They also allow snorkelers on the dive boats. TBH, as nice as the Beaches dive boats were, Caicos Cat was even nicer - and the ride was much smoother. For example the Caicos Cat has beanbags on the bow deck you can sit in as the boat cruises along. At Beaches you can't even go out on the bow while the boat is in motion. Although we didn't dive with them I feel that Caicos Adventures is more a diver's dive operator than Beaches.

We also did the ATV Eastern Caicos excursion. It was fun but quite hot and dusty. Mostly on road tour of the local area including the driving by the other large Grace Bay resorts and the town. I would probably not repeat this. The ATV gets quite hot so long pants recommended. Dusty so wear a face mask.

We like it so much we put down a deposit for our next Beaches vacation so we could take advantage of the discount. The typical Beaches diver is either a family of divers of minimal experience or a more experienced diver on a family vacation with non-diving spouse/children. It's also a fantastic social scene, like a cruise ship. It's easy to make friends with your dive group on the boat after a few dives it's almost impossible not to bump into each other off the boat at the pool, in the restaurant or at the bar. The teens and young adults form their own friend groups and in the evening they disappear for their own social activities leaving mom and dad alone to enjoy their own vacation.
 

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drrich2

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Location
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# of dives
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Appreciate the review. I was curious how a dive destination known for diving that averages deeper than many Caribbean destinations would be used by a dive op. (Beaches) that has to cater to very occasional vacation divers and some young divers (who have shallower depth limit recommendations).

From what I understand, Sandals Resorts are exclusive to age 18 and up, and Beaches is the sibling resort chain that caters to families with kids. Once in awhile I look at their website, intrigued by their offering, but even with the 'big sale' that seems to always be going on, the final trip price (for the 'cheap seats') is still too rich for my blood.

It's good to see trip reports on it for the benefit of those who might use it!

Richard.
 
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smackboy1

Registered
Messages
43
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Location
Mid-Atlantic, USA
# of dives
100 - 199
We like AI resorts and cruises. It's a lowest common denominator thing when you have a group of people with differing interests. Another option would have been to pay a la carte for lodging, food, activities at a resort or rental condo. More planning and more flexible, but maybe more work. There are many accommodations we saw on Grace Bay Road within walking distance of town. Taxi or rental car opens up even more possibilities. There's also places like Club Med Turkoise - an entirely different kind of AI experience for young (and young at heart) adults who like a party atmosphere.

From talking to other guests, Beaches guests tend to be very loyal repeat customers. They go on Sandals/Beaches vacations year after year. It pays to befriend them and find out all the inside tips for getting the most of your vacation. Two smaller Beaches resorts are in Jamaica: Negril and Ochos Rios (formerly Boscobel). And Beaches Turks & Caicos is getting even bigger. There's new construction at the western edge of the resort, probably another village.

BTW here's a tip for the Japanese teppanyaki restaurant, Kimonos, if you are not shy: when making your reservation, request to be seated at the table of the big chef that wears the oversized pink glasses - he puts on a hilarious show.
 

saxman242

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Thanks for the write up. I'm headed there in about 2 months and I fully expect the diving to basically be adequate. I've been to the club med their several times and have had great experiences with their dive op. It's much less structured for experienced divers.

On the bright side, even only adequate diving in turks is still great diving.
 
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