Outer Islands in the Turks & Caicos Islands
As the country name may suggest, our island chain consists of two distinct island groups: the Turks Islands and the Caicos Islands. A 6,000-foot (1829 m) deep rift, the Turks Islands Passage, divides the two plateaus that support our islands.
The Turks and Caicos has six main inhabited islands: Providenciales, North and Middle Caicos, South Caicos, Grand Turk, and Salt Cay. We have two large islands, West Caicos and East Caicos, that once supported settlements during the Victorian era, yet today are uninhabited.
There are three smaller private cays in the country that support luxury home and resort accommodations: Parrot Cay, Pine Cay, and Ambergris Cay. These exquisite islands offer seclusion, wonderful beaches, and low-density development.
Collectively, there are about 100 named islands in the Turks and Caicos, including the small rocks and cays. Many of these go years without seeing a single visitor.
The incredible natural beauty of our islands and marine environment are our main tourism attraction. No matter which island you’re staying on, there’s always an untouched cay only a short boat ride away.
What is a “Cay”?
A cay (also spelled as key or caye in other countries) is a small island. Generally, this term refers to a small sandy reef or barrier island, yet in the Turks and Caicos, small marine limestone islands are also included in the definition.
In the Turks and Caicos, the common pronunciation of cay is ki, or keɪ, and not kai.
A cay is sometimes defined as a small island without its own source of fresh water, yet several of the cays in the Turks and Caicos, such as Pine Cay, Parrot Cay, and Hog Cay, have ponds with fresh or brackish water.
Salt Cay and Hog Cay are the largest cays in the Turks and Caicos.
Our Unique Wildlife and Terrain
The Turks and Caicos shares quite a few similarities with the flora, fauna, and geology of the Bahamas, yet we do have quite a few species that are only found in our archipelago.
The Turks and Caicos Islands Rock Iguana is the most famous of our endemic creatures, and can be found on many islands in the country that did not experience human habitation. Little Water Cay is generally the favored place to see this interesting little lizard, as it’s easily accessible via boat cruise, kayak, or paddleboard eco-tour.
We also have the Caicos Pine, the unique Caicos Islands dwarf boa, the Caicos orchid, and the Caicos gecko.
As one gets farther from the tourism center of Provo, the island terrains become remote and wild. Off North and Middle Caicos, the East Bay Islands National Park offers spectacular sounds and shallows. Dickish Cay and Joe Grant Cay have unbelievable beaches. East Caicos hides Karst caves and sinkholes. There’s always something to explore.
Our last island to the west, West Caicos is a perfect destination for a boat trip, as it features ocean cliffs (great for jumping off of!), interesting ruins, vibrant reefs, and of course incredible beaches.
There are fewer islands in the Turks Island group of our archipelago. Grand Turk and Salt Cay are inhabited, and there are several secluded and scenic little cays. Gibbs Cay is a stingray sanctuary, Cotton Cay once had a cotton plantation (and feral goats for a while as well!), and Big Sand Cay has an amazing beach.
How to Get to Our Smaller Islands
There are regularly scheduled tours to Little Water Cay, Half Moon Bay, Water Cay, and Gibbs Cay. It’s also common for cruises to visit Pine Cay, Fort George Cay, and Dellis Cay.
The remaining Caicos cays tend to only be visited by custom charters, or on kayak or stand-up paddleboard tours. If you’d like to visit a particular island, contact a boat cruise or outdoor adventure business.