Stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking are the two main ways to explore the beautiful wetlands of the Turks and Caicos. Stand-up paddleboarding does offer a better view of wildlife in the water, yet kayaking is a more efficient and less exhausting way to cover distances. Although both water sports are easy to learn, basic kayaking skills are definitely easier to pick up and most will be able to paddle after only a few minutes of practice.
5-star rating for Kayaking by Visit Turks and Caicos Islands
This page refers to kayaking on the island of Providenciales. For information on great paddling locations and equipment availability throughout our archipelago, see Turks and Caicos Kayaking. You may also be interested in the similar activity of stand-up paddleboarding.
he Turks and Caicos is an exceptional destination for kayaking and paddleboarding. There’s a tremendous variety of settings and sights, from verdant mangrove wetlands, to sheltered and sandy lagoons.
For casual kayaking, the majority of the Grace Bay Beach resorts and beachfront rental villas have both kayaks and paddleboards free for their guest use. Several water sports businesses on Providenciales have guided wetland tours, where great sightings of marine and bird life can be had.
The Best Kayaking Locations
Mangrove Cay is the most popular kayaking location near Providenciales. This small and uninhabited island largely consists of red mangrove estuaries, and is part of the Princess Alexandra Nature Reserve.
The largest estuary leading into the cay offers sheltered and calm water, and it’s common to spot juvenile turtles and sharks, conch, starfish, stingrays, herons, egrets, and more.
Mangrove Cay is easy and safe to explore, and perfect for all skill levels of paddlers. Local tour company Big Blue Collective is located adjacent to Mangrove Cay, and offers kayak and paddleboard rentals, as well as guided tours.
Princess Alexandra Nature Reserve
The Princess Alexandra Nature Reserve is a protected area inside the Princess Alexandra National Park, and includes Mangrove Cay, Donna Cay, Little Water Cay, and much of Half Moon Bay. This beautiful system of channels, cays, and shallows hides an incredible array of vistas and wildlife.
The greater area surrounding Mangrove Cay offers great paddling potential, and trip durations can range from about an hour, to full-day adventures, depending on how much you’d like to explore.
Points of interest include amazing beaches, mangrove wetlands, iguana sanctuaries, and marine life sightings ranging from turtles, to small sharks, stingrays, fish, conch, and starfish.
Chalk Sound National Park
Chalk Sound National Park is a sheltered marine lagoon on the southwest of Providenciales. This highly-scenic area has hundreds of small rocky islands in shallow turquoise water. There’s a wealth of sights to discover, including sea life, birds, an airplane wreck, old historical ruins, and blue hole underwater cave systems. On many of the larger islands, the indigenous Turks and Caicos Islands Rock Iguana can be seen as well.
Some local water sports businesses offer guided tours, and hourly kayak and paddleboard rentals are available at Las Brisas Restaurant on the south-eastern side of the sound.
Half Moon Bay Lagoon
Half Moon Bay is found on the eastern side of the Princess Alexandra National Park, and is one of the most scenic landscapes in the Turks and Caicos.
This coastal area largely consists of a beach and sandbar that filled in between Little Water Cay and Water Cay. The northern side of this region is an exquisite beach, and the southern side is a sheltered and shallow lagoon. Iguanas roam the area, and baby lemon sharks can be spotted too.
The paddle to Half Moon Bay from Providenciales can be a bit of a challenge to beginners due to the distance. Be sure to take plenty of drinking water and sun protection.
Another fun location to explore is Turtle Tail Beach. Unfortunately, no business provides kayak or paddleboard rentals in the area, yet many of the vacation rentals in the area have equipment, which is great for guests staying in the area.
Turtle Tail has several small beaches and lagoons, many impressive vacation homes, and the tiny uninhabited islands of the Dick Penn Cays, the Bird Egg Cays, and Bristol Cay.
Frenchman's Creek and Pigeon Pond Nature Reserve
The remote yet beautiful Frenchman’s Creek and Pigeon Pond Nature Reserve is found on the far western coast of Providenciales. This 5406-acre (2188 hectares) area hides miles of pristine mangrove estuaries and marine lagoons, and is the largest protected area on the island. Also found nearby are the beautiful coastal scenes of Bonefish Point and West Harbour Bluff.
Due to the remoteness and difficulty of accessing this nature reserve, tour operators may need advance notice (so kayak transport can be organized).
Detailed Location Information
Kayak Rentals and Guided Eco-tours
Several businesses on Providenciales provide kayak and paddleboard rentals, and many also offer delivery to a rental villa as well. It’s advisable to call or email ahead of your excursion to make reservations and get information on weather conditions.
Big Blue Collective is the primary rental and guided eco-tour business on Providenciales, and is excellently located on the sheltered Leeward Going Through Channel, and directly opposite the exquisite wetlands of Mangrove Cay. Big Blue also organizes extended adventures to the extensive and verdant channels of the remote Ramsar Nature Reserve on the south side of North Caicos and Middle Caicos.
Most resorts and water sports companies have sit-on-top ocean kayaks, which are easy-to-use, and simple to get into and out of. These kayaks are also quite stable, and are commonly found either as single or tandems.
Big Blue maintains a fleet of both sit-on-top kayaks, and sit-in touring kayaks, which track better, have less drag, and are far superior for longer trips.
Resorts and rental companies provide personal flotation devices (life vests) for guest use. It’s advisable to wear them at all times when using the watercraft. The eco-tour companies often provide dry bags (to keep personal belongings and cameras dry) for guest use too.
Clear Kayaks and Glass-bottom Kayaks
Clear kayaks rentals and tours are available at several locations on Providenciales, including at Leeward near Mangrove Cay and at the Bight Reef snorkeling site. Clear kayaks allow you to have a view of what’s happening in the water below, and it’s possible to see starfish, conch, fish, stingrays, turtles, jellyfish, and sharks.
A clear kayak drone photo shoot can be a great idea for those that want some amazing lifestyle photos. Both the eco-tour guides and dedicated photographers that specialize in the service offer drone photo packages.
As may be expected, weather and wind conditions factor greatly into how enjoyable your kayaking experience is.
The absolute best conditions are found on glassy and windless days, as you won’t have to fight the breeze and chop, and it’s easier to see into the water. Generally, wind speeds under 10 mph (16 km/h) are most pleasant. During windier conditions, calm waters can often be had on the sheltered lee sides of the cays and islands. Your water sports operator can point out these areas when you rent.
It’s very important to be aware of wind direction and strength when kayaking and paddleboarding, as it’s far easier to travel downwind than it is to paddle up wind. Generally, we advise starting into the wind, so your return journey is relaxing!
The Turks and Caicos doesn’t have many dangerous currents, yet there can be significant tidal water movement through confined channels. As is the case with wind movement, we advise being aware of how you are affected by current conditions, so you won’t be exhausted by an unnecessary fight. Often, the strongest water flow is in the center of a channel.