By Torie Temple

Just the name Turks and Caicos brings an exotic air as it bounces off the tongue. Through Wendy Hanger’s exploration of these islands, she has discovered the allure of this not-so-typical tropical tourist destination where vacationers go to see clear waters, bask in solitude, and take home…a puppy?

If you were being dropped off on a secluded island located 550 miles southeast of Miami, what is the one thing you would bring? Apparently, the answer in Turks and Caicos is a picnic basket; especially if you are staying at the Alexandra Resort. This resort offers a boat ride to a reclusive island for hours of blissful isolation. This is just one of the many reasons Wendy Hanger chooses the Alexandra with each visit. “They take you out with a cooler full of beer, wine, snacks, and lunch along with umbrellas, and chairs,” says Wendy. “Then they leave you on this island from 10am to 5pm — it is peaceful and relaxing.”

Wendy (left) and her friend Carmen Porter enjoy the view in Turks and Caicos.

This boat trip to paradise isn’t the only reason Wendy decided to stay at the Alexandra after finding Turks and Caicos on a web search. She also believes they offer the best accommodations. “I did a lot of research because I wanted to go somewhere different,” says Wendy. “I like Turks and Caicos because I can go there by myself since they have a low crime rate, take American currency, they speak English, and it is under British rule. This is why I have been back several times. I have been going for about eight years and have stayed in a couple of places but I like the accommodations at the Alexandra Resort.”

The resort promises an escape from the crowds along with a taste of luxury with its beach restaurant, swim-up pool bar, barefoot dinner on the beach, and a daily grocery store shuttle service that may be a money saver since the restaurants on the islands can be pricey. “The tip for travelers is that you will want to find a place to stay that has a full kitchen,” suggests Wendy. “The restaurants are expensive and they add 12 percent to your total and that doesn’t include the tip. It isn’t uncommon to go to lunch and have a salad, fish, and wine and spend $60 with your tip.”

Travellers staying at the Alexandra can take advantage of the spa where men and women get pampered with vitamin C-infused facials, a sea algae wrap, or a manicure guaranteed to smooth the roughest of hands. The resort also offers many excursions including private charters with customized itineraries, a full-day dream getaway, and the half-day snorkel and conch cruise. “They do lots of boat tours,” says Wendy. “You can choose a half or full day to go snorkeling for a conch shell. After finding the one you want, the tour guide takes it, extracts the meat and makes conch salad. As you enjoy your conch, they take you to the last island which is Iguana Island where there are tons of iguanas to see.”

Turks and Caicos is made up of 40 islands, eight of which are inhabited. Its average temperature is 80 to 90 degrees depending on the month and its crystal clear waters brings more than 200,000 tourists annually. But, it’s most interesting attraction is Potcake Place. Litters of puppies can be found wondering around Turks and Caicos. The locals feed the caked remains from their cooking pots to the numerous strays which are lovingly dubbed potcakes. The Potcake Place rescue shelter was started in efforts to reduce the number of stray potcakes on the island. Solely run by volunteers, the Potcake Place relies on tourists and locals to help care for the puppies. The shelter provides everything needed for those wanting to take the potcakes out for a day of socializing and exercise. “The locals, called belongers, used to be cruel to the dogs with lots of stories about abuse, but the rescue center went out into the community and schools to educate them about how to treat the potcakes when they see them,” says Wendy. “The tourists can walk and socialize with the puppies — the line is 20 to 30 people deep waiting for the potcake rescue to open so that they can take the puppies for a walk and the rescue gives them water, food, and a bag for their day out.”

Wendy’s sweet little potcake, West. 

Not only can tourists make friends with the puppies while on vacation, but they can also adopt an adorable potcake. “I knew I wanted my first dog to be a potcake so I adopted one last year,” says Wendy. “The rescue center takes care of all the paperwork and shots. Since the island is rabies free, I didn’t have to quarantine him before coming to the States. He was so small I was able to put him in a carrier under the seat in front of me on the plane.”

Turks and Caicos has clear waters for diving, islands you can call your own (even if it is just for a few hours), and plenty of conch shell meat for anyone craving a tropical vacation, but as you run through your itinerary of island splendor, don’t forget to stop by and show some love to the very deserving potcakes.

Will you be vacationing on an island this summer? Need more ideas about where to go? Here’s a place you might like.