Free/Cheap Things to Do in Grand Turk on a Cruise + Tips, & What to Know

Sitting roughly 600 miles southeast of Miami and about 350 miles northwest of Puerto Rico, Grand Turk enjoys a spot that’s a world away and nestled in some of the most beautiful water on the planet.

Grand Turk features a gorgeous beach with ships that dock as close as you’ll ever see. Here’s what to know about visiting, including inexpensive things to do.

The island itself is small — only about six miles long and two miles wide. And sitting near the southern tip is the Grand Turk Cruise Center.

This port area features everything that a cruise passenger could want to enjoy the day, from a pool to a beautiful beach to easy access to the rest of the island. And it’s all there for passengers alone to enjoy, literally in the shadow of the cruise ship in some cases.

For what to expect on visiting Grand Turk, keep reading.

Grand Turk Port Features & What to Expect

This map provided by the port shows the layout of the Grand Turk cruise area. To the left is the pool and sandy beach. To the right is a rockier shore, but also fewer crowds. (Click to enlarge.)

The first thing that you’ll notice when you visit the Grand Turk port is that your ship is close to the beach… as in real close. The dock sits out only about 400 feet from shore, meaning the ship towers over the port area.

Walk down the dock and you’ll enter the port area through a duty-free store. Exit the store, and you’ll enter the main plaza of the port area.

Like most cruise ports in the Caribbean, Grand Turk features a dedicated port area that’s enclosed and offers a number of amenities to cruise passengers.

In the center area surrounding the plaza are a number of shops, selling everything from t-shirts to an actual Starbucks location. If you’re wanting a souvenir to remember your trip, you’re sure to find something here.

Head to the right and you’ll pass through some shops before getting to an outdoor restaurant/bar (Beach Whale) and a more “beachy” area where you can relax. There’s also a large sculpture of a whale that makes a fun photo.

There is a massive pool next to Margaritaville that’s a popular spot to hang out for many passengers.

If you instead head to the left as you enter the port, you’ll wind through the buildings until you reach Margaritaville Grand Turk. This spot features the famous restaurant, but also a massive pool with thumping music in a party atmosphere. Near this spot at the back of the port is also where you’ll find the port exit to grab a taxi to explore the rest of Grand Turk.

No matter which direction you head, you’ll always be within a few steps of the beach that runs the entire length of the cruise port. Frankly, it’s one of the most beautiful beaches you’ll ever see. The sand is a soft, white powder with electric blue water. And the ship overlooks the entire area making for a one-of-a-kind scene. Just know that some areas of the water have a rockier bottom (more details in the tips section below).

Free or Cheap Things to Do in Grand Turk

To be honest, given the small size of Grand Turk there isn’t a ton of variety of things to do like you might find elsewhere. Still, there’s plenty to keep you entertained for a day in port without spending a lot of money.

Hit the Beach

There are plenty of loungers on the less crowded south side of the dock, making finding a spot easy.

Without a doubt the biggest draw at Grand Turk is the beach that sits right at the cruise ship. It’s beautiful, wide, and runs a nice distance so there is a spot for everyone and it’s free. However, its popularity can mean it gets crowded, especially close to the ship.

The area north of the pier (to the left as you enter) features a sandier bottom that’s more forgiving on your feet. The area south of the pier sees smaller crowds, but you’ll also want some water shoes if you venture out into the water. There are also rentals available for everything from snorkel gear to clamshell chairs to give you a little shade.

One other alternative? There are excursions offered to other beaches from the cruise line. You can also catch a cab to other beaches around the island, which will be less crowded.

Hit the Pool

If the beach is the biggest draw at Grand Turk, then the pool in the port area is a close second. Here, there is a massive pool that circles around, complete with loungers. It’s right next to Margaritaville, so you can sit and relax (even hangout at the swim-up bar) and get food and drinks served. There are also rentals available for things like umbrellas and cabanas.

Just know that here the atmosphere is lively with music pumping. If you’re thinking of a quiet, relaxing time by the pool, that’s not really the case.

Hit the Water

If you’re looking to get out of the port area, one of the popular things to do is to get out on the water. During our stop, there were excursions available that took passengers out on catamarans for snorkeling tours, often with drinks afterward while on the boat. This part of the world has some of the most beautiful water anywhere, so getting out and enjoying it is well worth the cost of the excursion.

Hit the Town

Want to go explore on your own? It’s easy enough to do with an inexpensive cab ride. The city on Grand Turk is called Cockburn Town and if you want a feel for the “real” Grand Turk, it’s a neat place to visit, albeit a bit spread out. A good spot to start your visit is the Turks & Caicos National Museum.

As for cab rides, the price is set based on zones. The cruise port is in Zone A, and downtown is in Zone B. The trip costs $5 per person one way. It’s only $9 per person to go the entire length of the island.

Get Your Starbucks Fill

Need your Starbucks? Grand Turk features the only location for at least 200 miles.

If you just can’t live without your Starbucks, then Grand Turk is the spot for you. While many cruise ships offer Starbucks beverages on board, finding them in port is usually another story. But the port area features a full-fledged Starbucks (painted a very noticeable pink). The next closest location? That’s in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, about 200 miles away.

Take a Turn on the Flowrider

There is a Flowrider to ride in port (fee applies), however, it was closed during our visit.

One unique feature of Royal Caribbean cruise ships is the Flowrider — a never-ending “wave” that you can surf or boogie board. At the Grand Turk port there is a land-based Flowrider that you can ride for a fee (sorry, it’s not free!). It’s right next to the pool on the north end of the port area. If you have kids or teens, it’s definitely something they’ll want to check out.

Get a Picture With John Glenn

John Glenn splashed down from his mission nearby in the 1960s, and you can get your picture taken with him today.

One of the claims to fame for this area was that it was the spot where astronaut John Glenn splashed down after orbiting the earth. That’s why on the port’s southern side you’ll see an area with some information about the NASA program, a model rocket, a sculpture of the capsule splashing down, and a statue of John Glenn in his spacesuit that you can get a picture with.

Tips & Things to Know About Visiting

If you’re visiting Grand Turk, there are some tips and things to know that can make your trip even better. We mentioned some of these above, but in case you missed them, we’ve included them here as well.

Go Down in the Morning for Your Picture of the Ship

By far the most unique thing about Grand Turk is that the ship is unbelievably close to shore. It means there’s a great photo opportunity of the ship right at the beach (also docked at a perfect angle). But one suggestion is to get your photos around mid-morning. Not only will the beach crowds be thinner, but the morning sun will be shining right on the ship, making the colors pop.

The Best Beach is North of the Dock

The beach here is nice, but can also get crowded if you have multiple ships in dock on the same day.

The beach is phenomenal at Grand Turk and the biggest draw for the majority of passengers. You’ll see people up and down the shore, but if you want the best spot then we’d suggest heading north of the dock (to the left as you face the shore from the ship). This area is sandy from the beach out into the water. The bottom is rockier on the southern side of the pier.

The Beach Is Quieter to the South

While the water to the south side of the pier is rockier, the beach itself is just as nice with lots of sand. And for those wanting a little more space and not as many people, this area is ideal. Head as far down the path as you can go and you’ll find a large group of loungers (near the whale sculpture) with hardly any other people — even on busy days in port.

Taxi Rates Are Set

If you plan to head into town, then a cab is easy. There’s a taxi stand at the port exit and you’ll see the set rates explained. The island is broken into four zones (A, B, C, and D). The cruise port is in Zone A. The rate from the cruise port to the other zones is set at:

  • Zone A: $4 per person
  • Zone B: $5 per person
  • Zone C: $8 per person
  • Zone D: $9 per person

Beach Rentals Are Available

Beach rentals are available where you can get everything from snorkel gear to clamshell covers to floats.

To the north side of the pier, you’ll see a stand for beach rentals. While loungers are first-come, first-served, anything else that you need can be rented. This includes snorkel gear, foam mats, clamshell loungers that offer shade, and you can also buy sunscreen and water. Need other items like a cold drink or a snack? There’s a small convenience store right next to the beach rental booth.

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