Growing up my family and I went on annual or bi-annual vacations to fun places, usually with warm tropical weather. It became a tradition that we enjoyed together and were able to explore a new place. I remember being so completely fascinated with the resorts we stayed in that had anything and everything you could imagine. I thought I was getting the full experience until one year when it was just my mom and I traveling back to Turks & Caicos for the fourth time. I was on spring break my freshman year of college and as a treat for working hard in my first year away from home, my mom booked us a long weekend getaway just the two of us. Previously, we had stayed at big name, all-inclusive resorts as a family but this time we chose a smaller, hotel/condo type place. I was excited as I love Turks and felt I knew it so well from being there three times previously. However, when I stepped off the place, it was as if I was on a completely different island.

There wasn't a valet van from the resort waiting for us and an attendant offering to take our bags. We had to hail a taxi on our own and give them the address to our hotel. The drive was different, and I saw a side of the island that I hadn't noticed before. The hotel was beautiful and the staff was incredibly friendly and welcoming to us. It was not an all-inclusive so there weren't twelve different restaurants to choose from on site. Instead, we had to venture out based on recommendations and pamphlets we read with reviews. Honestly, I had the best food of my life at the local restaurants we happened to stumble upon. The fish was so fresh, food so well prepared, and overall atmosphere was so comforting. It was a real, genuine Turks culture. We even biked to the local grocery store to get snacks since there wasn't a never ending buffet available 24/7 like at the all-inclusive resort.

You may be thinking that this isn't the ideal luxury beach vacation, however, I can attest that it was the most enjoyable time I have had in Turks this far. In venturing outside the hotel, we interacted with so many amazing locals who were so eager to talk about their home island. We went to a fish barbecue that happens on the beach weekly where various small businesses bring their goods to sell. There was fresh food, handmade jewelry, and authentic music being played. Everyone was so happy and lively, their positive energy just lit up the entire island.

This amazing new culture and lifestyle combined with the most beautiful scenery in the world made this weekend the best of my life. From the sunrise to the sunset, the crystal clear blue-turquoise water, soft sand, and vivid flowers, there is nothing more one could ask for. I even learned about the tourist culture of the island and how they don't even benefit from the big brand name resorts that take up a decent portion of the island.

I would recommend Turks & Caicos to anyone and highly advise that they look beyond the all-inclusive resorts to the smaller hotels that will force you to explore the island. I promise you will not be disappointed.