Offshore wind turbines are considered as an integral part of renewable energy. Dense sand often characterises the sea bed and suction caisson foundations are increasingly used to support offshore wind turbines at North Sea sites. Significant experience with this technology exists in the oil and gas industry, although these platforms are typically located in deeper water with predominantly clay soils. Therefore, research is required to transfer the existing knowledge. This paper discusses a series of centrifuge tests that investigate the installation and the load transfer mechanisms governing the response of suction caissons embedded in dense sand subjected to vertical cyclic loading. The effect of potential loosening of the internal soil plug during suction installation on the in-service foundation performance is evaluated through cone penetration tests inside the caisson following suction installation at different pumping flow rates. In accompanying tests, the load displacement behaviour in response to vertical cyclic loading is investigated, including significant excursions into tension. The results identify the pore fluid behaviour as the key factor affecting the response, with the pumping flow rate applied during installation being less influential. Based on the findings from the experiments a simplified approach for the prediction of suction caisson behaviour under vertical cyclic loading is presented.