Wild Guide to Trinidad and Tobago

As I lifted a spoonful of creamy dasheen soup topped with crabmeat to my mouth, and gawked at the glitterati arriving for the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival, it was hard to imagine that earlier that day I’d been hiking a waterfall trail in an old-growth rainforest and exploring the best of Trinidad and Tobago beaches. .

The combination of outdoor adventure and big city sophistication is an adventure for the senses. It’s also what makes the dual island country of Trinidad and Tobago a truly unique Caribbean destination.

Tobago

Soak up some tranquility at Pigeon Point Beach on Tobago

Soak up some tranquility at Pigeon Point Beach on Tobago

Craving some untamed nature, the way the Caribbean was before mega resort developments hit, I began my explorations on the island of Tobago. Just a quick 20-minute flight from Trinidad, it’s small in size but rich in natural resources with pristine beaches, old-growth tropical rainforest and coral reefs that seem custom made for snorkeling.

Bar at Pigeon Point in Tobago

Guess what kind of beer they have here?

First up was a swim in the warm waters of Pigeon Point Heritage Park, the island’s best-known beach. Its white sand beaches were free of crowds; my only swimming companions a mother and her young child. A beach bar offered a toes-in-the-sand relaxation as well as a hearty lunch buffet featuring Trinidadian dishes such as stewed pigeon peas, macaroni pie and pelau, a savory one-pot rice dish made with caramelized chicken.

A beautiful sunset in Tobago

A beautiful sunset in Tobago

Other beach pleasures included a cruise on the Island Girl catamaran ( now closed unfortunately!). Departing Mt. Irvine Bay just before sundown, I sailed along Tobago’s north shore where white-mist waterfalls could be seen in the dense foliage of the mountainous island interior. Seabirds soared overhead, drawn to the rich sea life in Buccoo Reef, a protected habitat where star coral, elkhorn coral and brain coral thrive.

Sip a Caribbean beer in Trinidad and Tobago

Sip a Caribbean beer in Trinidad and Tobago

More birds were on the agenda the next day during a hike to Argyle Falls, Tobago’s highest waterfall. Located in the heart of the Main Ridge Forest Reserve, a hilly backbone covering 60% of the island, it’s the oldest protected rainforest in the western hemisphere and provides habitat for 250 species of birds. I hiked along an empty trail flanked by graceful bamboo, splashed in a cool pool at the base of the misty waterfall and listened to the raucous call of the cocrico, Tobago’s national bird.

Hike a bamboo forest to Argyle Falls

Hike a bamboo forest to Argyle Falls

Even my hotel on Tobago was immersed in nature. Set amid virgin mangroves and tropical gardens, the  Magdalena Grand Beach Resort offers a breezy take on plantation design with shutters, intricate wooden lacework and vaulted ceilings.

Magdalena Grand Beach Resort overlooks Tobago's wild Atlantic coast

Magdalena Grand Beach Resort overlooks Tobago’s wild Atlantic coast

Windswept coastline of Tobago

Windswept coastline of Tobago

My room overlooked a wild Atlantic coast where giant leatherback turtles come to nest on a long expanse of empty beach. That night, I floated on my back in a secluded swimming pool and watched the stars come out. It felt like the true Caribbean.

Trinidad
Although it was tempting to spend more time exploring Tobago, the more developed island of Trinidad deserved attention too. Overlooking the racing yachts and cargo ships in the Bay of Patria, the sleek Hyatt Regency Trinidad in Port of Spain bustled with dignitaries, fashion models and executives working in the country’s booming oil sector. With one foot in the Caribbean and another in South America (Venezuela is just 11 kilometres away), the city is a hub of commerce and sophistication.

A rooftop pool makes Hyatt Regency a top choice in Port of Spain

A rooftop pool makes Hyatt Regency a top choice in Port of Spain

But tranquility wasn’t far away. After check-in, my first stop was the Dattatreya Yoga Centre in the nearby town of Carapichaima. Here, inner peace is the mantra. Surrounded by abandoned sugar fields, a gigantic 26 metre tall statue of the monkey-faced Hindu god Hanuman, the tallest outside India, welcomed people of all faiths to enjoy the centre’s peaceful meditative spaces, take a yoga class or request a blessing.

This Hanuman statue at Dattatreya Yoga Centre is the tallest outside of India

This Hanuman statue at Dattatreya Yoga Centre is the tallest outside of India

Also offering peaceful meditation is the nearby Temple of the Sea, the world’s only temple built in the ocean. A domed structure with windows open to the sea, its prayer flags and offerings of pottery, flowers and fruit serve as symbols of Trinidad’s religious tolerance. Siewdass Sadhu, an ex-indentured labourer from India, chose the site because the clear, blue waters reminded him of the holy Ganges.

Curry stop at Alpine Roti in Trinidad

Curry stop at Alpine Roti, one of the best Trinidadian eateries

A delicious stop for curry and roti at Alpine Roti fuelled me for my next adventure at Zipitt, a zip line  in Maqueripe Bay.

Zipline through tropical rainforest

Zipline through tropical rainforest

The one-hour adventure offers seven zip lines with a total length of 600 metres, the highest soaring above ancient rainforest and offering panoramic water views. I opted for ground-based adventure and wandered along hiking trails amid yellow butterflies, hummingbirds and peeping frogs.

I wrapped up my nature experiences with a yacht cruise through the sea caves known as the Bocas off the northwest shore. Although developers, including Trump, have been eyeing this stunning island archipelago, for now it remains uninhabited. The mysterious limestone caves are places of legend from ghosts to fairies. I swam in a sheltered bay and then watched dolphins frolic in the waves and a grey heron dive for its evening meal.

Cruising the islands off the northwest coast of Trinidad

Cruising the islands off the northwest coast of Trinidad

For my final night in Trinidad I went upscale and headed to the Woodbrook district, a neighbourhood that’s a mecca for Port of Spain’s style-makers. With the pulsing DJ music, celebrity photographers and international stars of the Trinidad Tobago Film Festival, it was a sophisticated urban scene pulsating with island life.

Yet for all its vitality it was reassuring to know that wild, untouched Trinidad and Tobago was just minutes away.

Travel Planner

Hyatt Regency Trinidad: A prime waterfront location near major attractions, with a wellness spa, fine dining and a rooftop infinity pool make this hotel a top choice for a stylish stay in Port of Spain. Trinidad.hyatt.com

Magdalena Grand Beach Resort: This expansive property offers 178 deluxe rooms, plus 22 suites with terraces and ocean views. It features three swimming pools, a golf course, spa, dive centre and a pristine beach. wwwmagdalenagrand.com

Official Tourism Board: www.gotrinidadandtobago.com

Trinidad + Tobago film festival: Events take place September 20-27, 2016 on both islands, but major venues are in Port of Spain, Trinidad. www.ttfilmfestival.com

Gail’s Exclusive Tours: Professionally guided hiking, waterfall, culture, culinary and beach tours on both Trinidad and Tobago. exclusivetourstnt.com

For more ideas on secluded beaches to visit and under-the-radar islands such as Trinidad and Tobago, check out these featured posts:

His and Hers Beer in Trinidad & Tobago

Montserrat: A Tribute to Sir George Martin

Mexico’s most beautiful undiscovered beaches: Xpu-Ha beach

Food-lovers Guide to Grenada  

Here’s a handy Pinnable image to save on Pinterest:

Explore authentic cuisine, pristine natural beauty and still-wild beaches in the dual nation of Trinidad and Tobago

 

Michele Peterson
Michele Peterson
Dividing her time between Toronto, Mexico and Guatemala (or the nearest tropical beach), Michele Peterson is an award-winning writer, blogger, editor and publisher who specializes in travel, cuisine and luxury lifestyles.
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Showing 9 comments
  • Scotty Padgett
    Reply

    Excellent article. I never considered Trinidad and Tobago for adventures, but will be looking into it more!

  • christine
    Reply

    What a beautiful place, with great activities and food. Looks like my kind of destination! thanks for sharing.

  • Kevan
    Reply

    We have been shortening our list of places to visit this fall, but I have now just added one to the list to consider.

  • MariaAbroad
    Reply

    Wow, those pictures look lovely. I’ve never been that far south in the Caribbean, but it looks lovely!

  • Amanda
    Reply

    Looks beautiful. I love Carib beer and I wouldn’t mind having one right now on those fabulous beaches!

  • Anne
    Reply

    I’ve wanted to visit ever since I read the book Looptail, by Bruce Poon Tip. You have such lovely pictures and I’m really digging the unique east meets west vibe.

  • Golden Triangle Tour 5 Days
    Reply

    very engaging post, t&G is looking awesome. its beach are looking awesome. water of these beaches is looking great and one of eye capturing beauty is statue of lord Hanuman. it looking incredible.

  • Brandy
    Reply

    Would you recommend your yacht charter & captain?

    • Michele Peterson
      Reply

      Yes, they were great Brandy but sadly Island Girl just ceased operations 🙁

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