Trinidad and Tobago’s Top Attractions
The most southern islands in the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago is easily accessible from major hubs in the US, UK, Europe, Canada and South America. On arrival, visitors will find a diverse landscape ‐ from lush tropical rainforests to coral sand beaches and grassy savannahs. Festivals set the islands alight with excitement year round and gastronomes will find a wide range of unique, mouth‐watering culinary delights. See below for information on some of Trinidad and Tobago’s major attractions.
ASA WRIGHT NATURE CENTER
Bird watchers from around the world come to Trinidad & Tobago to catch a glimpse of the island's 425 diverse species. One of Trinidad's most popular bird watching retreats is The Asa Wright Nature Centre, a world‐famous eco‐centre in the Northern Range. The non‐profit center, comprising of nearly 1500 ‐ acres, was established in 1967 by a group of naturalists and bird‐watchers to protect part of the Arima Valley in a natural state and to create a conservation and study area for the protection of wildlife and for the enjoyment of all. It was one of the first nature centers to be established in the Caribbean. Featuring guided nature walks, a gift shop and restaurant, the center is open daily from 9 a.m. ‐ 5 p.m. Accommodations are available in the main house, an Edwardian structure built in 1908, and in cottages set on elevated ground above the main house. For more information, call 868‐667‐4655 or visit www.asawright.org.
Standing at 85‐feet tall, the red and pink statue of Hanuman ‐ the Hindu deity personifying wisdom, righteousness and strength ‐ is said to be the largest such statue outside of India. Located in Carapichaima, central Trinidad, the Hanuman Murti is a “must‐see” religious site. The Hanuman Murti stands on the grounds of the Dattatreya Yoga Center and Mandir and attracts devotees offering gifts and performing the ritual of pradakshina, or walking clockwise in a holy temple while uttering the sacred Hanuman mantra. The Hanuman Murti took two years to construct and was consecrated in 2003.
For breathtaking views of the capital city, visit Fort George. It is about ten minutes’ drive from the Western Main Road and private taxis leave from the corner of Bourne’s Road and the Western Main Road in St James. Built in 1804, Fort George, with its expansive views and serene atmosphere is a popular destination for families on weekends. Some of the highlights of this site include the original cannons, cannonballs and dungeon. Fort George is open from 10 am to 6 pm daily. Admission is free.
MARACAS BAY BEACH
The half‐moon‐shaped Maracas Bay is home to a tranquil, well‐maintained beach of fine golden sand and palm trees that frame a horizon of unforgettable sunsets. Considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Trinidad, Maracas Bay is an hour's mountainous drive from the capital city of Port of Spain. The drive to the beach, along winding mountain roads with breathtaking views of the Caribbean Sea, is among the most picturesque on the island. One of the most famous aspects of Maracas Bay is the local delicacy of Bake and Shark, a traditional Trinidadian dish that consists of deep‐fried shark fillets stuffed in a pocket of deep‐fried bread. Topped with a variety of sweet and spicy sauces and condiments the tasty snack can be purchased in the vending huts found just steps away from the water’s edge. (Currently under renovations).
Drive or cycle through Tucker Valley in Chaguaramas and you will find it a relaxing way to spend an afternoon. The road heads north through open fields, parks and towering samaan trees. The road also runs along the remains of Mount St Pleasant village, which was the home of workers on the Tucker Estate during the colonial period. The hike to Edith Falls boasts exotic flora, red howler monkeys and blue emperor butterflies. The Chaguaramas Golf Course is open daily from 7 am to 6 pm. There is also a small café and a hiking trail from the golf course takes you through the forest to Macqueripe Beach, a small, picturesque cove at the end of Tucker Valley Road. The Chaguaramas Development Authority (868-225-4232 or visit www.chagdev.com) provides tours and tents for individuals who wish to camp on designated camping sites in the area. For art and history enthusiasts, the Bamboo Cathedral is a must. A 300 m stretch of roadway where the bamboo stalks bend towards each other creating an arc and reminiscent of those found in cathedrals, the Bamboo Cathedral inspired Trinidadian artist Jean Michel Cazabon, who included it in many of his paintings of Tucker Valley.
“DOWN THE ISLANDS”
“Down the islands” and the Bocas, are both rewarding offshore trips. Several rocky islets lie in the channel between Trinidad and Venezuela, separated by the narrow channels called Bocas del Dragon or Dragon’s Mouth. Gaspar Grande, Monos, Huevos and Chacachacare are the islands most frequently visited. Although part of Trinidad, Scotland Bay is considered to be “down the islands” because it is only accessible by boat. Boats for hire are available from the Island Property Owners’ Association marina (868‐634‐4331) and the Trinidad and Tobago Yacht Club (868‐637‐4260). The Chaguaramas Development Authority (868-225-4232 or visit www.chagdev.com and Caribbean Discovery Tours (868‐624‐7281) run daytrips to the area.
While the annual Panorama competition is the medium that showcases the best steelbands in the country, some argue that the best way to really hear and appreciate Trinidad and Tobago’s national instrument is in the panyard. This energetic, even romantic, open‐air setting is where the members of the various steel orchestras practice their repertoire. You will hear everything from calypso and reggae to jazz, classical and even pop music. Here is a listing of some panyards located in Port of Spain.
Bptt Renegades138 Charlotte Street, Port of Spain
Invaders Steel Orchestra147 Tragarete Road, Woodbrook
Starlift Steel Orchestra1 Christopher Samuel DriveMucurapo Road ExtSt. James
Trinidad All Stars46‐48 Duke Street, Port of Spain
Pandemonium3 Norfolk Street, Belmont
Phase II Pan Groove15 Hamilton Street StreetWoodbrook
Port of Spain THEATRE
The Trinidad theatre season runs from March to December. There are comedy productions by wellknown theatre companies, musical presentations by choirs, dance recitals, fashion shows ‐ including Trinidad and Tobago Fashion Week ‐ cultural presentations and even intimate poetry and dramatic readings. During the Carnival season (Boxing Day to Ash Wednesday), production companies often stage shows that incorporate the various aspects of local culture. Foreign companies also to stage operas, plays and other productions. Below is a listing of the theatre spaces where you can find these events.
Central Bank AuditoriumEric Williams Financial ComplexIndependence SquarePort of Spain,868‐623‐0845
The Little Carib TheatreCorner White and Roberts StreetsWoodbrook868‐622‐4644
Under the TreesThe Normandie10 Nook Avenue,St Ann’s868‐624‐1181
THE PITCH LAKE
This natural phenomenon, situated in the village of La Brea in southwest Trinidad, has fascinated explorers, scientists and locals since it was revealed to Sir Walter Raleigh in 1595 by the resident Amerindians. About 250 feet deep at its center, it is estimated to have reserves in excess of 6 million tons, from which approximately 180 tons of pitch are mined daily. On a good day, the output can reach 240 tons. Far from being water, the “lake” is 40 percent pitch, 30 percent water and 30 percent colloidal clay. The only liquid source is the self‐replenishing center, known as “The Mother of the Lake.” A gift of nature and a national treasure, The Pitch Lake provides the entire country, and many of the neighbouring islands with pitch for building roads. The Pitch Lake is open daily from 9 a.m.‐5 p.m. There is a museum, public facilities and tours available onsite. For tours and information, call (868) 648‐7697 or (868) 784‐3817.
THE CARONI SWAMP
The Caroni Swamp is situated just south of Port of Spain on Trinidad’s western shore. Spanning approximately 20 square miles, it is home to over 200 avian species, the most famous resident being the Scarlet Ibis, one of Trinidad and Tobago’s national birds. During the day the birds are said to feed 11 miles away in Venezuela and then return to the island at dusk to roost. In so doing converting the mangroves from a sea of green to scarlet red – a spectacle that has become a “must see” for tourists visiting the island. The swamp is a maze of channels and although the Scarlet Ibis is the feature attraction, there is a vast number of wildlife that inhabit the mangroves including fiddler crabs, oysters, four‐eyed fish, tree boas and spectacled caimans.
Speyside is Tobago’s dive capital, with sandy beaches within swimming distance of the reef, which can also be explored by glass‐bottom boat. The village of Speyside has water sports facilities, an excellent range of accommodations (Blue Waters Inn, Manta Lodge) and several great restaurants (Jemma’s Seaview Kitchen).
BUCCOO REEF/NYLON POOL/NO MAN'S LAND
Buccoo Reef is the largest coral reef in Tobago and was designated a marine park in 1973. The popular dive site contains a reef system of five flats separated by deep channels. A spectrum of color is offered by the coral gardens and the marine life supported by the reef. A major feature of the excursion is Nylon Pool a veritable tranquil paradise in the ocean. The Nylon Pool is shallow and ideal for swimming, with a soft sandy bottom with depths are no greater than 7‐10 feet at high tides. Local folklore promises that a swim in the waters of the Nylon Pool will make you look five years younger. Whole day visits to No Man's Land, a sandy spit jutting into the lagoon with barbeque and beach party is an excellent option. Several day cruise operators and reef tour providers exist. Coastal and Night cruise options may also be assessed. Seek the advice of your concierge staff or Tourism Bureau for service providers and rates.
GRAFTON AND CALEDONIA BIRD AND WILDLIFE SANCTUARY
Formerly a working plantation, Grafton Estate evolved into a wildlife sanctuary after 1963’s Hurricane Flora. There’s no charge to enter the estate or use the nature trails. A small visitor’s center at the Copra House provides documentation on wildlife and a brief history of the sanctuary.
ADVENTURE FARM AND NATURE RESERVE
Just outside Plymouth on the Arnos Vale Road, these tropical gardens are set on a 12‐acre nature reserve. Birders can have a visual feast here, as common visitors are herons, egrets, motmots, hummingbirds, cocricos, woodpeckers, and jacamars. The birds are fed to the sounds of an antique ship’s bell. Admission is $5USD, guided tours $8USD. Open Monday ‐ Saturday 7 AM to 5 PM. 868‐639‐2839.
Getting to this dam entails a two-mile drive along a dirt road set in a richly forested area perfect for spotting birds. An entrance permit is required from the Water and Sewerage Authority, which can be reached at 868‐639‐9297.
An easy 15 minute hike takes you into the island’s highest falls. The Argyle waterfall is located on the Roxborough Estate which was a thriving sugar estate up to the 1870s. Ruins and artifacts of the old sugar mill are still in place. You’ll need a guide and there’s an admission fee of 20TT.
FORT KING GEORGE
This fort, built in the 1780's is perhaps Tobago's best preserved historical site. The approaches to the fort take you past the current hospital facilities, the prison and onto the grounds. There are several cannon emplacements, barracks an officer's mess and even sculptures, although these are more recent artifacts. The grounds are excellently manicured and offer magnificent views of the coast. It is a popular venue for art displays and there is a souvenir shop on the compound.
The museum, located in the Barrack Guard House of Fort King George, has artifacts from Tobago's early history on display. Amerindian artifacts, military relics and documents from the colonial period are also on display. Opens Monday to Friday, 9am‐5pm. (868) 639‐3970.
ARNOS VALE WATER WHEEL AND NATURE PARK
At the site of a former sugar plantation/factory this magnificent Water Wheel, the powerhouse of plantation operations stands. The site has been restored and redeveloped to include a restaurant, dinner theatre and nature park, gift shop and museum. The site is excellent for viewing birds ‐ motmots are known to frequent the area ‐ and young iguanas frolic in the leaves. Opens daily from 8:30am‐10:30pm. Telephone: 1 (868) 660 0815 or (868) 639 2881/2.
For those of you who seek the Caribbean idyll we offer you Pigeon Point. This is beach in its purest form. Incidentally it happens to be Tobago's most famous beach, only being matched by Maracas Bay in Trinidad. Facilities provided: Change rooms, shaded seating areas, restaurant and bar.
The very popular Store Bay, end point for The Great Race, a power boat race from Trinidad to Tobago each August, is easily accessible. Several restaurants dot the surrounding area, from the excellent cuisine of Kariwak Village to the eponymous In Seine, but more significant is the curry crab and dumplings served by beach front vending huts, Miss Jean and Miss Esme. Facilities have been recently refurbished and lifeguards are posted.
THE WITCH'S GRAVE
According to folk legend Gang Gang Sara was a witch who flew to Tobago centuries ago but was unable to return because she ate salt, more likely a meal containing salt. The tale goes that she climbed a silk cotton tree and attempted to fly and fell to her death. Her reputed grave site is located at Golden Lane, which is a district known for its belief in superstition, ask any villager and you will hear the local folk superstition.
ENGLISHMAN'S BAY, LITTLE ENGLISHMAN'S BAY
Named by Travel Channel as one of the best Caribbean beaches, Englishman’s Bay is another excellent Tobago beach. Characterized by loose powdery sand and a deep bay, a short stroll through the trees from the main road and you are there. The water is active and blue and the number of visitors range from moderate to just you and nature. On the southern end of the strand, a freshwater stream flows from the island's lush rainforest interior to the sea and just offshore, brilliant coral reefs ripple with tropical fish. Although there are no official facilities, this secluded bay is ideal for relaxing in complete untouched surrounds.
CASTARA, PARLATUVIER, BLOODY BAY, L'ANSE FOURMI
These villages are picturesque hamlets that boast stunning scenery. One route option would be to drive from Roxborough through the Rainforest and view the panorama of the Caribbean Sea and lush forests just at the crest overlooking Bloody Bay, the scene of a naval battle that was so fierce that it was reputed that the waters turned red. Continue on to Parlatuvier and onward to L'Anse Fourmi where the villagers are curious but quietly welcoming, from this village a seldom used tertiary road leads to Charlotteville. Interesting little nooks and bays dot the drive along this route, feel welcome to take a dip wherever it strikes your fancy.
MAIN RIDGE FOREST RESERVE
This reserve is the oldest in the Western Hemisphere being established in April 1776 as a means to preserve the watershed of the island. Local tour operators offer rainforest excursions into the reserve primarily along the Gilpin Trace trail. Nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers can walk through relatively undisturbed forest and feast their eyes on the flora and fauna there.
FIRST HISTORICAL CAFE
The First Historical Cafe allows you to slake your thirst and more. This colorful roadside cafe with its brilliant painted bamboo decor, gravel floors and seaward views gives you a taste of Tobago's history and culture. It is like walking into a time capsule. Have a chat with the proprietor and get a guided tour of the walls, which are adorned with the historical and cultural facts.
RICHMOND GREAT HOUSE
This plantation great house has been restored by its present owner and has further been expanded to accommodate guests. The main house is filled with antique furnishings and African object d'art collected over a lifetime of travel and study. The grounds include a restaurant, conference/meeting facilities and afford impressive views.
LOUIS D'OR NURSERIES
Once based on an agrarian economy, Tobago has retained a lot of its agricultural traditions. The breeding nurseries at Louis D'Or provide the visitor with an opportunity to see citrus, cocoa and coffee seedlings being propagated. These are distributed, along with other commercial species to the small farmers at minimal cost to improve their yields. Admission is free. Open daily.
LITTLE TOBAGO OR BIRD OF PARADISE ISLAND
This small island just offshore of Speyside Village is one of the most important seabird sanctuaries in the Caribbean. The nature series "The Trials of Life" done by Richard Attenborough was filmed here. The island plays host to The Red Billed Tropic Bird among others and at one time was home to Birds of Paradise from New Guinea. Tropic Birds are most prevalent during the months of October to June. The island is forested and affords other opportunities to view birds and wildlife. Tours can be arranged through area hotels.