Sitting pretty just off the coast of the South American mainland Trinidad and Tobago is one of the Caribbean’s most diverse and underexplored destinations. The islands boast spectacular rainforests, waterfalls, savannas and reefs, and endless undeveloped beaches. T&T is also a cultural pacemaker for the Caribbean. Read on to find out the best things to do in Trinidad and Tobago.
The information in this article is inspired by the Rough Guide to Trinidad & Tobago - your essential guide for visiting Trinidad and Tobago.
Bois Cano trees drop claw-like leaves onto the tarmac and mineral springs pour down into roadside gullies. The water is chilled, delicious and safe to drink, and many locals stop off to fill up bottles or take a freshwater shower. Be warned that at weekends, the road between Port of Spain and Maracas can get quite busy and is prone to frequent landslides during the rainy season.
Trails to places such as Guanapo Gorge, La Laja and Sombasson waterfalls and Aripo Caves are unmarked and impossible to follow without local knowledge. Apart from being able to tell the difference between a harmless rainbow boa and a venomous mapepire snake, a guide will also be able to enrich your hike with background on the fauna and flora of the forests.
Today, Carapichaima is wholeheartedly Trinidadian melange. Along the central Waterloo Main Road, the Church of Zion and Presbyterian school sit side by side with a healthy quota of rum shops. Nowhere else is the creative potential of Trinidad’s cosmopolitan cultural mix more clearly visible than at Carapichaima’s Carnival celebrations. Combined with Indian drumming and costume, the celebration draws hundreds of visitors.
If you do want to go turtle watching (or if you happen upon a laying turtle by chance), it’s important to ensure that your presence doesn’t disturb the laying process. Guides use infrared lights when close to turtles, and it’s best to avoid using torches anywhere on laying beaches; flash photography is a no-no.
There’s plenty to do in Grande Riviere even if you don’t visit during turtle season. Most people divide their time between the beach and river and the interior, where there are hosts of waterfalls and river walks as well as excellent birdwatching. This is also one of the few places in Trinidad where you may be able to see the rare bird piping guan or pawi.
While you are here, visit Queen’s Park Savannah. This is a surprisingly restful spot, crisscrossed by paths and shaded by the spreading branches of some lovely trees, that burst into bloom at the start of the rainy season and carpet the ground to beautiful effect as the petals fall.
Overlooking the northwest corner of the Savannah along Maraval Road is the magical realist parade of buildings known as the Magnificent Seven. None are open to the public; they are best admired from the Savannah perimeter path.
Royal Botanical Gardens is a collection of 700-odd trees one of the oldest in the western hemisphere. A lovely spot for a wander, often deserted during the heat of the day but livelier in the late afternoon.
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Due to the islands’ diverse heritage, “local” can mean anything. From Indian curry and roti to Creole coocoo and oil down or Spanish and South American-style pastelles (cornmeal patties filled with ground meat or fish, olives and raisins, steamed in a banana leaf). And sweet lovers will be delighted above all by Trinidad and Tobago's unbeatable highlight - its fabulous chocolate.
After her husband died, Mrs Wright sold the land on the condition it remained a conservation area. Though tropical research is still undertaken here, Asa Wright is mainly visited these days as one of the most popular birdwatching retreats in the Caribbean. You can also visit as a half-day trip, watching birds from the veranda, taking a tour of the grounds and having lunch or afternoon tea.
The epitome of a Caribbean seashore, Pigeon Point is the queen of them all. Here you'll find turquoise water, white sand and pretty palm-thatched gazebos, though it’s rather marred by its overt commerciality.
Maracas is Trinidad’s most popular beach thanks to excellent facilities and a swathe of fine yellow sand and cool, clear green water. More stunning places to swim lie a few miles down the road - Las Cuevas Beach and Blanchisseuse, though all are sometimes subject to rough seas and undertows.
This anarchic and raunchy street party is pure, unadulterated bacchanalia, with generous coatings of mud, chocolate, oil or body paint – and libations of local rum. Once the sun is fully up, and a sluice down with a hose has dispensed with the worst of the mud, the masquerade bands hit the streets. Their costumed followers dance along in the wake of the pounding soca.
David Attenborough filmed parts of his celebrated Trials of Life series at Little Tobago, a solitary sea-bird sanctuary off the coast of Speyside. For slightly less committed nature lovers, the island’s forested interior offers plenty of opportunities for birdwatching or a splash in the icy waterfalls.
There’s plenty to see at Buccoo, particularly in outlying areas such as Coral Gardens. You’ll have no difficulty in finding a glass-bottom boat to take you. The tours are often fairly raucous, accompanied by loud music on the way home. However, they offer a good glimpse of the coral as well as a pretty perspective back over Tobago’s southwest coastline and hilly interior.
There are signs dotted around the complex giving some background to the buildings. At the top level of the complex, some 140m above sea level, the Officer’s Mess is the fort’s largest building, now housing the Tobago Museum. Beyond the Mess, a series of cannons point through cut-stone walls and out to sea. The walls afford spectacular views of Bacolet Bay, Minister Point and the rugged interior to the east.
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Most people visit Caroni for a motorboat tour of the swamp. Two companies offer trips aboard open pirogues that chug slowly through a maze of channels into the mangroves. These have an otherworldly appearance. Some have twisted aerial roots growing downwards into the water, while others have roots that grow upwards, emerging from the murky depths like stalagmites.
A few kilometres further east along the Windward Road beyond Belle Garden will take you to the entrance road to the much-visited Argyle Waterfall, the island’s highest cascade. The waterfall tumbles 54m out of the greenery into a deep pool. Just past the entrance, you pay the entrance fee at the Roxborough Estate Visitor Service Co-Operative booth. There’s also a café selling soft drinks and snacks.
The falls themselves are a pleasant fifteen-minute walk from the car park, and you can hear the water long before you reach it. Argyle is one of Tobago’s most accessible cascades, but to see the best parts you’ll have to exert yourself a little and climb up the right-hand side along steep and sometimes bushy paths.
Ready for a trip to Trinidad and Tobago? Check out The Rough Guide to Trinidad and Tobago. For more inspiring ideas for your exotic journey read our guide to the most exotic places to travel in the world. And when considering a Caribbean destination, also take a look at Belize, where you will also find plenty of exciting things to do. Or make your choice using our guide to Central America: an adventure travel paradise.
If you prefer to plan and book your trip to Trinidad and Tobago without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.
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