The north of Trinidad is dominated by the rainforested mountains of the Northern Range, which form a rugged spine, rising up dramatically from the coastline to over 900m at the peaks of El Cerro del Aripo and El Tucuche. The region is also lined with Trinidad’s most stunning beaches, of which Maracas Bay and Las Cuevas are the most popular. Beyond is the glorious, laidback seashore of Blanchisseuse, where the road dissolves into undeveloped coastline. A narrow pass winds through the mountains south of the village, providing an opportunity to see some of the island’s prolific birdlife at Asa Wright Nature Centre and the idyllic village of Brasso Seco.
Occupying the stretch of land south of the jungle-smothered mountains is one of Trinidad’s most densely populated areas, a string of traffic-choked urban communities known collectively as the East–West Corridor, spreading back from each side of the Eastern Main Road and bordered to the south by the Churchill Roosevelt Highway. Though you’ll see plenty of temples, mosques and Hindu prayer flags around Tunapuna, Indian culture is far less visible here than in the south: Creole cooking reigns supreme and the soundtrack that blares from shops, bars and maxis is soca and Jamaican dancehall rather than chutney. Of the individual communities, St Joseph is the most absorbing, named by the Spanish as the island’s first capital, with a historic church and barracks. Slightly further east, St Augustine is dominated from the hills above by the stunning Mount St Benedict Monastery, home to a lovely guesthouse that’s one of the most attractive of the low-key and little-used accommodation options across the region. The East–West Corridor also offers access to a host of interior mountain attractions: numerous spectacular waterfalls and opportunities for river swimming are to be found at Maracas Valley, Caura, Lopinot and, especially, from the Heights of Guanapo Road, the starting point of several fantastic Northern Range hikes.
From Arima – home to Trinidad’s only Amerindian parade – shops and houses are replaced by the winding minor roads that span the weather-beaten northeastern tip. A wild and rugged peninsula, this Toco coast juts some 20km into the Atlantic Ocean, and is one of Trinidad’s best-kept secrets. Between March and August leatherback turtles clamber up onto wave-battered sandy beaches like Matura and Grande Riviere to lay their eggs, backed by spectacular scenery.
Many of the places along the East–West Corridor, as well as Maracas and Las Cuevas beaches, are best seen by way of day-trips from Port of Spain; however, Blanchisseuse has a smattering of accommodation options, and if you plan on making the long drive up to Grande Riviere, you’ll almost certainly want to stay a night or two before heading back.