Tucked away at the end of a well-signposted turn-off from the Arima–Blanchisseuse Road, a good up-and-down 7km from Morne La Croix or Asa Wright, BRASSO SECO is a naturalists’ dream. Translating as “dry branch” in reference to an arm of the Paria River which only ever gets wet in heavy rainy seasons, the village is populated by people of mixed Amerindian, Spanish and African descent (and clearly recognizable as such; some of the elders still speak Spanish); known as “cocoa panyols”, many are descended from people who moved to Trinidad from Venezuela in the nineteenth century to work on the burgeoning cocoa and coffee estates.
Today, the village is probably the best base for hiking in Trinidad, owing to its proximity to both mountains and coastline, at least five waterfalls and numerous river pools, as well as its variety of accommodation options. Though few serious birdwatchers come to the area, the diversity they find here often exceeds that of the island’s well-known birdwatching centres; scientists from a variety of universities have made this their base for studying rarely seen species and leking sites (communal display sites where males show off their prowess to potential mates). Red-legged honeycreepers, bearded bellbirds, tufted coquette hummingbirds, all types of parrot, green and red macaws, the black-faced ant-thrush and the endangered piping guan are all to be found, among innumerable others.
Hunkered under the dramatic 941m peak of El Cerro del Aripo to the south, the community is charming, languorous and picturesque, consisting of converted cocoa sheds and still-occupied tapia houses, alongside a rum shop-cum-parlour, church, school and community centre. Children play cricket in the middle of the road, young men lime outside the rec club and everyone has time to greet each other.
If you’re in Trinidad in mid-October, try to get up to Brasso Seco for their annual village festival, which celebrates local culture, indigenous and otherwise, by way of dancing, parang and plenty of amazing local food and drink, from wine and cocoa to pastelles and smoked meat.