Some 45 minutes’ drive from Port of Spain, the North Coast Road plunges down to MARACAS BAY, a ravishing generous curve of fine, off-white sand bordered by groves of skinny-stemmed palm trees and with a stunning mountainous backdrop. Easily the most popular beach on the island, Maracas is an institution: thousands make the traditional Sunday pilgrimage to show off their newest swimwear, frolic in the water, sunbathe and network. During the week, it’s a much quieter scene, and perhaps all the more enjoyable for it.

A concrete pillar with silver lettering and silver waves stands in the centre of a roundabout, heralding your arrival. Continuing on the main road, you’ll find a huge car park (you’ll get a ticket if you park elsewhere at weekends) and beach facilities such as showers, changing rooms and toilets, plus a flurry of food stalls selling the famed Maracas bake and shark sandwiches. On the other side of the coast road is the wide swathe of beach. Licked into a fury by passing currents and the wind tunnel effect of surrounding headlands, the waves often reach a metre or two high and make for an exhilarating swim, and the water is usually emerald green. Be wary of tides and undercurrents, however, as they’re often dangerously strong; stick to the areas between red and yellow flags where lifeguards stand by, whistling furiously at anyone who goes too far out.

Maracas Bay Village

The left-hand turn-off from the North Coast Road at the western end of Maracas Bay leads across a small river and down to Maracas Bay Village, a fishing hamlet whose catch – fresh carite, cavalli and shark – is in demand throughout the north. Here you’ll find a couple of rum bars, a grocery and post office, alongside lots of beached pirogues and drying nets and a very pretty cream-and-blue church next door to the Maracas Bay hotel. The village is also home to a profusion of scavenging dogs and few bathers; most people stick to the main beach to avoid the odd fishy entrail.

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