The North Coast Road offers one of Trinidad’s most dramatic drives, teetering along 300m-high cliffs and tunnelling past precipices of rainforest with occasional views of faraway peaks. 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. Despite its spiralling course, this is also one of the island’s smoothest roads, built by the US Army in 1944 as a recompense for their use of the Chaguaramas peninsula, which deprived residents of sea bathing at Macqueripe and other bays; it’s still sometimes called the “American Road”. Be warned that at weekends it becomes heavily congested, and is prone to frequent landslides during the rainy season.
The first of many spectacular panoramas stretches over the Maraval valley to the tiny spice and parang centre of Paramin and down into the outskirts of Port of Spain. Cliffs and jungle close in beyond here (with glimpses of Santa Cruz to the right), and a few kilometres further reveals a gorgeous coastal prospect, the ocean far below dotted with rocky islets. The largest of these is Saut D’Eau, a 100,000-square-metre breeding colony for brown pelicans, chestnut-collared swift and the rufous-necked wood rail.
La Vache Scenic Area
The North Coast Road is punctuated by fruit stalls and refreshment huts with dramatic sea views, the air noticeably cooling as you climb to La Vache Scenic Area, the highest point on the North Coast Road. The coastal views are marvellous from here, and vendors sell souvenirs, cold drinks and East Indian sweets to the weekend hordes on their way to Maracas Beach, while a talented busker improvises calypsos and will expect a few dollars if he makes you laugh.