Spread over a peninsula extending towards Venezuela from the northern part of the island and dividing the Gulf of Paria and the Caribbean Sea, Trinidad’s northwestern tip comprises the island’s most urbanized area. The country’s capital and its commercial and cultural centre, Port of Spain sits between the foothills of the forested Northern Range mountains and the choppy waters of the gulf. Home to nearly a third of Trinidad’s population, as well as many immigrants from Venezuela and other islands in the region, this is a city that buzzes with metropolitan verve, a thriving place that serves as the hub of the southern Caribbean. Although exciting in any season, with a brilliant nightlife scene, the best time to be here is during the weeks leading up to Carnival, when there are nightly fetes and panyards to take in as well as the biggest Jouvert celebrations in Trinidad and, of course, the kaleidoscope of the Parade of the Bands.
Beyond the city’s western suburbs, the landscape becomes increasingly less developed as the coastal road heads toward Chaguaramas, the playground of the capital. Protected as part of the Chaguaramas National Park, Tucker Valley is crisscrossed by a network of forest trails, and the sheltered cove of Macqueripe offers excellent swimming. The southern Chaguaramas coast is all business, however, its marinas and commercial boatyards interspersed with some appealing waterside bars and restaurants. The further west you go, the more wild and undeveloped the terrain becomes. Beyond Chaguaramas, the western tip crumbles into a series of rocky islands separated by rough, swirling channels known as the Bocas del Dragon – the Dragon’s Mouth. Though the islands – the most accessible and developed of which is Gaspar Grande, the most isolated and atmospheric being Chacachacare – lie just a short distance offshore, they are completely free of motorised traffic. In the eighteenth century, they were a refuge for whalers, smugglers and pirates; today, they’re the preserve of yachting enthusiasts, fishermen and anyone in search of tranquillity.
Port of Spain and its suburbs have a wide range of accommodation to suit all budgets. Whether you’re visiting the city for Carnival or plan to explore other parts of Trinidad, you will almost certainly end up staying here at some point. Indeed, it’s entirely feasible to base yourself in Port of Spain and visit the rest of Trinidad on day-trips, either by renting a car or using the public transport network that radiates out from the City Gate bus and maxi terminus.
Top image: King's Wharf in Port of Spain © lidian Neeleman