Bound together for the convenience of the British Empire, Trinidad and Tobago are vastly different places. Trinidad offers culture, ethnic diversity, music, clubs, great food, pristine rainforest and a wealth of undeveloped beaches. Tobago is more of a conventional Caribbean resort, its southwest replete with busy strips of white sand and hotels of every stripe, as well as plenty of bars, restaurants and places to dance under the stars. The rest of the island is relatively undeveloped, with plenty of fantastic small-scale guesthouses, but nowhere in Tobago will you find the high-rise hotels and slick resort areas of other islands in the region. It’s impossible to get a full picture of T&T without visiting both Trinidad and Tobago, and regular and inexpensive plane and ferry services between the two make it easy to see the best of each even during a short stay.
A visit to Trinidad will inevitably begin in Port of Spain, the vibrant capital which, with its restaurants, nightlife and accommodation, is a natural base from which to explore the rest of the country. To the west, Chaguaramas is the capital’s playground, with a newly redeveloped waterfront at Williams Bay and the zip line, walking and mountain biking trails, golf course and great beach of Tucker Valley. Chaguaramas is also the jumping-off point for boat trips to the rocky, wooded islands of the Bocas. A sweeping curve of powdery sand and powerful waves, Maracas Bay is the first of many lovely beaches along the north coast, some reachable by road, others only on foot. Inland, the densely forested peaks of the Northern Range offer excellent hiking and birdwatching opportunities. South of the hills, the East–West Corridor provides access to caves, swimmable rivers and waterfalls, the Yerette hummingbird centre, and the oldest Benedictine monastery in the Caribbean at Mount St Benedict.
The flat agricultural plains of central Trinidad provide a fascinating contrast to the north. From the ethereal Waterloo Temple in the Sea and the nearby Hanuman Murti statue to the busy market town of Chaguanas, Indian culture predominates; there’s plenty of natural allure too, from the scarlet ibis that inhabit the mangrove labyrinth of Caroni Swamp to the manatees and monkeys in the protected wetlands at Nariva. Endless swathes of fine brown sand lined by groves of coconut palms make Manzanilla and Mayaro favourite spots for some beach time. The burgeoning city of San Fernando is a friendly base from which to explore the largely unvisited “deep south”, where modern oil towns such as Fyzabad contrast with the spectacular coastline and wetlands around Cedros and Icacos.
Most people travelling to Tobago head for the translucent waters, coral reefs and excellent facilities around Crown Point on the low-lying southwestern tip. The vibrant capital, Scarborough, with its market and historic fort, offers a more genuine picture of local life, while the rugged windward (or Atlantic) coast is best known for the waterfall and cocoa estate at Argyle and the island’s finest snorkelling and scuba diving at Speyside. The leeward (or Caribbean) coast promises some superb beaches, kicking off with the clear green waters of Mount Irvine and the wide sweeps of sand at Stonehaven Bay and Turtle Beach; further afield there’s the twin bays at Castara to the palm-lined swathe of Englishman’s Bay. On the northeast tip, the pretty village of Charlotteville has the sublime Pirate’s Bay as well as the none-too-shabby Man O’War Bay.