While Trinidad is fast-paced and can even feel hectic, Tobago thrusts deeper into the Caribbean Sea and life on this relaxed island has adapted accordingly.
We met many locals here who reside in Trinidad and vacation on Tobago. With lots of daily flights from Trinidad, taking just 25 minutes, it is easy to visit. Tobago offers several beaches, from wild strips of sand to cozy, tame bays.
Snorkeling, hiking and windsurfing are popular on the small island.
Beach at Pigeon Point
Suddenly the beach was crowded. Buses kept rolling in, spilling forth pale sun seekers that staked out claims of white sand in ever increasing numbers. We looked on in amazement as the crowd of Germans swelled. If not by the language, we could have told their origin by the exact parallels of beach towels placed on the sand with European precision. All the towels were of the same make and color and I just had to ask a local to figure out what was happening.
He solved the puzzle instantly, telling us a cruise ship had docked, but also promised that the people would clear out by 3 p.m., according to schedule.
He solved the puzzle instantly, telling us a cruise ship had docked, but also promised that the people would clear out by 3 p.m., according to schedule. Sure enough, by late afternoon the spook was over. Things returned to normal and we enjoyed the peace for the rest of the evening. The day had been highly unusual, because six days out of the week the beach is little visited.
Surprising cruise ship loads aside, Pigeon Point is the one of the nicest beaches on Tobago, which boasts quite a few beautiful stretches of sand. A sliver of coconut fringed sand sticks out into the Caribbean at Pigeon Point, offering tepid, calm waters perfect for swimming. Off the northeast end a windy bay is ideal for kite and windsurfing, or the less green option of jet skiing. Locals rent out equipment and a company offers kite and windsurfing lessons.
A few eateries and relaxed bar allow visitors to lounge for an entire day or two. For fare with a stronger local flavor head back along the entrance road and seek out the sign advertising soup for lunch, making sure to order a potato patty alongside.
Main Ridge Forest Reserve
In order to get into some leafy shade, trek to the Main Ridge Forest, one of the oldest reserves in the Caribbean. Several trails snake through the ancient jungle, leading past waterfalls and viewpoints of the sea far below. Local guides are available to interpret the flora and fauna, but it is also possible to head out along the trail on your own.
We set out along the path independently and were immediately enveloped by bird calls streaming from the steamy jungle. Visitors do not have to be able to tell rectrices from primaries in order to recognize one of the local favorites, the Trinidad Motmot. This species is endemic to the country, often sitting on a stout perch, swinging its racket-shaped tail left to right like a grandfather clock.
For anybody who craves some muddy miles under their boots, the Gilpin Trace is an excellent start, but other nearby routes offer additional hiking opportunities. The narrow paths wind through undisturbed forest, crossing crystal clear streams alive with fish usually limited to aquariums back home.
A deep cove flanked by rocky ridges plunging into the Caribbean and backed by a steep crescent of sand, Englishman’s Bay is a wild and mostly deserted beach. Not that there is no sign of civilization, since a single roti shop makes for a perfect lunch stop.
It is one of the more picturesque beaches and the deep water just offshore is refreshingly cool. For anybody desiring a workout, there is good snorkeling further out along the rocky shoreline. It is also a perfect place to just do nothing. Seek out the ragged shade of a palm, with plenty to go around, and listen to the breakers churn the sand.
On the far end of the beach a small freshwater stream spills into the ocean, forming a natural pool to rinse off sand and salt.
The small of town Speyside sits right at the eastern end of Tobago and marks the jumping-off point for snorkeling and a day visit to Little Tobago. We pulled in early morning after tackling the winding, pot-holed roads east of Scarborough, Tobago’s main city. A few houses are scattered between the rugged cliffs and sea at Speyside. Open vistas across the bay included Goat Island and Little Tobago, our destination for the day.
Tour operators in town allow visitors to cross the bay and hike on Little Tobago.
Tour operators in town allow visitors to cross the bay and hike on Little Tobago. This pristine island has been set aside as a nature reserve and protects thousands of nesting seabirds. After we made arrangements with a local guide we set off early in order to beat the crowds (maybe a half dozen other visitors). The boat churned through the deep blue waters, rounding a point off Goat Island and the verdant cliffs of Little Tobago rose into view.
This being the Atlantic, the water was colder and the waves stronger, but we made it across and docked on the small pier. Our guide took us along steep paths that crisscrossed the island. We snuck up to steep drop offs, overlooking nesting colonies of tropic birds that sailed like white kites through blues skies.
Before heading back to the mainland, we anchored in the bay and dove in for some snorkeling. Here we caught a glimpse of the marine treasures that lure divers from all over the world to this part of Tobago. Huge school of fish swung left and right in the slight current above dense coral beds.
Back into the water
If the water still lures, two further excursions could include Canoe Bay and a boat trip to Buccoo Reef. Canoe Bay was a mixture of kiddie pool and bathtub. Except for a local family picnicking, the beach was empty. We walked for a quarter mile out with the water still hip-high and the softest sand in between our toes. We just laid back and floated.
The same morning we had taken one of the many boat trips out to Buccoo Reef, which despite some damage still harbored lots to look at. The boat tours end at Nylon Pool, a shallow swimming area sparkling in perfect blue colors, offering a fitting end to any trip to Tobago.
Read about Stephan Lorenz's visit to Trinidad here.