Tobago Overview, Tobago
Concierge.com's insider take:
Just a three-hour ferry ride northeast of Trinidad, the 116-square-mile island of Tobago is well loved for its beaches, diving, verdant countryside, and bird watching. The island's best beaches front the Caribbean Sea, from the vendor-lined Store Bay, Pigeon Point, and Sandy Point on the southwestern tip to the village of Castara and gorgeous Englishman's Bay on the north coast. Take a boat from Pigeon Point to see the Nylon Pool—on her honeymoon, Princess Margaret announced the color was so crazy blue it looked like nylon, and the name stuck.
The interior of the island is dominated by the 14,000-acre Main Ridge Forest Reserve, the oldest nature reserve of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. Today, Main Ridge is renowned for its diverse bird life (tiny Tobago is home to approximately 210 species), including such winged wonders as blue-backed manakins and white-tailed sabrewings, a hummingbird found only on Tobago and in Venezuela. Retired game warden Newton George, one of Tobago's most accomplished naturalists, can help you boost your life list (Speyside; 868-660-5463; www.newtongeorge.com).
Scuba divers head to the northeast coast, anchored by the village of Speyside and its handful of dive-oriented guesthouses and rustic resorts. The coastline here on the Atlantic is rockier with rougher waves than the Caribbean coast. Little Tobago Island, a sanctuary for red-billed tropicbirds, lies offshore; the waters in between, with their Volkswagen-sized brain coral and population of manta rays, are popular with divers.
Tobago's hilly capital, Scarborough, can be walked from end to end in an hour. There are busy docks and a daily market, stores, and bars. You may feel it's all more for the residents than the visitors, although you're certainly welcome to share. At dusk, climb up to Fort King George to take in the total dearth of neon and high-rises. The Tobago Museum inside the fort's old guardhouse is worth a visit on weekdays (868-639-3970).
The last two weeks of July are devoted to the Tobago Heritage Festival, with daily events and festivities throughout the island showcasing Tobago history and culture. The island's singular, most surreal spectacle—the Buccoo Goat Races—is held annually on the Tuesday after Easter Sunday. Begun in 1925 as a working-class response to horse racing, the races feature nimble goats goaded along by barefoot jockeys vying for hundreds of dollars in prize money. And it's no lark: Buccoo debuted a $16-million track for the races in 2010, with a starting gate, turf course, and grandstands where the wagering is fast and furious.—Updated by Chris Cox.