Although technically located in the Caribbean, the twin islands of Trinidad and Tobago lie so far to the south—less than ten miles from the Venezuelan mainland—that they're practically part of South America.
Trinidad is the larger of the two islands, and its capital, Port of Spain, is the main entry point for most international travelers. While few leave the creature comforts of the capital, there are some spectacular rainforests, with stunning biodiversity, on the island's Northern Range. Trinidad's beaches—though not as spectacular as Tobago's—are also located to the north, the majority in and around Maracas Bay.
Less than one-tenth the size of its twin, Tobago absorbs the large majority of international tourists via express ferry (two and a half hours) or plane (30 minutes) from Trinidad. Tobago's popularity is no surprise, thanks to miles of pristine white-sand beaches—most with few crowds—and coral reefs teeming with psychedelic rainbows of exotic fish. Most hotels cluster around the island's southern edge, near Crown Point and Bacolet Bay.
WHEN TO GO
As with all Caribbean islands, the high season for tourism in Trinidad and Tobago is winter, especially from December to March. Carnival season in Trinidad (and Tobago to a lesser extent) is a law unto itself, however. If you wish to visit for Carnival, which officially begins on the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, expect raised rates and make your reservations way ahead. The average winter temperature is 80° F, though the mercury can go as high as 90° F and as low as 70° F. The rainy season runs roughly from June to November, and downpours tend to be heavy—monsoon-heavy at times—but short-lived. The islands lie south of the hurricane belt, so technically there's no need to worry about that.
HOW TO GET THERE
Piarco International Airport in Trinidad and A.N.R. Robinson Airport (formerly Crown Point International Airport) in Tobago are the main points of entry for flights from the United States and the Caribbean. Interisland ferries sail from Port of Spain in Trinidad to Scarborough in Tobago every day. The journey takes two and a half hours on the new express ferries, five hours on the slower boats.
Trinidad + Tobago Tourism Office
Level 1, Maritime Centre
29 Tenth Avenue
Trinidad + Tobago
Tel: 868 675 7034
NEED TO KNOW
Language: English, French, Creole, Hindi, Spanish, Chinese
Capital City: Port of Spain
Population: 1.05 million
Area: 1,980 square miles
Telephone Calling Code(s): 1
Electricity: 110V, 60 Hz
Currency: As of Dec 30, 2008:
1 Trinidad and Tobago Dollars = $0.16 US Calculate Other Amounts
Trinidad and Tobago does not require visas for citizens of the United States. A valid passport is sufficient for a three-month stay.
GOOD TO KNOW
Books and Movies
Trinidad's native son V. S. Naipaul won the 2001 Nobel Prize for Literature for unflinching and somewhat harsh portrayals of the Third World. The first sentence of his book A Bend in the River is illustrative of his unique viewpoint: "The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it."
These two side-by-side islands are multiethnic melting pots of African, West Indian, European, Chinese, and Indian descendants with some of the most developed cuisine in the Caribbean. Because tourism is not the only industry, the cuisine has a vibrancy or, as local calls it a "sweet hand", not found in other West Indian nations. Tobago offers notable seafood specialties such as lobster, conch, and crab and dumplings. But as it is more of a tourist destination, the food lacks the sophistication of its neighbor. Trinidad's chefs have retained the traditional foods and laborious processes while incorporating new flavors. Seafood in Trinidad includes shrimp, grouper, carite, and tiny oysters, more like barnacles, especially popular in oyster cocktails (mixed with tomato juice and hot sauce) from local vendors. The East Indian food is some of the best in the Americas, a totally separate genre that evolved in Trinidad using local spices, products, and the influence of other cultures. Especially popular is the Indian fast-food known as roti (flour flat bread often made with peas and stuffed with chicken, fish, or goat, hot curry, and sweet mango chutney). It wouldn't be a Caribbean vacation without some local rum. Try a planter's punch: A sprinkle of locally produced Angostura bitters, fruit juice and rum.
Only in the Trinidad and Tobago airports can you find the luxury duty-free goods one typically shops for in the Caribbean. Mostly it's liquor, jewelry, and perfume. In Trinidad, the best shopping is on Frederick Street, with its jewelry shops and craft stands. Creole madras products, traditional dolls, steel pan replicas, and Angostura products make good souvenirs. In Tobago, the crafts markets around the airport and Store Bay do a brisk business.
January: 1, New Year's Day
March: 30, Spiritual Baptist Liberation Day
May: 30, Indian Arrival Day
June: 19, Labor Day
August: 1, Emancipation Day; 31, Independence Day
September: 24, Republic Day
December: 25, Christmas Day; 26, Boxing Day
Winter: Seventh Tuesday before Easter, Carnival
Spring: Eid ul-Fitr; Friday before Easter, Good Friday; Easter; day after Easter, Easter Monday
Summer: Ninth Thursday after Easter, Corpus Christi