Castara, a fishing town on the north side, has couple of tour operators who offer the opportunity to see the rest of the island. It has two beaches on a small bay with clear water and clean beaches. Amenities and services are limited, so think ahead about essentials.
The Cuffie River Nature Retreat, a lovely lodge nestled a few miles down a dirt road in the rain forest, provides an alternative to beaches. The retreat offers rooms with access to a kitchen, though the lodge’s meals were local and savory. We weren’t able to fully enjoy the retreat’s winding trails as Hurricane Isaac’s outer bands dropped a morning of rain that resulted in a landslide requiring the in-house guide’s attention.
A full island tour affords a panorama in a few hours, from Dillon Point’s impressive view of Castara to the southern beaches, which have rougher waves and fewer surfers, to a bit of liming at Glasgow’s Bar which offers cold beer, a nice breeze and a fairly awesome view of Englishman’s Bay.
A couple of cautionary notes: Our pre-trip research revealed a lot of concerns about crime. Though the U.S. offers no travel advisories about Trinidad and Tobago, a 2011 New York Times story referenced a curfew because of drug-related crime. We neither experienced nor witnessed any threatening situations. Trinidadians suggest most of the trouble involves the drug trade and isn’t in areas frequented by tourists.
Tobagoans are quick to point out their quiet island is virtually crime free. “You read reports about crime, they say there were 1,000 violent crimes in Trinidad and Tobago,” one guide says. “And 999 of them are in Trinidad. Tobago, every once in a while somebody drinks too much and gets in a fight at the bar. But we suffer because of what happens there.”
Another caution is that the islands’ residents are committed to their revelry, which can make travel difficult at certain times. Flights from one to the other sell out well in advance of the independence celebrations. Be aware that transit between the two islands is easy, except when it isn’t.
No caution is required with the food. The cuisine is impossible to describe succinctly, with African, Creole, Indian and numerous other influences. Cooks make great use of local fruits, vegetables, fish and the beloved chickpea.
The chickpea, or channa, is the basis for the double, one of the most popular foods in Trinidad and an essential experience. Two pieces of doughy flat bread are topped with a curried chickpea sauce. A dash of hot sauce is optional. They’re sloppy, which is why Derrick recommends always finding a double stand with a large water cooler for cleaning up afterward.
“You have to try one without the hot sauce and one with the hot sauce,” he says. “Eat this and live forever.”