Visiting Trinidad - What to See and Do
(Trinidad Piarco International Airport POS, Trinidad)
is the big brother of the twin West Indies islands of Trinidad and Tobago
. Nearly all of the industry, commerce and tourism happens on this island, which is one of the most developed in the Caribbean. There is a fantastic mix of culture at work here, brought to a festive head each year during its world-famous carnival.
The capital, Port of Spain, is where most of the bustle happens, featuring colonial architecture and a solid range of attractions that will appeal to travellers. Trinidad has miles of coastline, with dozens of beaches that are largely undeveloped. Inland are natural marvels like Pitch Lake and a couple of excellent bird sanctuaries.
Nearly everyone comes to Trinidad for the beaches, and Maracas Bay is arguably the best of the bunch. Resorts make it convenient to do little more than soak up the sun and lounge on the sand. If you need more action, there are water sports at the developed beaches and tour agents in all the hotels who can arrange outings around the island or over to Tobago for a more rural, laid-back environment.
Ten things you must do in Trinidad
- Nearly all of Trinidad's beaches are far from the capital and undeveloped. The most popular beach for travellers is Maracas Bay Beach, 29 km / 18 miles from the capital along the pretty North Coast Road. Though a tad crowded at times, this beach is a real beauty with its protected cove and quaint historic village. It makes for a popular day's outing from the capital.
- The capital of Trinidad, Port of Spain, is one of the busiest cities in the Caribbean. This is where literally all of the island's museums, cultural attractions, restaurants, bars and shopping are found. Though a little dangerous at night, Port of Spain has several days' worth of exploration waiting. It serves as a great base for travellers who want more than just a beach resort experience.
- Queen's Park Savannah is the capital's nicest public park. Once a sugar plantation, it is now the preferred place to play sports like football and cricket. Visitors can enjoy a breath of fresh air and tranquillity in the 250-acre / 100-hectare park, snacking on fresh coconut milk and 'roti' (traditional flat bread) served up right on the spot.
- Perched above the capital Port of Spain is Fort George, a British fortress built in 1804 to protect the harbour from pirates and other undesirables. You can either hike to the hilltop where the citadel resides, or hire a taxi to drive you up the winding mountain road. The views from the top are outstanding, and on clear days it is possible to see all the way into Venezuela.
- Pitch Lake is a true natural wonder. It is essentially a lake of asphalt, created over millions of years as gases mixed with mud and minerals - its surface looks like the wrinkled skin of a black elephant. You can even walk on the crusty edges of the lake, but be sure not to venture too far in.
- Trinidad has one of the richest and most diverse bird scenes in the Caribbean, and the Caroni Bird Sanctuary is the ideal place to experience the riot of colourful tropical birds. Flocks of scarlet ibis birds are the highlight, especially at sunset when they fly in droves around the park. A huge mangrove swamp makes up a big part of the park and can be explored by boat.
- The Central Market in Port of Spain is the most interesting place to go shopping on the island. Its stalls are overflowing with colourful tropical fruits, spices and other exotic goods bought daily by the locals of the capital. Even if you don't buy anything, few other sites in the city are as lively and engaging as the market.
- One of the most popular excursions in the capital is to visit the Magnificent Seven, a row of colonial-era mansions standing in the downtown core. These were the homes of Trinidad's most powerful men, including the prime minister's residence at Whitehall and the overwhelming Hayes Court, where the Anglican bishop of Trinidad once lived.
- The free National Museum and Art Gallery offers a good look at the artistic side of Trinidad. Besides a permanent collection featuring the island's most famous artists, there are halls exhibiting artefacts and attractions spanning the early days, right through the British colonial era.
- Another great escape from the city's noise and congestion is the Royal Botanical Gardens next to the Savannah. These free gardens are full of towering trees, flowering shrubs, and other beautiful plants and flowers. Let one of the park rangers give you a guided tour and explain all of the rare plants. The orchid garden is particularly nice, while the 1875 President's House is also onsite for a touch of manmade beauty.