Trinidad & Tobago - Attractions
Port of Spain
The islands' capital, Port of Spain is a bustling metropolitan hub of approximately 300,000 people. It's not the country's tourist centre by any means, since its attractions are limited to a few 19th-century colonial buildings and its hotels are geared toward business travellers rather than tourists. The pulse of the city is Independence Square - not really a square at all, but rather two long streets bordering a narrow pedestrian strip. At Independence Square you can pick up a taxi and find travel agents, banks and cheap eats.
The city is crowned by Queen's Park Savannah, once part of a sugar plantation and now a public park with a race track. Largely an expansive grassy field, the park itself is not particularly interesting but there are some sights along its perimeter. In the park's northwest corner there's a small rock garden with a lily pond and benches. Along its west side is the Magnificent Seven, a line of seven fancy colonial buildings, including Stollmeyer's Castle, built to resemble a Scottish castle complete with turrets.
Asa Wright Nature Center
The Asa Wright Nature Center is a former cocoa and coffee plantation that has been turned into an 80ha (198ac) nature reserve. Located amid the rainforest in the Northern Range, the centre has attracted naturalists from around the world since it was founded in 1967. There's a lodge catering to birding tour groups, a research station for biologists and a series of hiking trails on the property.
A wide range of bird species inhabit the area, including blue-crowned motmots, chestnut woodpeckers, palm tanagers, channel-billed toucans, blue-headed parrots, 10 species of hummingbirds and numerous raptors. The sanctuary encompasses Dunston Cave, which is home to a breeding colony of the elusive nocturnal guacharo, or oilbird.
Asa Wright Nature Centre is less than a two-hour drive from Port of Spain.
Caroni Bird Sanctuary
Caroni Bird Sanctuary is the roosting site for thousands of scarlet ibis, the national bird of Trinidad and Tobago. At sunset the birds fly to roost in the swamp's mangroves, giving the trees the appearance of being abloom with brilliant scarlet blossoms. Even if you're not an avid bird watcher, the sight of the ibis flying over the swamp, glowing an almost fluorescent red in the final rays of the evening sun, is a treat not to be missed.
Long, flat-bottomed motorboats that can hold about 30 passengers pass slowly through the swamp's channels. En route the guide points out various flora and fauna -- commonly seen are a two-toed sloth, a boa constrictor sleeping on a tree branch and mudskipper fish that cruise alligator-like with their beady eyes above the water. The boat then stops deep in the midst of the swamp for a good vantage point under the flight path of the ibis.
To avoid disturbing the birds, the boats keep a fair distance from the roosting sites, so a pair of binoculars is recommended although you can still see the birds with your naked eye. You can also expect to see lots of herons and egrets, predominant among the swamp's 150 bird species.
Just a 40-minute drive from the capital is Maracas Bay, Trinidad's most popular beach. This fishing hamlet has a broad, sandy beach and occasionally has decent waves for bodysurfing. Tyrico Bay, just to the east of Maracas Bay, is quieter and less commercial. Las Cuevas, 8km (5mi) east of Maracas Bay, is a pretty, U-shaped bay with a nice brown-sand beach; there's surfing at its west end and calmer conditions at the centreer.
Tobago is a delightfully relaxed island with much to offer travellers. There are good beaches, pristine snorkelling and diving spots, excellent bird watching opportunities and just enough tourism to make visiting Tobago easy, yet not so much that the island feels overrun.
The airport town of Crown Point is in the middle of Tobago's main resort area. It's surrounded by palm-fringed, white-sand beaches with good year-round swimming and snorkelling. The attractive fishing villages of Speyside and Charlotteville are interesting out-of-the-way destinations, and the nearby uninhabited islets of Little Tobago, Goat Island and St Giles Island are ecotourist destinations with abundant birdlife.
There's great diving at Buccoo Reef, offshore from the little visited village of Buccoo, and good snorkelling at Pirate's Bay, off Charlotteville. The latter derives its name from the secluded haven it provided to marauding buccaneers three centuries ago. It's rumored that there's still buried treasure around Pirate's Bay today.