Off-the-beaten-track Trinidad and Tobago is an interesting little place. Unlike many of its Caribbean neighbors, this duo of mineral-rich, oil-heavy islets close to the coast of Venezuela does not depend on tourists for survival.
Yes, there are palm-fringed beaches and luxurious hotel resorts; there are misty rainforests and breath-taking tropical jungles, soaring mountain ranges and enthralling colonial cities.
But these aren’t the lifeblood of the archipelago.
Natural gas and oil are what have really brought money to Trinidad and Tobago, meaning the country’s something of a more authentic, less-developed and raw picture of island life than many of its counterparts.
Head in to explore everything from historic fortresses raised by the British to sparkling coral beaches and unexplored reefs.
Come and see charming colonial edifices in the capital, Port of Spain, spot multi-coloured waterfowl flitting through the air, chill on cotton-white sands, and seek out roaring waterfalls in the orchid-spotted wilds.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Trinidad and Tobago:
1. Tropical perfection at Pigeon Point Beach
A small thatched cabana stands on a rickety driftwood pier above the aquamarine waters of Tobago’s Caribbean reefs.
Fat coconut palms sway in the Trade Winds and rugged clusters of rocks emerge from the jungle, peppering the powdery, talcum sand at either end.
Welcome to Pigeon Point Beach: the most famous and acclaimed coastal spot in all of Trinidad and Tobago.
Protected and privately owned, travelers will need to pay $4 entry for this one.
But boy is it worth it! Just check out those lapping, lukewarm shore waters, beach shacks serving cold cocktails and the opportunities for jet skiing and kiteboarding across the Carib Sea.
2. Tour Port of Spain
Now booming with oil money and Trinidad’s successful industrial economy, Port of Spain is a city of two sides.
On the one half are the ports, depots, modern high-rises and traffic-choked highways.
On the other are the charming arrays of Victorian and Georgian mansions, neoclassical builds and elegant plazas.
Hit this historic part of the capital to see the wonderful likes of Christopher Columbus Square, peppered with babbling fountains and lanky palm trees.
Or, wonder at the magenta Red House: the seat of the country’s government.
Finally, be sure to check out the so-called Magnificent Seven – a row of opulent colonial homes from centuries gone by!
3. See cannons and bulwarks at Fort King George
On the grassy tops of a hill above Scarborough, between verdant pockets of cabbage palms and cocorite trees, the remains of the archipelago’s most impressive fortress still crown the coast.
Built in the middle of the 18th century, the site was raised by the British to secure Trinidad and Tobago against French attack.
The French did manage to conquer the citadel however, and by the 1790s the fort had changed hands.
Today, the historic mess room and old cisterns can be seen, along with the cannons that once defended the bay below against oncoming frigates and caravels.
4. Explore the exhibitions at the Tobago Museum
Set in the historically-rich officer’s mess room of the aforementioned Fort King George, just a 15-minute hike from the streets of Scarborough, this curious little museum boasts a fine collection of artifacts and objects that do well to chronicle the past of Tobago Island.
There are old fragments of pottery to see, Amerindian crafts, and a stark and sobering account of the impact of the slave trade on Trinidad and Tobago and the greater Caribbean.
Don’t miss the skeletal remains of a native islander, and be sure to read the old texts that are said to have been an inspiration for the desert island in Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe!
5. Paddle through the Nylon Pool
Supposedly imbued with aphrodisiac powers and healing waters, the so-called Nylon Pool raises up from the ocean bed just a stone’s throw from the picture-perfect sands of Pigeon Point.
Essentially a small spot of soft sand that sits just below the water in the middle of Tobago’s colourful reefs, the pool is popular amongst travelers who want to paddle and wade through the Caribbean Sea with no boats or coastline around.
One of the most-visited places in the country, the Nylon Pool can be reached on regular excursions from Tobago.
6. Shark fritters, sand and sweeping views at Maracas Bay
Maracas Bay is a gorgeous arc of golden sand that can be found nestled between the high coastal hills and rainforests on the north coast of Trinidad.
Just a short drive from the capital at Port of Spain, the spot is popular with both travelers and locals.
Frothy waves and a peppering of windblown palms add a rugged edge to the beach, while countless lookout points and local craft stores dot the mountain tracks nearby, meaning there’s plenty more to do here than just swim and sunbathe.
Oh, and don’t miss the iconic Bake and Shark joints that hide between the palm groves.
These serve up Trinidad’s famous shark fritters – a veritable must-try for any foodies on the archipelago!
7. Get a calypso fix at De Nu Pub
De Nu Pub (also known as Mas Camp Pub) is the go-to place for getting loose in Port of Spain.
Located right in the heart of the city, close to Adam Smith Square, the joint rumbles to the beats of steel drums and Caribbean jazz most nights of the week.
Live bands and artists grace the stages often, representing the cream of the archipelago’s Latin music scene.
Outside, the looks aren’t much to go by, granted, but get past that blue-hued concrete shell and you’ll discover a chatty crowd of fun-loving locals, some fine Creole dinners, great tunes and a clutch of pool tables to boot.
8. Go birding on Little Tobago Island
Bridled terns and brown boobies, red-billed tropicbirds and shearwaters all coalesce amidst the cliffs and salt-sprayed coastal headlands of Little Tobago Island.
Encompassed entirely by a specially designated birding area, the speck on the map just to the north of Tobago proper is famed for its sheer variety of fliers.
It’s also got a beautiful backcountry of dry rainforests and hidden sandy coves, along with great views of the rare red-footed boobies on the cliffs of Tobago proper across the water.
Trips to Little Tobago Island leave regularly from Speyside on Tyrrel’s Bay.
Oh, and don’t forget binoculars!
9. Snorkel at Buccoo Reef
One of the prized sections of the Tobago reefs that encircle the northernmost large island of the country, Buccoo Reef is home to countless species of tropical fish and a kaleidoscope of blooming corals and ocean sponges besides.
A protected marine reserve, it is known for its accessibility and colourful array of underwater flora and fauna.
Regular glass-bottomed boats make their way here on route to the Nylon Pool, while the best way to see the interesting biodiversity is to strap on the snorkels and get wet! Expect rare elkhorn corals, star corals and warm currents aplenty.
10. Caroni Bird Sanctuary: the home of the scarlet ibis
Sandwiched between the islands’ capital at Port of Spain and the mangrove-heavy west coast of Trinidad, the Caroni Bird Sanctuary sprawls out over a large section of wild swampland.
Famed for its population of the beautiful scarlet ibis, which flit through the skies and pepper the tree boughs like blooms of bougainvillea, the area also has herons and slinking snakes, boas and snowy white egrets in its line-up.
Tours often combine on-water and walking safaris, with canoe and powered boat trips through the swamp both available.
Don’t forget the mozzie spray or the binoculars!
11. Yoghurts and zeal at Mount Saint Benedict
Perched up on a small plateau amidst the rainforest-clad hills of Tunapuna-Piarco in the northern wilds of Trinidad, the Mount Saint Benedict Monastery is a veritable must for any travelers touring this wild section of the island.
Built in the early 20th century, the spot has become a focal point of religious devotion and the ascetic lifestyle.
Today, it is known for its beautiful red-roofed looks and as a place of rehabilitation.
Travelers will come to sip tea in the famous on-site Pax Tearoom, to sample the yoghurts that are made in the adjoining factory (packed full of healthy fruits from the Northern Range) and hike the mountain trails that weave into the hills from here.
12. Trek Tobago’s mountains at the Main Ridge Forest Reserve
Sprawled out along the rugged mountainous spine of Tobago Island, the Main Ridge Forest Reserve is a UNESCO-attested area of natural wonders that’s perfect for the outdoorsy traveler.
With a whole host of different habitats – from lowland forests to dry savannah – within its borders, it’s hardly surprising that the region is home to curious and rare creatures like the olivaceous woodcreeper and the white-tailed sabrewing.
Visitors can hit the winding trails that pierce into the nearly 10,000 acres of forest, passing blooming orchids and land crabs and oodles more of Trinidad and Tobago’s curious fauna along the way.
13. Refresh yourself at the Argyle Waterfall
Crashing through the primeval forests and rugged hills around Roxborough, on the northern edge of Tobago Island, the streams and cataracts of the Argyle Waterfall remain one of the country’s top natural draws.
They can be found carving through a three-tier bluff in the midst of the woods, draped like something out of a romantic landscape painting over the stones and crashing into some shallow plunge pools below.
A small entrance fee opens up all stages of the cascade, with the pinnacle of the falls offering the best bathing spots amidst fluttering butterflies and tropical vegetation.
14. Have the catch of the day at The Fish Pot
One of the most acclaimed eateries in the country and a hearty, welcoming Caribbean kitchen to boot, The Fish Pot makes its home just a stone’s throw from the Tobago shores in Black Rock.
Simple, sizzling, spice-infused fish cuts are the name of the game, with the menu touting some of the freshest catches going.
Expect fillets of barracuda and ceviche salads, jerk-topped seafood cuts and jumbo shrimp.
There’s also a curious international influence, with pastas and American burgers issuing from the ovens to boot!
15. Find seclusion on Englishman’s Bay
Enfolded by the rising hills and the emerald green forests of Tobago’s central mountain ridges, Englishman’s Bay is a true beauty to behold.
A single arc of beige-yellow sand plays center stage, while dashes of deep-green coconut palms and sea vines sprawl out of the jungle to the back.
There’s a lone beach shack serving up Creole treats and beach drinks, all just a couple of meters from the rolling waves of the Leeward coast.
Englishman’s biggest draw though? That’s got to be the seclusion.
This one’s far less popular than Tobago’s Pigeon Point Beach, and offers prime sunset viewing to boot!