10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago are two islands joined as one nation with very different characters. Close to Venezuela, Trinidad is the busier of the two and the southernmost of all the West Indian islands. In the bustling capital, Port of Spain, on Trinidad's northwest coast, travelers will find some impressive examples of colonial and Renaissance-style architecture, as well as an eclectic cultural mix of Creoles, Africans, Amerindians, Europeans, and East Indians. Popular palm-fringed beaches are nearby and three forest-cloaked mountain ranges dissect the island, creating some striking landscapes. Naturally beautiful Tobago is Trinidad's less-developed younger sister. Rainforests, reefs, and beautiful white sand beaches are the prime attractions here with many opportunities for snorkeling and diving.
Although the economy of Trinidad and Tobago is driven mainly by oil and natural gas production, rather than tourism, the islands attract many independent travelers who appreciate the unpretentious ambiance and dramatic topography. In particular, both islands are renowned for their excellent birding with many avian species from nearby South America enriching the biodiversity. Trinidad and Tobago is also famous for its Carnival. Held on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, this flamboyant festival is an extravaganza of colorful costumes, limbo competitions, and contagious calypso and soca rhythms.
1 Maracas Bay, Trinidad
About 40 minutes drive northeast from Port of Spain, Maracas Bay is one of Trinidad's most famous beaches. A deep bay protects this palm-fringed strip of golden sand, one of the most beautiful beaches close to the city. From Port of Spain, the scenic drive through mountainous rainforest provides breathtaking views of lush peninsulas jutting into the sea. Food vendors and showers are available by the beach.
2 Pigeon Point, Tobago
Many consider the white-sands and aqua seas of Pigeon Point to be the most beautiful beach on Tobago. Also known as the Pigeon Point Heritage Park, this popular stretch of coral-sand coast requires an entrance fee and encompasses snack bars, shops, change rooms, and thatch-covered seating. Sun loungers are also available for rent. Boats leave from here to tour nearby reefs.
3 Port of Spain, Trinidad
Capital of the nation, this bustling business center boasts many fine examples of colonial-style architecture as well as a few popular tourist attractions. Architectural highlights include the impressive Renaissance-style Red House Parliament in Woodford Square, and the "Magnificent Seven," a group of elegant mansions along the sprawling green space of Queen's Park Savannah. Near this park, visitors will also find the Botanical Gardens bordering the president's grand residence, and the National Museum and Art Gallery with exhibits on local art, history, and culture.
4 Caroni Bird Sanctuary, Trinidad
Caroni Bird Sanctuary, just south of Port of Spain, is a nirvana for nature lovers. This series of mangrove-lined waterways is the nesting place of the Scarlet Ibis, the national bird of Trinidad and Tobago. Afternoon boat tours cruise the estuaries in search of these spectacular flame-colored birds as they descend on the trees in large flocks. The area is rich in biodiversity and visitors may also spot many other species of wildlife such as herons, egrets, cormorants, tree boas, anteaters, and caimans. Fishing and photography tours are also available.
5 Asa Wright Nature Centre & Lodge, Trinidad
A paradise for birders, the Asa Wright Nature Centre & Lodge encompasses 1,500 acres of dense forest in the Arima and Aripo Valleys. Hummingbirds, Woodcreepers, Pygmy Owls, Trogons, and the rare nocturnal Oilbird are just some of the avian species spotted at this former cocoa, coffee, and citrus plantation. Income from guests funds conservation of the surrounding forest, new land purchases, and environmental educational programs.
6 Little Tobago Island
On the east end of Tobago, across from Speyside, Little Tobago Island is an uninhabited bird sanctuary with several kilometers of trails. The most spectacular views are from the hills overlooking the seaward direction where Red-footed Boobies and Frigate birds swoop in large flocks. Glass-bottomed boats whisk visitors to the island, revealing the coral reefs below as they circle past the smaller Goat Island in Tyrrel's Bay. Tours often include snorkeling on the nearby reef and a hike to the island's peak.
7 Mount St. Benedict Monastery, Trinidad
Rising above the Northern Range Hills over Tunapuna, the red-roofed church tower of Mount St. Benedict Monastery is one of the most striking landmarks east of Port of Spain. Benedictine monks established this community in 1912, and the monastery is the largest and oldest in the Caribbean. Founded on the principles of self-sufficiency and hospitality to strangers, the monastery complex encompasses religious buildings, a farm, an apiary, a home for the aged, a rehabilitation center, a vocational school, and guesthouse. Hiking and birding opportunities abound in the surrounding forest, and the monastery is famous for its yogurt, jams, and jellies filled with locally-grown fruit.
8 Pointe-a-Pierre Wildfowl Trust, Trinidad
The middle of an oil refinery may seem an odd place for a nature sanctuary, but this is one of the best bird viewing spots in Trinidad. Surrounded by lush tropical foliage, the 30-hectare sanctuary encompasses an interpretive center and nature trails along lily-topped lakes where visitors may spot species such as the Scarlet Ibis, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, and White-cheeked Pintail. The Pointe-a-Pierre Wildfowl Trust protects the sanctuary and operates rehabilitation and captive breeding programs for endangered species.
9 Main Ridge Forest Reserve, Tobago
Rich in biodiversity, the Main Ridge Forest Reserve is purportedly the oldest legally protected forest in the Western Hemisphere. The reserve harbors more than half of the island's bird species, including the Blue-backed Manakin, Collared Trogon, and many species of hummingbirds. Hiking through the lush foliage, nature lovers may also spot frogs, lizards, snakes, and butterflies. The road through the reserve from north to south, near the eastern end of Tobago, is one of the more scenic ways to see the forest. At the top of the ridge, visitors will find hiking trails and freelance guides.
10 Fort King George and Tobago Museum, Tobago
Built in the 1780s overlooking Scarborough Bay, Fort King George offers both a good view of the town and a park-like tranquility with some magnificent trees. Still surviving are remnants of the original brick and stone walls, an early prison, the officers' mess, several cannons, and a lighthouse. Fort King George is the most well-preserved fort on the island. Also on the grounds, The Tobago Museum displays collections of antique maps, African Art, Amerindian artifacts, coins, and shells.