Trinidad & Tobago is a Carnival of Attractions
Trinidad & Tobago is a Carnival of Attractions
Among the most distinctive of Caribbean nations, dual-island Trinidad & Tobago is in its infancy as a mainstream tourism destination for most North Americans.
Trinidad & Tobago hosted fewer than 280,000 tourist arrivals between January and August of 2014 according to the most recent statistics available from the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO). That total places the country among other low-ranking CTO destinations including Bermuda, Haiti and Suriname.
Yet like those countries, Trinidad & Tobago is surprisingly diverse, with attractions, attributes and experiences that lie beyond what most travelers consider part of a “typical” Caribbean vacation.
Located off Venezuela’s northeastern coast, Trinidad and Tobago is home to a cosmopolitan society of diverse people and cultures. North Americans familiar with the country are most likely fans of its annual Carnival celebration, which each year attracts revelers from across the Caribbean.
Carnival in fact offers visitors an ideal opportunity to experience the country’s distinctive cuisine, pulsating music and love of celebration. But Trinidad and Tobago also offer natural wonders that extend beyond white-sand beaches.
That’s not to say there are no nice beaches – Tobago’s Pigeon Point beach is one of the finest anywhere in the Caribbean. But Trinidad and Tobago also feature magnificent bamboo forests, cascading waterfalls, deep caves available for exploration and coral-laden reefs.
Above and Below
Mountain ranges can be found in both Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad’s Northern Range is an extension of the Andes Mountains and includes two 3,000-foot peaks. Tobago’s Main Ridge offers 18 miles of green hills and valleys that empty into inland rivers and streams.
Gaspar Grande, an island located off Trinidad’s western peninsula, features the Gasparee Caves, a network of underground caverns featuring stalactites, flow stones, fringed curtains and other geologic formations. A shimmering pool of water found deep within one cave reflects a spectrum of colors created by light filtering in from above.
The Tobago Hotel and Tourism Association Traveling last year introduced a Tobago Travel Guide app for smart phones, available in the Apple App Store or on Google Play. The free app allows users to discover and navigate their way to Tobago's beaches, attractions, restaurants, hotel, events and activities.
The app also features an image gallery, a “Deals of the Week” section, social media and e-mail links and daily weather forecasts. Maps are also available, and work without an Internet connection.
Tobago offers several free Wi-Fi zones, including Store Bay, Pigeon Point, Gulf City Mall at Lowlands, Scarborough Esplanade and the cruise ship and ferry terminal.
New and Renovated Hotels and Resorts
The 243-room Radisson Hotel, Trinidad opened in April 2014 in Port of Spain, The Radisson Trinidad, officially opened its doors in April 2014. The hotel’s highlight is a 360-degree revolving restaurant on the 14th floor. The Radisson Trinidad also features a 24-hour business center, same-day dry cleaning, complimentary parking and complimentary high speed Internet.
Tobago’s Bacolet Beach Club, a boutique property, recently added a "West Wing" building featuring 15 marble-tiled suites and an infinity pool overlooking the hotel’s private bay.
Another Tobago property, the Chic, Tobago hotel and conference center opened in December 2014. The 40-room boutique hotel features a relaxed, modern design with facilities including a swimming pool, restaurant, spa and pool bar.
Trinidad’s Carnival is the Caribbean’s largest such celebration and each year attracts visitors from all over the world to enjoy competitions, concerts and parties on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.
Events start even earlier. Panorama, the annual competition featuring the national instrument, the steel pan, begins on the preceding Saturday. Sunday features Dimanche Gras, a fierce competition to determine the king and queen of masquerade bands.
Held on Monday, J’Ouvert is the official start of Carnival, when revelers dance to soca and calypso music while covering themselves in grease, oil, paint, chocolate and mud, parading across Trinidad’s towns and villages until sun rise.
The grand finale launches on Carnival Tuesday as masqueraders in full costume dance for judges and bands, with the grand champion crowned masquerade band of the year.
The Tobago Jazz Experience is scheduled for April 18 to 26 at sites along Tobago’s coast. The music festival highlights the culture, gastronomy and welcoming residents of Tobago. This year’s headliners will include Kool & the Gang, Jill Scott, and Jennifer Hudson.
Trinidad and Tobago is among a handful of Caribbean destinations that offer multiple links via major carriers. Jet Blue Airways offers daily non-stop service from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to Piarco International Airport in Trinidad’s capital of Port of Spain. Jet Blue also offers seasonal flights from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to Port of Spain.
American Airlines offers daily flights to Trinidad from Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Caribbean Airlines offers weekly, non-stop flights from JFK to Tobago’s A.N.R. Robinson International Airport.