Trinidad’s most famous of all for its much copied but never bettered Mardi Gras Carnival, big north coast beaches, wilderness wetlands and ancient rainforests, water sports and laid back atmosphere. Tiny by comparison to its near neighbour, you can drive across Tobago in under three hours. But if you’re looking for complete escapism, uncrowded coasts and easy charm, pretty resorts and intriguing history; everything you want is right here – you can always go visit Trinidad for the day.
Why go on holiday in Trinidad & Tobago
Trinidad & Tobago is furthest south in the Caribbean archipelago with average temperatures of 27˚ year round.
The country sits outside the Caribbean ‘hurricane belt’ and is known for safe sailing waters.
Dry Season runs from December to May and is most expensive.
June to December is the Wet Season but there’s relatively little rainfall and it’s more than balanced by low costs during UK school holidays.
Trinidad’s spectacular Mardi Gras Carnival takes place in the lead up to Ash Wednesday every year, the island is never busier but it’s a once in a lifetime experience for older kids and teenagers.
Trinidad is best known for outdoor adventure holidays and Tobago is the classic Caribbean beach break.
The most commonly spoken language in Trinidad & Tobago is English.
Where to go
Port of Spain, Trinidad
The country’s capital sits in the far north west, so close to Venezuala you can see the coast on a clear day. This is the heartland of Trinidad’s legendary carnival and even when it’s not celebrating the actual event, there’s always a faint trace of the spirit in bustling districts like Woodbrook and round Queen’s Park Savannah at the end of a long, hot working day. Port of Spain isn’t too touristy, it’s a real live Caribbean city but still has the island’s biggest range of resorts and international holiday hotels in the centre or within easy travelling distance on the north coast.
Queen’s Park Savannah in the late afternoon’s when to find a coconut water vendor, bag a seat in the shade and watch the city crowds cooling down after work. It’s not carnival but it’s pretty lively all the same.
Go serious shopping on Frederick Street and bargain hunting on nearby Charlotte Street (the lower end of Charlotte is Port of Spain’s unofficial Chinatown).
Maracas Bay Village is an hour’s drive east of Port of Spain and a legend for the beach alone. Regularly voted most beautiful in the Caribbean, the shark sandwiches (shark ‘n’ bake) are almost as famous as the paradise sands.
Don’t miss: Red House parliament buildings; Stollmeyer Castle; Trinity Cathedral; Woodbrook Quarter; Woodford Square; Mardi Gras Carnival in February.
Only 20 minutes by air from Trinidad, Tobago couldn’t be more different from its fellow countryman. Heritage marine parks, huge coral reefs, paradise beaches and peaceful nature are the main attraction here. But the holiday vibe’s strong and resorts round Crown Point are plenty lively and good fun with kids.
Crown Point is Tobago’s holiday heartland and where to find resort hotels, good restaurants, pretty much every water sport imaginable and some of the loveliest beaches.
You can drive from south to north on Tobago in a couple of hours, so touring the coast is easy – start at Pigeon Point Beach on the south west coast.
Don’t miss: Pigeon Point Heritage Park; Englishman’s Bay; Crusoe’s Cave; Fort King George; Black Rock Moravian Churches; Gang Gang Sarah’s Grave; Buccoo Reef; Leeward Coast beaches.
What to do
If you’ve experienced jouvert, short-trouser bands, duelling steel drums, Mas, mass-brass, calypso and soca anywhere but Trinidad, they’re not the real thing. Mardi Gras Carnival here is the original island wide Caribbean street party, the biggest on earth and nothing else comes close.
Caroni Bird Sanctuary, Trinidad
This 12,000 acre mangrove swamp is the second largest in Trinidad and home to over 100 bird species, 20 of which are endangered. Take a cruise with kids, it’s remarkable.
Gasparee Caves, Gaspar Grande
The network of limestone caverns which contains the immense Blue Grotto is on the island of Gaspar Grande, 12km west of Port of Spain. Tours are highly entertaining and the hidden lake at Gasparee’s heart is stunning.
La Brea Pitch Lake, Trinidad
Close to the village of La Brea in south west Trinidad, natural tar seeps through the earth’s surface to form an extraordinary pitch lake. This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the country’s strangest phenomena and not to be confused with Los Angeles La Brea Tar Pits.
Buccoo Reef Snorkelling, Tobago
Even in reef-rich Trinidad & Tobago, very few are as colourful and dense with marine life as Buccoo, close to ethereal Pigeon Point beach. A glass-bottom boat cruise with snorkelling on the side is the easiest way to see wonders up close.
Dolphin Boarding, Port of Spain
Jet packs propelling kids up and over the Caribbean just off the coast of Trinidad, that’s the basic principle behind Dolphin Boarding. It’s incredible, not as easy as it looks and the team at Liquid Adrenalin are pretty much the local experts.
Mountain Bike Tours, Tobago
Just 27 miles long by seven miles wide, Tobago’s deceptively packed with breathtakingly exciting mountain bike trails. Graded from green to black and in the company of expert guides they’re a fantastic way to see this gorgeous little island up close.
Five Islands Waterpark, Trinidad
The largest waterpark in the southern Caribbean, Five Islands has everything from white-knuckle rides, chutes and slides to lazy rivers, toddler splash zones and funfairs.
Pigeon Point Heritage Park, Tobago
You can argue all you want about the merits of Tobago’s beaches but the world at large says Pigeon Point is paradise. It also happens to be set against 125 acre Pigeon Point Heritage Park, another must on this idyllic island
Kayaking Nariva Swamp, Trinidad
Kayaking through Nariva Swamp’s 6000ha of untamed wetland is as wild as it gets anywhere in the Caribbean. Expect to see quite a few rare birds (there are over 200 species in residence) and keep a look out for anaconda and manatee too.
Educational value for kids
Visit Turtle Beach on the west coast of Tobago between March and August to see ponderous Leatherbacks burying their eggs in the sand.
Head to Columbus Bay on the south west coast to see where Christopher Columbus first made landfall in Trinidad in 1498. On a clear day, kids should be able to see Venezuela from the beach.
Main Ridge Forest Reserve in Tobago is one of the world’s oldest protected rainforests, excellent local guides make tours here amazing adventures for kids.
Kids as young as ten can skill build on the Caribbean and learn anything from SUP to wakeboarding, water skiing, basic diving, kite surfing and dolphin boarding.
Take a Port of Spain guided walking tour with older kids and teens. Three hours spent in the company of a local is just enough time to admire sights like Stollmeyer Castle and Trinity Cathedral and get under the skin of the city’s less touristy and, by default, more intriguing quarters.
The National Museum & Art Gallery in Port of Spain is in one of the city’s finest colonial buildings and its impressive collection of art, artefacts and ephemera more than matches the setting.
Join a guided expedition to the heart of Nariva Swamp’s wetlands and walk across mysterious Bush-Bush Island, home to elusive – but noisy – Howler Monkeys, andSnap up any opportunity for ‘liming’ in Trinidad & Tobago. It’s the island tradition of sharing food and drink, playing music and turning anything into a party. There are wild versions, but it’s a good old family and friends custom at heart. considerably more sociable Capuchins.
Getting around with kids in Trinidad & Tobago
It’s a 20 minute flight from Trinidad to Tobago and shuttle services are regular and inexpensive. Alternatively there are fast catamaran ferries between Port of Spain and Scarborough, but crossings can be a bit choppy. The public transport on both islands is fairly infrequent and journeys tend to be long. Car hire is best if you want to explore independently. Most tours and activity operators build transport to and from resorts into their ticket prices.