9 Best Things To Do On Your First Trip To Trinidad & Tobago – Caribbean Islands 5

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Port of Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago

An important hub in the southern most area of the Caribbean Sea, Port of Port of Spain in Trinidad & Tobago is the converging point of trade lanes between the Americas and the world’s great oceans. It is the gateway of Port of Spain, capital of this twin-island nation and the center of commerce within the West Indies. Aside from cargo and petroleum handling, there is also a cruise terminal at Port of Port of Spain wherein disembarking passengers are greeted by local residents dancing in radiant carnival attires, singing calypso with the accompaniment of steel pan drums.

Brief Background of Trinidad & Tobago:

On his 3rd expedition to the New World, Christopher Columbus sighted Trinidad on July 31, 1498 and soon after Spain colonized the island inhabited by Arawak Amerindians called Iere (hummingbird). The Spanish empire appointed a governor-general in 1532, at a time when slave trade was at its peak in the Americas thus the Ieres were forced to work themselves to death or eventually banished from their homeland. African slaves were brought in later periods to replace the Arawaks and in the 17th century Trinidad had undergone invasions from the Dutch and French. However during the French revolution, Trinidad has been yielded to British rule formalized by the Treaty of Amiens in 1802 and when slavery was abolished in 1833, Muslims and Hindus from India (which was also under British colony) were shipped into Trinidad to succeed the African slaves who worked at plantations owned by British masters.

Tobago was first occupied by tavaco-smoking (tobacco leaves) Carib Amerindians when Columbus discovered this island as well in 1498. Like Trinidad, this island suffered conquests by the Spanish, British, Dutch and French until 1814 when in the Napoleonic Wars, France have to cede Tabago for the United Kingdom. The island became a part of Windward Islands Colony (that of Britain) until 1889 when it officially joined Trinidad.

This twin islands formally became an independent nation from British rule and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations on August 31, 1962. Trinidad & Tobago was accepted as member of the Organization of American States (OAS) in 1967 and Caribbean Free Trade Area (CARIFTA) which is known today as Caribbean Common Market. When Prime Minister Williams was the head of the government, he established a new constitution that gave birth to the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago in September 1976.

Map showing the location of Trinidad & Tobago just off the coast of Venezuela.

Together with two other colleagues we signed off from M/T Knock Stocks when we reached the Port of Port of Spain here in Trinidad island on December 30, 2000. We left via KLM Royal Dutch Airlines for a 12-hour flight to Amsterdam (no direct flight to the Philippines) the next day, on December 31, then another 8-hour connecting flight to Chek Lap Kok airport in Hong Kong and finally the remaining 1 1/2-hour travel to NAIA, arriving in Manila on the evening of January 01, 2001. Whew, yes it’s a rigorous journey for us sailors when we join or sign off from our ships, anyway since we had one day left in Port of Spain before departure, that gave my friends and I a chance to explore the city. Off-the-beaten-track Trinidad & Tobago is quite an interesting place. Not like the rest of its Caribbean neighbors that depend on tourist arrivals for their economy, this twin-island nation has oil-rich islets near Venezuela that actually bring huge dollars to its treasury. Trinidad & Tobago is raw and impressive, let’s explore together 9 best things to do on your first trip to this island.

1. Watch the Trinidad & Tobago Carnival.

Pretty mas (costumes) depicting traditional Trinidadian carnival characters in a typical Trinidad & Tobago Carnival.

“Mama dis is mas” – the biggest attraction of this Caribbean nation which is held every year from Monday-Tuesday before Ash Wednesday is its Carnival. If you happen to be in the country during this time, it’s the best thing do watching the participants in the carnival giving their best to impress spectators and visitors to their islands. You know there is a belief in Trinidad & Tobago that when they are not celebrating the Carnival then they are getting ready for it…and it truly is!

2. Dive into Nylon Pool at the middle of the Caribbean Sea.

A natural swimming pool in the center of the Caribbean Sea, Nylon Pool is a best thing to do for diving and swimming. Accessible from Pigeon Point (resort in Tobago) on a glass-bottomed boat, Nylon Pool is not only good for swimming but its water has a rejuvenating effect on the body to anyone who dives in it. The clear 3-feet deep natural pool was formed by an off-shore sand bar thus when its high tide it appears like Nylon Pool is in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.

3. Take your best “selfie” with Stollmeyer’s Castle as background.

A building that will haunt your soul – Stollmeyer’s Castle.

One of Trinidad‘s Magnificent 7 houses located along West Queen’s Park Savannah, Port of Spain, Stollmeyer’s Castle is an impressive Balmoral-inspired Scottish castle built between 1902-1904 by Charles Fourier Stollmeyer, a son of a wealthy asphalt miner. Occupied by US soldiers in World War II, it was turned-over to the government of Trinidad & Tobago in 1979 and made since then as a tourist attraction. Don’t forget to have your perfect “selfie” taken with Stollmeyer’s Castle as background, the best thing to do when you visit this magnificent building.

4. Explore Pitch Lake, largest natural deposit of asphalt and considered as the 8th Wonder of the World.

A very queer lake.

Located in La Brea, southwestern Trinidad, Pitch Lake is the world’s biggest natural deposit of asphalt and one of the only 3 such lakes that exist on earth. This strange lake of water and pitch (or tar) is sometimes regarded as the 8th Wonder of the World, some of its area are hard enough to walk on which is a best thing to do when exploring Pitch Lake. Spanning approximately at 109 acres, some parts resemble a quicksand while some of its area is so fluid as pure water and the asphalt in this lake has been used all over the world.

5. Take a leisurely walk at Fort King George, Scarborough, Tobago.

Perched on top of a hill overlooking Scarborough, capital of Tobago, Fort King George which dates back to 1790 is the best colonial stronghold in the island. A walk around the grounds which is a best thing to do will give you the opportunity to see the prisoner’s bell tank, the officer’s mess hall and several cannons pointing towards the sea. You can also visit one of the guard houses turned into a museum and displays ancient Carib-Indian artifacts and other military antiquities from the nation’s colonial past or just simply engrossed in the landscape especially at sunset is worth the visit to Fort King George.

Waterfront promenade in Scarborough, Tobago.

6. Dip into L’eau Michel mud volcano.

This is not really a volcano but mud flows through active holes deep below the earth’s plane thus it’s called L’eau Michel mud volcano which is located in South Trinidad. A jeep takes you to the site and it depends with your tour guide, you may take a 20-minute hike passing through a sugar plantation before you reach the spot. Start by immersing your toes to check the temperature of the mud and a best thing to do at this mineral deposit-rich L’eau Michel mud volcano, then dip your whole body in for that skin-rejuvenating, pore-exfoliating experience.

7. Wander around historic Port of Spain.

The “Magnificent 7” historical buildings along Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

A great cultural experience awaits you when you take a walk in downtown Port of Spain which is the best thing to do in Trinidad. Start your way at Frederik Street (Woodboard Square) to Brian Lara Promenade (named after a Trinidadian athlete) and into Independence Square to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. Don’t forget to see Queen’s Park Savannah, largest oval in the world wherein around its perimeter stand Port of Spain’s “Magnificent Seven” ( a string of impressive colonial houses), the Presidential Palace, Queen’s Hall and the National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA). Queen’s Park Savannah comes alive with spectacular events during the Trinidad & Tobago Carnival.

Gingerbread-style houses, another architectural pride to admire in Port of Spain.

8. Spend an evening of calypso music at a pan yard.

Did you know that Trinidad & Tobago is the home of the only musical instrument invented in the 20th century which is the steel pan? And the best thing to do in Port of Spain in during the evening is to spend it at a pan yard which is open to the public. Some pan yards have a small bar for you to sit on and order a drink while listening to the sounds of Calypso beat mixed with modern pop, a truly unique and magical experience.

9. Meditate at Temple In The Sea in Waterloo near Port of Spain.

It is a Hindu temple solely built by a laborer from India for 25 years using only his bicycle to carry materials, unloading buckets of earth unto the sea to create an artificial ground because he was denied of a land to build such temple. A floating marvel constructed by Siewdass Saddhu, a devout Hindu working at a Waterloo sugar plantation, it is linked to the shore via a causeway. Visit Temple in the Sea which is also a best thing to do in Trinidad, where you can meditate regardless of your faith or religious background.

A country of two islands, Trinidad & Tobago offers travelers a balance mix of natural wonders and upbeat partying. Trinidad, the more populated one is mostly flanked by tourists while her little sister, Tobago is known for its opulent vacation spots and interesting diving sites. The striking difference between these two islands make it a unique destination for you and if one day you will consider a Caribbean tour in the future, Trinidad & Tobago is a good idea.

Reference: Wikipedia