At JFC, we have a fantastic team of remote workers from all over the world. Not only does this help us as a company, but we also want to share our local knowledge so you can get the insider’s scoop on how to enjoy our team’s hometown best!
As a true 'Trini to the bone,' I've lived in Trinidad for most of my life with very frequent trips to Tobago. I'm happy to share all the tips I have on experiencing Trinidad and Tobago to the fullest.
A little bit about the history of the islands
Located just off the northern coast of South America, at the tailbone of the Caribbean arch, the twin-island of Trinidad and Tobago (casually known as T&T) has both the vibrant Caribbean city life while still enjoying the region's signature sand, sea, and sun.
Both islands are known for offering a wide variety of natural landscapes and wildlife - which are a tad different from what you might find on other Caribbean islands, probably because T&T used to be physically connected to South America a long time ago.
In Trinidad, you'll discover savannahs, waterfalls, isolated beaches, giant leatherback turtles, and tropical rain forests - where you might spot howler monkeys, ocelots and more.
Tobago has white sand beaches, and the coral reefs are full of a variety of fishes and manta rays. If you're into birdwatching, you're in for a treat because there are more than 472 different species of birds between the islands! And let's not forget about the Tobago Forest Reserve, which is one of the oldest protected forests in the world.
In this guide we'll cover:
- What to expect
- What to budget
- Best time to visit
- What to pack
- Where to stay
- How to get around
- What to eat
- How to get around
- Things to do
What to expect: music and people
Trinidad and Tobago is known for creating some of the musical genres often associated with the Caribbean, like Soca (or ‘Soul of Calypso,’ the most popular), calypso - a fusion of spoken word with music and steel pan (also known as steel drums) - an instrument made from oil drums. It's also home to the largest carnival celebration within the region.
Trinbagonians are happy-go-lucky people with a party-centric culture where there's never a bad time to go "liming" (hanging out with friends and family usually with food and alcohol).
What to budget
While it's possible to experience Trinidad and Tobago on a budget, it requires a bit of planning - the average daily budget for a two-week trip is TT$1300, or US$200. However, if you're okay with staying at budget-friendly accommodations and using public transportation, it can be brought down to TT$500, or US$80, per day.
Although most places accept US dollars, having the local currency TT dollars, especially in small notes like $5s, $10s, and $20s, will come in handy when using public transport and buying from street vendors.
If you need to exchange currency in Trinidad and Tobago, it's good to know that while there are foreign exchange bureaus at both Piarco and Robinson airports, they may not offer the most competitive rates. Since bureaus can be hard to come by on the islands, it's generally best to go through a bank for larger exchanges.
For smaller quantities, using an ATM is your best bet as most major credit cards are recognized in Trinidad and Tobago. Credit card companies can get a little wary when they see charges from a new and unfamiliar location, so it's a good idea to let your credit card provider know about your upcoming trip to avoid any unwanted blocks on your card.
Best time to visit
Although the temperature on both islands is warm year-round, the drier seasons from January to April are the optimal times for a perfect beach day.
December is also a great option for a Christmas vacation, but be sure to bring a small umbrella just in case, as rainfall can be unpredictable but usually short-lived. I've found that it often rains on Christmas day, so it's better to be safe than soggy!
The wet season on both islands is from late May to November, with the heaviest rainfall usually occurring from August to October. Although the hurricane season runs from June to October, the islands are located outside of the hurricane belt, so they are less likely to be affected by hurricanes.
However, there are still tropical storms and flash floods in certain areas, like Port of Spain. These floods typically only last a day or two, and then it's back to normal. As the Trinis say, "We're jammin' still"!
What to pack
Bathing suits, bathing suits, and more bathing suits (I’m only half kidding)! The weather can get pretty hot and humid. Locals tend to wear light colors made of natural fibers like cotton and linen; you can’t go wrong following their lead!
To fully enjoy the outdoors on both islands, it's important to protect yourself from the sun with lots of sunscreen, preferably reef-safe or containing mineral sun-blockers that won't harm the environment. Don't forget to pack insect repellent as well, as mosquitos and sandflies can get a bit too friendly, particularly during the wet season. If you plan to go snorkeling, most tour companies provide snorkeling gear, but it’s recommended you bring your own.
For electronics, T&T's electrical current runs on 110 or 220 volts, and the plug pins are the same as an American 2 or 3 pin, so it’s best to plan for up to 220 volts. It's also a good idea to pack a multi-outlet extension cord as they always come in handy. Other items to pack include breathable sneakers, flip flops, and a small purse to carry essentials while liming.
Where to Stay
Trinidad's economy is mainly focused on oil, gas, and manufacturing, which is why it's rare to find a 'true' resort on the island, unlike other Caribbean destinations. When deciding where to stay in Trinidad, it's best to consider your travel plans.
For example, if you're interested in watersports, ziplining, and golfing, check out the Crews Inn hotel located in Chaguaramas on the western side of Trinidad. It's conveniently located on a marina, and their staff is more than happy to arrange fun activities for you.
However, if birdwatching is more your thing, the Palms hotel on the east-west corridor is a great option as it's close to popular bird sanctuaries like the Caroni Bird Sanctuary, Asa Wright Natural Center, and Yerette Hummingbird Sanctuary.
A favorite of many celebrity visitors is the Hyatt and Radisson hotels, located in downtown Port of Spain, and the Brix and Hilton hotel on the upper end of Port of Spain. They offer walking proximity to the city center where most activities take place. However, you can find many guest houses on Booking.com and Airbnb for much lower prices.
If you're planning a trip around the carnival season, be sure to book well in advance as prices for accommodations skyrocket during this period.
Tobago's economy is much more geared towards tourism and offers more conventional hotel resort accommodations. Crown Point is the central tourist hub where you can find a variety of accommodations to suit different budgets.
The Kariwak Hotel is an excellent option for environmentally friendly travelers. They grow a large portion of food on-site and are known for their efforts to minimize their carbon footprint. Sandy Point Beach Club is a timeshare property suited for larger groups with rooms for up to ten people and hosts daily activities and sightseeing tours.
Resorts like Magdalena Grand Beach Resort and Grafton Beach Resort offer an all-inclusive resort experience. However, but you may need to hire a car for activities outside the resort.
If you're looking for a no-frills place to stay in Tobago, under-the-radar guesthouses offer simple accommodation for TTD350/ USD50 or less per night. You wouldn't find these guesthouses on travel booking sites as they prefer to operate using Facebook. Try searching for ‘guesthouses in [location]' on Facebook to find them. To avoid any issues, choose a guesthouse that lets you pay on arrival.
What to eat
Like many aspects of the country, the Trinbagonian food scene is a melting pot of Indian, African, Chinese, and Middle Eastern influences. Some must-try food while on the islands include:
Doubles pictured above
Doubles - As a tourist, be prepared to be asked by everyone you encounter, "Have you tried doubles yet?". Doubles, or sometimes triples if you're hungry, is the ultimate Trinbago street food. It's made with two or three fried flatbread (hence the name doubles and triples) called bara, curried chickpeas (curried chana), and garnished with mango, shado beni, cucumber, chutney or pepper sauce.
There's a running joke that asking for light pepper usually means medium to heavy pepper depending on the doubles man, be sure to mention no pepper for the less spicy variation. After a few tries, most people stick with an order that works for them. My go-to doubles is ‘everything with slight pepper’.
Asking who serves the best doubles is a sure-fire way to start a lengthy debate. However, many will agree that Sauce doubles in Curepe is the most popular.
Bake and shark - ‘Shark burger,’ as Maroon 5 coined it, is a signature Trinidadian meal that's a must-try if you’re anywhere near Maracas beach. The sandwich is made up of bake (fried dough) and filleted kingfish (the name heralds back to the days when eating shark was more commonplace.)
Pelau - The unofficial Trinbagonian party food. There's always a plate of pelau at gatherings, both large and small. The African-influenced one-pot dish consists of rice, pigeon peas, meat (or chicken), cooked with green seasoning and coconut milk. It pairs well with Zaboca (avocado) when in season. Pelau can be easily found in any creole restaurant.
Curried crab and dumplings - It may not be the most picturesque of meals, but it is very filling. Be prepared to get your hands, napkins, and, inevitably, your clothes messy as the easiest way to eat this is with your hands. The best place to find authentic curry crab and dumplings is at Ms. Trimms located down on Store Bay.
Trinidad and Tobago has an array of seafood and meat-based dishes, but it may be trickier to find food that suits special diets. While most restaurants offer options for vegetarians, pescatarians, and halaal diets, other specialty diets may require some adjustments.
You can let your host or hotel know ahead of time for necessary modifications, or you can download food delivery apps like 'FoodDrop' or 'Skipdline' while in Trinidad and choose from a wide variety of options.
How to get around
Public transportation is a convenient way to get around the islands, but if you plan on exploring beyond the towns and cities, renting a car may be necessary. However, keep in mind that car rental costs can add up quickly, averaging around TTD250/ USD36 per day on both islands.
Trinidad and Tobago's public transportation system includes color-coded passenger vans called maxi-taxis and government-approved h-licensed taxis. The latter are regular cars with license plates that start with the letter "H." Taxis are ideal for short distances or off-route trips, and you can download Allridi, PinkCab, or TTRS, the island's equivalents of Uber. For longer distances, you can take the maxi-taxi, which operates on a fixed bus route similar to train routes. Fares are distance-dependent and typically range from TTD 5/USD 0.74 to TTD20/USD3.
For travel between the islands, flag carrier Caribbean Airlines offers round trip flights at TTD 400/USD 59 for adults and TTD300/USD45 for children, and the flight time is just 20 minutes.
The local ferries offer a more budget-friendly option at TTD 100/USD 15 round trip. It comes twice a day at the jetty in Independence Square, Port of Spain, and three times a day from the cruise ship complex in Scarborough, but can take up to 3 hours.
Things to do
Pigeon Point Beach
Visit the beaches
Trinidad's beaches may not make the cut for the most stunning beaches list, but the lively blue-green waters offer great surfing and water sports.
The iconic Maracas Bay is the most popular beach in Trinidad, but for a less crowded experience, take your bake and shark from Maracas and head to Damien Bay, just a few minutes away by car. Blanchisseuse, Columbus Bay, and Mayaro beach are also worth checking out, but if you're looking for peace and quiet, visit Las Cuevas on a weekday morning when you can have the entire beach to yourself.
In Tobago, you will find the more picturesque beaches of T&T, with Pigeon Point Beach being the most popular. Keep in mind there's an entry fee of TTD 20/USD 3. Other stunning beaches to explore around the island include English Man's Bay, Castara, Pirate's Bay, Mt Irvine, Speyside, Store Bay, and Bloody Bay. Many of these beaches remain unspoiled, and each has its own historical significance.
Pump up your Adrenaline
There are many popular activities for thrill-seekers across Trinidad like ziplining, mountain biking, hiking, and watersports.
Most hiking trails in Trinidad lead to a waterfall where you can cool off. For new hikers, there are plenty of choices: Avocat waterfront, Rio Seco, Maracas Waterfall, and Bamboo Cathedral are relatively easy hikes. For more experienced hikers, Paria Bay, Turure water steps, and El Tucuche (Trinidad's second tallest mountain) might be worth the challenge.
It’s not far-fetched to come across a wild animal on some of these hiking trails - for safety reasons, solo hiking is not recommended on the islands. There are many hiking groups like The Island Hikers that have group tours on the weekends if you need someone to go with.
Jet skiing, wakeboarding, paddleboarding, and dolphin boarding are only a few of the water sports you'd find on the islands. You can find water sports companies on Pigeon Point Beach or in Chaguaramas, or pre-book with Liquid Adrenalin, a specialty watersports company.
Go bird watching
Trinidad is a birdwatcher's paradise with more than 470 indigenous bird species and winter migrants from Europe, North and South America. The ASA Wright Nature Center in Arima is the best place to spot many of these species. If you're specifically looking for the national bird, the Scarlet Ibis, then the Caroni Bird Sanctuary is a must-visit. For a unique and unforgettable experience, head to Yerette's Hummingbird Sanctuary in Maracas, where you can see up to fourteen of the eighteen species of hummingbirds found on the islands.
Many tour companies offer island tours around Tobago, which usually include the Tobago rain forest and as many beaches as possible. These tours can sometimes cost a premium price, but for a budget-friendly option, most guest house hosts are willing to do personal tours once they are told in advance. Buccoo Jemma's SeaView Kitchen, nicknamed Jemma's Treehouse since it's built on a tree, gives you a fabulous view of Speyside Beach. You will want to book early, especially if you plan to visit during lunchtime. I recommend the breadfruit pie. It's delicious!
In Trinidad, check out the stunning views from Fort George and San Fernando hill. Mud volcanoes around the island, like Devil's Woodland and Logan Bouffe, are said to have healing properties when bathed in. Don’t forget about the La Brea Pitch Lake, a UNESCO world heritage site that also holds the title of the world's largest pitch lake.
If you’re looking for a fun day trip, check out the Bocas Islands, also known as Down De Islands or DDI. These mini islands, located between Trinidad and Venezuela, are the perfect day trip destination accessible by boat rides from Crews Inn in Chaguaramas. Each of the five islands has something unique to offer, but Gasparee Island stands out with its limestone caverns and caves that glow in the dark. And if you're feeling brave, why not check out the haunted Chacachacare Island?
Carnival is the most anticipated festival in Trinidad and Tobago. Preparation usually begins a year in advance, starting from the end of the previous carnival season. It's not uncommon to find revelers booking hotels and flights for the next carnival season before the current carnival is over as prices do tend to rise the closer it gets to the season.
There's a lot to see and do all over the country during this season, like the Comedy Festival, Calypso Competition, and King and Queen Shows. The Carnival Village at the Queen's Park Savannah in Port of Spain is the home base for most shows and is open 24/7 during this season, with some free concerts during the buildup to main events and lots of food. Ticket federation and Island E-tickets are the best places to find the latest carnival schedule and book fetes (parties). Budget tip: all-inclusive options may seem more expensive but are usually better value.
There's always something to do in Trinidad and Tobago. Every public holiday comes with its own festivities, and there are many smaller festivals like the Bocas Lit Festival and the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival that take place year-round. While not an exhaustive list, some of the more prominent festivals include:
Trinidad Carnival - Takes place in February to early March and is celebrated on both islands. The six-week celebration features cultural showcases, Soca fetes, Children's Carnival, Jouvert, and steel pan competitions, which ends in a massive two-day parade of the band. The Tobago Sailing Regatta, sometimes called the Festival of the Wind, takes place right after the carnival in Pigeon Point. The celebration invites local and international competitors to participate in various sailing competitions like wind and kitesurfing.
Tobago Goat and Crab Racing Festival - Many patrons, gather at the goat racing arena in Buccoo as part of the Easter celebrations to watch really athletic goats compete for a grand prize.
Tobago Jazz Festival - Takes place in late-April and usually lasts for a week. The series of concerts attracts both local and internationally renowned names in Jazz, Worldbeat, Soca, Calypso, Reggae, R&B, and Latin music.
Tobago Heritage Festival - A two-week event held in mid-July to early August, which celebrates Tobago's traditions with depictions of the old-time days like a traditional or as we say ‘ole time’ wedding, Bele dancing, and the Heritage Queen competition. It's also a great time to try local food like the famous crab and dumplings.
Blue Food Festival - Celebrates Tobago's love for local cuisine, especially the blue root, dasheen. During the event, the native starch is used to make creative appetizers, entrees, desserts, and liqueur for a grand prize. The event takes place in October and is held in Bloody Bay, Tobago.
Parang Season - Started as a form of caroling during the Spanish colonial era, Parang music, a fusion of upbeat Soca and Latin sounds, is usually associated with Christmas. However, showcases can start as early as September. Nowadays, the house to house serenading tradition only happens within close-knit rural communities, but Parang can still be enjoyed in most public spaces. The best place to enjoy Parang is in Paramin in Trinidad, during the Christmas season when you can also grab some tasty pastelles.
There are many reasons why I love calling T&T home, but my favorite has to be that there's never a dull moment, you can always find something going on between the islands. Trinidad offers the bustling city experience with lots of parties, hikes, and watersports. It's also the ideal place to be for the carnival season! Tobago, the yin to Trinidad's yang, is more slow-paced, perfect for cooling off or taking a break from a busy schedule. When visiting the islands, be prepared to wine (Caribbean dance style), play, and eat to your heart's content!
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