Tobago holiday guide
Together with its twin, Trinidad, Tobago, is the southernmost of the Caribbean islands, lying off the coast of Venezuela. Sleepy fishing villages such as Charlotteville and white-sand beaches dot its coastline, and turtles and hammerhead sharks patrol the waters of surrounding reefs. The island’s central rainforest ridge has a series of hiking trails, and is a haven for South American and West Indian bird species, including the white-tailed sabrewing and rufous-tailed jacamar. On Tobago holidays you can also see tropical birds at Grafton Caledonia Wildlife Sanctuary or admire views of the coast from Fort Bennett and Fort James.
The capital Scarborough is a small, busy port town. Stalls and shops line the waterfront beyond the cruise-ship pier, and there is a lively produce market. A walk uphill leads to the Botanical Gardens where an orchid house and ponds are edged by Poinciana and palm trees. The best views of the coast are from a restored colonial fortification, Fort King George. The officer’s quarters house the pint-sized Tobago Museum, where you can learn about the island’s history.
Eating and drinking
The island’s cuisine is influenced by the African, Chinese, European, and Syrian origins of its inhabitants. Typical dishes include spicy curried crab served with boiled dumplings; and callalo, a popular soup or side dish made from a creamy puree of spinach-like leaves cooked down with okra, thyme, and coconut milk. Bake and Shark is popular street food: fried fish steak, topped with salad and herbs, and garlic or hot pepper sauce, is stuffed into a puffy, fried-dough bun. Locals wash it down with coconut water drunk straight from the husk.
Active pursuits in Tobago
Tobago is surrounded by crystal-clear waters, so snorkelling and diving are major draws. Several reefs are within swimming distance of the beaches, including at Pirates Bay in the north where angel, parrot, and damsel fish swim the waters. Tobago is particularly renowned for its drift dives, such as at Kelleston Drain where you will pass giant brain coral. Golfers can play two 18-hole championship courses, Mount Irvine Bay Golf Club on the Caribbean coast and Tobago Plantations Golf and Country Club on the Atlantic. Both occupy the site of former coconut plantations and have ocean views from their greens.
Arts and culture
Many of Tobago’s traditions are fun and quirky. Goat racing features at festivals and events throughout the year: jockeys run alongside their goats in a race to be first over the finishing line. Crab races are another spectator sport, with bets often placed on the competing crustaceans. Art galleries and craft stalls across the island sell paintings and handicrafts inspired by Tobago’s scenery, and there are wooden and bronze sculptures for sale at the Kimme Museum.
Tobago’s coast offers a mix of secluded bays, rocky coves, and lively beaches with water-sports, including Pigeon Point. At Mount Irvine Beach, in the south-west, a thick carpet of sand forms a double horseshoe and is backed by a thicket of seagrape and palm trees. To the north, the arcs of sand at Stonehaven Bay and Turtle Beach are turtle-hatching territory. At nearby Arnos Vale, cliffs covered in tropical foliage frame the sands, and there is good snorkelling just offshore.
Nightlife and entertainment
Tobago’s nightlife is low-key. Many hotels and resorts have a program of live music in the evenings—expect calypso and reggae bands. Crown Point on the south-west coast has a handful of bars and nightclubs with live music and DJs. The weekly social highlight for visitors and islanders is Sunday School, a dance party held in the fishing village of Buccoo. Steel bands play, and stalls offer barbecued chicken and fish and serve rum cocktails.
Over two hundred bird species have been catalogued on Tobago. You do not have to be an experienced birdwatcher to see hummingbirds, woodpeckers, and flycatchers when taking an early-morning or late-afternoon walk in the Main Ridge Forest Reserve. Boat trips head out to offshore island Little Tobago, a designated bird sanctuary, to see the colonies of frigates and boobies. Arrange a nature tour with an expert guide if you want to witness leatherback turtles hatching at Turtle Beach or Stonehaven Bay.
Countryside in Tobago
Coastal lowlands in the south contrast with mountainous, rainforest landscape in the north. A section is protected by Tobago’s Main Ridge Forest Reserve, the oldest protected area of rainforest in the western hemisphere. A steep road meanders through the reserve, making for a scenic drive. From Gilpin Trace hire a guide to lead you on one of several walking trails. The Gilpin Trail cuts through ferns, palms, and bamboo to a series of waterfalls.