Beauty & the beach
Calm, turquoise waters and gleaming white sand – it’s everybody’s idea of a tropical paradise. Tobago has beaches endowed with every amenity you can imagine, as well as secluded inlets and quiet fishing bays for your Caribbean idyll. It is a pity that Tobago’s most famous (though mythical) visitor never took the opportunity to explore his island’s beaches. Modern day successors to Robinson Crusoe should rectify his omission by hastening to discover the tremendous variety of bays, inlets, coves and strands that make Tobago unique.
Tobago’s beaches offer more variety than Daniel Defoe (Robinson Crusoe’s creator) could ever have imagined. Find your own special stretch of sand — and leave your footprint there!
The south-west of Tobago, from Plymouth to Crown Point, is where the most popular beaches are located
- Canoe Bay: a five-minute drive down a dirt road off the Milford Road, this scenic bay has a calm, shallow beach and an air of serenity. Tobago’s calmest and shallowest bathing beach, it is perfect for young families. Rarely crowded, with excellent facilities including bar and beachfront cabanas. There is a small admission fee
- Pigeon Point: the beach of every tropical dream: tall coconut trees swaying gracefully over dazzling white sand, lapped by a sea of every imaginable shade of blue with a surf-fringed reef in the distance. The water is calm and warm and shallow; the thatch huts shelter you from the sun; and the little bar and restaurant provide cold drinks and an easy meal. Tobago’s most famous beach, its sparkling blue waters, fine white sand and thatched-roof jetty (recently removed) have graced many a postcard. Protected by Buccoo Reef, the calm waters make it ideal for families. Several watersports businesses operate here and along the entrance road; some glass-bottom boat tours also start from here. There’s an entrance fee of TT$20
- Store Bay: a stone’s throw from the airport, this is the heartbeat of Crown Point and one of the most popular (and busy) beaches in Tobago. A relatively small beach cupped on both sides by small coral cliffs, it remains the traditional choice for locals (and visiting Trinidadians). Glass-bottomed boats leave daily for trips to Buccoo Reef and the Nylon Pool. The area is alive with bars, craft stalls, and the famous vendors who cook and serve up from their booths tasty local dishes of crab-and-dumpling, fish broth, or dolphin (mahi mahi) and bake. It’s also home to some of Tobago’s large hotels. Great for swimming, and snorkelling under coral cliffs at southern end. Excellent craft shopping, food stalls, changing rooms.
From Mt Irvine north to Plymouth is Tobago’s “hotel coast”
Unlike other islands, this does not mean that beaches in the area have lost their beauty or character. The Leeward Coast, Tobago’s least populated and most spectacular region, offers some breath-taking beaches – from the fishing villages of Parlatuvier and Castara to the remote perfection of Englishman’s Bay. (If possible, approach from the direction of Moriah, for the best views.)
Castara and Parlatuvier are safe havens for pirogues and seine fishermen, a style of West Indian community life that is fast disappearing; while Englishman’s Bay offers the chance to absorb Nature’s peace on gold sand, wrapped in a green embrace, with blue stretching out to the horizon.
- Back Bay: hidden from the road and approached through a now-abandoned estate, is a wild, remote beach of golden sand. This wonderfully secluded small bay between Mount Irvine and Grafton, accessed via a cliffside trail. Good for body surfing, tanning and snorkelling. It is a beach to walk along, to admire the ruggedness of its rock formations and the wave-patterned curves of broken shells on the sand after high tide. Due to the isolated nature of the beach, it’s best to go in a group
- Bloody Bay: secluded, breezy beach with clear blue waters, nothing at all like its name! The name has many potential origins, among the most popular being from a battle fought during colonial times
- Buccoo: this narrow fishing beach is the centre of the action for Goat and Crab Races at Easter time. There’s a small beach bar on site
- Castara Bay: stunning, quiet and unspoilt beach in a friendly fishing village, with calm water and fine golden sand. The centrepiece of a thriving fishing community, you can enjoy the sight of fishermen bringing in their nets (“pulling seine”) or bread baked in old-fashioned dirt ovens. Excellent facilities including a restaurant, stores and craft stalls. Accommodation nearby. A good place to stop for a meal when driving up the Leeward coast
- Culloden Beach: good snorkelling. Follow the signs to Footprints Eco Resort but drive past the entrance
- Englishman’s Bay: quiet and secluded crescent-shaped bay, hidden by trees, that is becoming increasingly popular. Its deep, clear waters offer good swimming and snorkelling. Craft shopping and restaurant onsite
- Grange Beach (aka The Wall): just past the Mt. Irvine Golf Course, this is an ideal beach for swimming. A popular spot for afternoon dips
- King Peter’s Bay: quiet, calm bay with dark sand. Good snorkelling and spear fishing
- Parlatuvier: fishing village with a tranquil beach and a few snackettes.
- Mt. Irvine: divided in the centre by a headland, with Old Grange Beach to the left and “Little Irvine” to the right. This pair of beaches offers excellent facilities, snorkelling and surfing (in season). Most of the time the sea is like a millpond, but when the waves start to “kick”, it becomes a surfer’s paradise. Surfers frequent this beach during the winter months, when a perfect right break peels across the reef. The hotel side offers refreshments and beach amenities, and is ideal for swimming and snorkelling. Snorkelling gear, canoes and hobie cats can be hired onsite. Facilities include a bar, restaurant, lifeguards, watersports and tour operations
- Stonehaven Bay: a magnificent, rugged dark-sand beach beach with good facilities. The area is home to some of Tobago’s most luxurious resorts and villas
- Turtle Beach (Great Courland Bay): lying on the other side of Black Rock Village from Stonehaven Bay, and as its name suggests, this long, sandy stretch is a retreat for leatherback turtles during the nesting season (March to August).
The Windward Coast (Scarborough to Speyside) has dramatic beaches and bays that are subject to the whims of the Atlantic Ocean
While Belle Garden does have some sheltered beaches, the visitor should probably wait until King’s Bay for a safer swim. And in Charlotteville, a twenty-minute walk from the edge of the village, Pirates’ Bay is the beach-lover’s paradise. From this idyllic spot you can swim and laze and look across Man O’ War Bay to the lush green hills, and remember that view for the rest of your life.
- Bellevue Bay: accessed off the Belle Garden Bay Road junction, the waters here are calm by windward-side standards
- Granby Point: windswept, dark-sand beach near an old fort. Benches and huts make this a cool place to stop on your way up the Windward coast.
- King’s Bay: picturesque long stretch with calm water and good facilities, including showers, lifeguards and shaded cabanas. A good place to buy fresh fish and witness the tradition of “pulling seine”
- Little Rockly Bay: this scenic stretch runs along the old coast road, with crashing waves and stunning Atlantic views. The area has several accommodation options, as well as restaurants and hangouts.
- Man O’ War Bay: the main beach near the serene village of Charlotteville, ideal for swimming. The area is well endowed with cottages, guest houses and eateries. The village is the main venue for the Fishermen’s Festival, held in June. Accommodation nearby
- Minister Bay: the surfers’ standby if Mt. Irvine is not performing: it lies to the north of Bacolet Point
- Pirate’s Bay: a stunning beach with crystal-clear water and a fabulous view, accessed via dirt track from the end of the Charlotteville seafront, or by sea. Also accessible via the Leeward coast
- Richmond Beach: quiet, pretty beach near a river mouth
- Speyside: Tobago’s dive capital, with sandy beaches within swimming distance of the reef, which can also be explored by glass-bottomed boat. Speyside and Blue Waters beaches both offer tranquillity and great snorkelling; the offshore reef is within swimming distance. Glass-bottom boat trips to Angel Reef, Goat Island and Little Tobago start here. The village of Speyside has a Tourist Office, good watersports facilities, an excellent range of accommodation and several good restaurants
- Studley Park (or Pinfold Bay): a sheltered area where local families take their children; this was the site of Tobago’s original capital, Georgetown, and the remnants of Fort Granby can be found on the nearby headland.
Tips & tricks
- Lifeguards are typically on duty 9am–5pm or 10am–6pm where available, but not at all beaches. Red flags indicate unsafe bathing areas
- Permits are required both for camping and for turtle-watching on the nation’s beaches. Contact a reputable tour guide, your hotel, or the Forestry Division to make arrangements
- Tropical sun can quickly give light skins a bad burn, even through cloud, so use your sunscreen.