People come from all over the region not just for Carnival, but to experience the range of liming, partying, and cultural offerings you can find across Trinidad — especially around Port of Spain. Whatever your speed, you’ll find something to feed your soul or help you set the night on fire.
Serious liming & partying
If it’s one thing Trinis take seriously, it’s partying. Our reputation as the party animals of the Caribbean has been hard-earned and we do our best to maintain it. In addition to the numerous rum shops, holes in the wall and casinos (aka private members’ clubs) popping up across the island, Trinis love to put on their dancing shoes and head out to a club on the weekend.
Friday and Saturday evenings (weeknights too) on Ariapita Avenue in Woodbrook become virtual street parties as the crowds spill out of the many bars and onto the sidewalks, while others drift to and from the street food stalls and vans. From July to Ash Wednesday, the social calendar is taken over by literally hundreds of all-inclusive band launch fetes (massive parties), concerts, and boat rides where you will hear the soca hits for the year played and performed by the big bands.
Some of the most popular bar and club haunts are:
- Around Port of Spain: 51° Lounge; Drink! Lounge & Bistro; HAZE; Katalyst; Luce; More Vino; Old Havana Lounge; Paprika Bistro; Queen’s Park Oval; Sails Restaurant & Pub (Chaguaramas); Siam Nightclub; Smokey & Bunty’s; Studio Lounge; Trotters; Tzar; and Vas Lounge
- Heading east and central: Island Club Casino (Valsayn); Sandbaggers (Trincity); Trevor’s Edge (St Augustine); Woodford Café (Chaguanas)
- Around San Fernando: Club Next; Hi RPM; Privé; Royal Princess Casino (also with branches in Port of Spain and Chaguanas); and Space La Nouba.
A cauldron of creativity, visual artists abound in Trinidad, with galleries constantly exhibiting the many talented painters who call this island home — Soft Box, 101 Art Gallery, Alice Yard, Fine Art, Horizons, Medulla, Studio 66, and the seven galleries of the National Museum, among others. The newly refurbished Killarney or Stollmeyer’s Castle also hosts exhibitions.
The most famous expats are Peter Doig (“The White Canoe”) and Chris Ofili (Turner Prize winner), while late locals whom collectors fawn over include Michel-Jean Cazabon and Boscoe Holder. Look out for work by Edward Bowen, Leroy Clarke, Chris Cozier, Ken Crichlow, Jackie Hinkson, Llanos & Maingot figurines, Che Lovelace, Shastri Maharaj, Brianna McCarthy, Wendy Nanan, Lisa O’Connor, Halcian Pierre, Ashraph Ramsaran, Shalini Seereeram, Peter Sheppard, Irénée Shaw, Sundiata, and Jasmine Thomas-Girvan, to name but a few; as well as classic work by the late MP Alladin, Sybil Atteck, Ralph and Vera Baney, Pat Bishop, Isaiah Boodhoo, Carlisle Chang, Boscoe Holder, Dermot Louison, Lisa O’Connor, Noel Vaucrosson, and 19th-century painter Michel-Jean Cazabon.
For more: The Art Society of T&T: 622-9827
Fashion & jewellery
Of course you have to look good since Trinis are extremely fashion-conscious. Designers from Trinidad have an edgy style and you can pick up the perfect little black dress, an abstract batik gown or funky suit that would rock any runway. Some of the top names to look out for are The Cloth, Bene Caribe, Christian Boucaud, CLD, Ecliff, Elie, Adrian Foster, House of Jaipur, Heather Jones, K2K, Lisa Faye, Loud by Afiya, the Lush Kingdom, Meiling, Millhouse, Claudia Pegus, Rebel, Shop Shari, Tropix, and the Wadada Movement.
You can’t go wrong with beautiful pieces from Chris Anderson, Gillian Bishop, Cocoa Vintage, Janice Derrick, Akilah Jaramogi, Rachel Rochford, Rachel Ross, Jasmine Thomas-Girvan, and others who create breath-taking, hand-crafted jewellery in precious metals and stones.
Theatre: our world onstage
Productions of both local and foreign musicals, plays, and experimental performances are staged by commercial, university, and community theatre companies. There are stand-up comedy acts as well. Look for shows at Queen’s Hall, the National Academy for Performing Arts (NAPA), Central Bank, Little Carib, Big Black Box, and Trinidad Theatre Workshop (Port of Spain); the CLR James Auditorium and University of the West Indies (UWI) in the east; and Naparima Bowl and SAPA (the southern campus of the NAPA) in San Fernando.
Dance: all the right moves
We love to dance. Any opportunity we get, Trinis will start dancing. We are credited with inventing the limbo, after all. Originally an event at wakes, it was popularised by our own Julia Edwards, a dance pioneer who appeared in several films (Fire Down Below, 1957) and toured the world in the 1960s, performing the dance.
Another one of our dance legends, Beryl McBurnie, founder of the Little Carib Theatre, was the first person to promote Caribbean dance internationally. When the acclaimed dancer Katherine Dunham arrived in New York in 1938, it was McBurnie who gave her private lessons in the rhythms and dances of the West Indies. She also taught Dunham ritual Yoruba chants from Trinidad and dances such as the bongo — a dance, like the limbo, done at wakes — and kalinda, where stickfighting opponents dance (carre) in between exchanging blows!
Schools and dance companies present in a range of styles — regional folk dance (including the indigenous limbo, bongo, and bele), ballet, jazz, modern, and Indian classical, plus experimental multi-media productions at many of the same venues as listed for theatre (above).
Ready to move it, move it?
If you want to dance (or can’t quite get the hang of this wining thing!) and want private lessons or classes, look no further than these two women-only studios (sorry, fellas): SHE Casa (Curepe, 398-8406) and Provocative Fitness (Woodbrook, 339-9496), which also offers pole dancing and aerial hoops (for children as well). The N9 Dance Studio is a one-stop studio for belly dancing, pole dancing, hip hop, salsa, merengue, cha cha cha, tango, flamenco, East Indian contemporary dance. There is also a kids’ studio (Port of Spain, 623-8134/758-1110. To learn the Afro-Brazilian martial art capoeira, check out Senzala Capoeira (Port of Spain, 764-8304). Mixed martial arts are quite popular and dojos can be found from Port of Spain to Arima, as well as Chaguanas and San Fernando.
Literature & books
- For book lovers: book launches, readings and lectures take place at the National Library, the universities of the West Indies and Trinidad & Tobago, the National Museum, at bookstores (like Paper Based, RIK, and Nigel R Khan), and during the Bocas Lit Fest (see our Festivals section)
- Good reads: look out for works (spanning fiction, plays, poetry, local history, culture, and the environment) by Nobel laureates VS Naipaul and Derek Walcott, plus Claire Adam, Andre Alexis, Michael Anthony, Gerard Besson, Lloyd Best, Angelo Bissessarsingh, Danielle Boodoo-Fortuné, Dionne Brand, Aarti Gosein, Kevin Jared Hosein, Barbara Jenkins, CLR James, Oonya Kempadoo, Julian Kenny, John La Rose, Earl Lovelace, Ian MacDonald, Sharon Millar, Maria Nunes, Elizabeth Nunez, Shivanee Ramlochan, Judy Raymond, Monique Roffey, Sam Selvon, Amanda Smyth, and former prime minister Eric Williams
- Publishers: a handful of companies produce books and magazines, including Paria Publishing and MEP (our publishers, who also produce magazines like Caribbean Beat, and books of Caribbean interest under book imprint Prospect Press).
Film & cinema
The film industry has long been earmarked for growth, and incentive and rebate programmes have made the islands an attractive location for filming. Work by locally-based and Caribbean diaspora artists are on show at the annual T&T Film Festival (see our Festivals section). Some home-grown features also get runs at local cinemas (the most popular of which are MovieTowne in Port of Spain and Chaguanas; Caribbean Cinemas 8 in Trincity and San Fernando; and the Digicel IMAX in Port of Spain). The UWI Campus Film Classics and European Film Festival (usually in May) host special screenings of regional and foreign indie films.
Music, like dance, is in the Trini DNA. Tony and Grammy winning singer/actress Heather Headley; Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Angela Hunte; award-winning rap/hip-hop artist Nicki Minaj; and the late, celebrated performer Geoffrey Holder are all Trinidadian. Of our indigenous music, these are among the most significant:
- Calypso dates back to pre-Emancipation times, when slaves created songs as a form of praise or derisive social commentary, and rose to international popularity in the 1930s–50s. Soca — calypso’s up-tempo progeny born in the 70s and incorporating Indian musical influences — is the islands’ party music. Some hits have become international sensations. Calypso and soca are the building blocks for a range of other fusion forms.
- Chutney: born of Hindi folk songs and instrumentation (like the sitar and dholak drums). There’s also a hybrid with soca (called, you guessed it, chutney soca!).
- Tassa is a drum-driven music central to the Muslim festival of Hosay, but the drums are fused with other musical forms and celebrations year-round.
- Parang is Trinidad’s Christmas music, with origins in Venezuela, and featuring instruments like the cuatro, box bass, and maracas, and lyrics usually sung in Spanish.
Indigenous music is only the beginning. Some of the most distinctive groups include fusion bands Freetown Collective, jointpop, Kin Sound System, and Canada-based Kobo Town; the rapso of 3canal; the Indo-Caribbean music of Mungal Patasar & Pantar; the Orisha songs of Ella Andall; and local rock, reggae, and jazz artists including Etienne Charles, Vaughnette Bigford, and Candice Alcantara. Groups like the Signal Hill Alumni Choir specialise in local folk music, while the the Marionettes, Southernaires, Lydians, and Love Movement present folk, western classical, opera, and Broadway, and are particularly popular at Christmas time.
Enjoy the air-conditioned comfort of one of the major malls — The Falls at West Mall, and Long Circular Mall (Port of Spain); Trincity Mall; C3 Centre, South Park and Gulf City malls (San Fernando), or Centre Pointe and Centre City malls (Chaguanas). Or visit the many plazas like Ellerslie Plaza (Maraval), Price Plaza (Chaguanas), MovieTowne Mall (Port of Spain); the sprawling City of Grand Bazaar (Valsayn); or a variety of specialty shops and markets.
SPECIALTY SHOPS & MARKETS
The Market Shops at the Normandie (St Ann’s) have a wonderful selection, and host outfits like the beloved Paper Based Bookshop. The Green Market Santa Cruz offers fresh local produce, meals, artisanal items and more each Saturday morning. And if this is your speed, you’ll also want to visit Rootsyardd in St Ann’s, and pop-up markets like those organised by Upmarket, Bits & Pieces, and Planting Seeds. For the best locally grown produce, check out where the NAMDEVCO markets will be each week (National Agricultural Marketing & Development Corporation, namdevco.com). Seasonally, around Carnival and Emancipation Day, the Queen’s Park Savannah hosts a number of vendors selling local and international art, craft, and fashion.
Bargain-hunters make a beeline for Frederick and Charlotte streets (Port of Spain); High St (San Fernando); and Main St (Chaguanas).
SHOPPING FOR PIECES OF PARADISE
ALCOHOL & BEVERAGES
Think award-winning local rums (like Angostura 1919); the world-famous Angostura Bitters; local beers like Carib and Stag; and unusual flavours like 11 Degrees North sorrel wine.
COCOA & CHOCOLATE
Indulge that sweet (or bitter!) tooth with some of the award-winning cocoa and chocolate the islands produce. Trinitario, the variety of cocoa developed in Trinidad, is used by French luxury chocolate manufacturer Valrhona, and many others. Try products from Brasso Seco, Bushe, Cacique, Cocobel, Cush Machel Montano, Gran Couva, Ortinola Great House, Sun Eaters, and the Trinidad & Tobago Fine Cocoa Company.
If you’ve fallen in love with our food, then pastelles, roti skins, seasonings, spices, pepper sauces, and chutneys are things that you might want to load up on. For the brave, try the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Pepper (once ranked as the world’s hottest pepper by the Guinness Book of Records). And for pepper and pimento sauces, Bertie’s is considered among the best. Also look out for Twigs Natural teas; CGA flavoured coconut oils; and Karibbean Flavours’ many offerings.
Written by Discover Trinidad & Tobago