Our favourite sightseeing and eco escapes
For eco adventures, book a registered tour operator or guide (see gotrinidadandtobago.com and visittobago.gov.tt). And as always, you can explore the rest of our Trinidad Touring & sightseeing section for even more in-depth coverage of sites by region.
Trinidad’s human and physical landscapes vary vastly from coast to coast. Starting early (and going against or without traffic), you can drive the entire island in a day if you want, using our list of favourite sites below to help pick your stops. From Port of Spain, head east on the Churchill-Roosevelt Highway. From Arima, continue east to Valencia, then either northeast towards dramatic Toco and Grande Rivière, or southeast to Sangre Grande, through the Cocal (coconut forest) of Manzanilla and on to Mayaro. From Mayaro village, you can either retrace your steps or cross the island westwards, through Rio Claro and Princes Town, and explore the southwestern peninsula, following the coast past La Brea and Point Fortin towards Icacos. Cedros and Columbus Bays are magical. On your way back to San Fernando, take note of the Pitch Lake (see below) and the oil-based industry that drives Point Fortin. You can speed back to Port of Spain along the Solomon Hochoy Highway, or take the old route via the Southern Main Road, past Claxton Bay, the sprawling Point Lisas Industrial Estate (the world’s two largest methanol plants are found here), the Waterloo Temple and Hanuman Murti. For shorter drives, head west to Chaguaramas, with its National Heritage Park and marinas of moored yachts from across the globe; or along the North Coast Road to Blanchisseuse.
Especially for history, culture & architecture buffs…
If you’re into history and cultural preservation, you’ll be interested in the work of the National Trust (nationaltrust.tt, 225-4750/277-6105). In addition to their mandate to preserve buildings of historical importance (churches and cathedrals, mosques, mandirs, colonial-era mansions and estates, museums, and much more), they also arrange heritage tours, lectures, exhibitions, and film screenings to promote awareness and appreciation.
CATHEDRAL OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION (PORT OF SPAIN)
Recently refurbished and standing at the eastern end of the Brian Lara Promenade downtown, this Catholic cathedral was built between 1816 and 1832. Designated as a minor basilica, one of its most distinctive features is its stained-glass windows, which depict Trinidad’s history.
CATHEDRAL OF THE HOLY TRINITY (PORT OF SPAIN)
Completed in 1818 in the Gothic revival style, with its hammerbeam roof made of local wood, this is one of several historic buildings overlooking Woodford Square (see below).
FORT GEORGE (PORT OF SPAIN)
Built in 1804, this “virgin fort” (which never saw military action) offers a magnificent panoramic view from 335m (1,100ft) above sea level. On a clear day, you can see to south Trinidad, and west to Venezuela. Open 10am–6pm, admission free
HANUMAN MURTI & DATTATREYA YOGA CENTRE (CARAPACHAIMA)
Donated by an Indian swami, this 26m/85ft statue of Hanuman (the Hindu monkey god of strength) is reputed to be the tallest of its kind outside India. It towers above the adjoining yoga centre.
HOLY ROSARY CHURCH (Catholic, Port of Spain)
Also undergoing restoration works, this Gothic revival church near the eastern end of Park Street dates back to 1866. Like the Cathedral downtown, its stained glass is absolutely stunning.
“MAGNIFICENT SEVEN” (PORT OF SPAIN)
These colonial-era homes along the northwestern side of the Queen’s Park Savannah are in varying degrees of repair and use, with diverse histories and ownership. From south to north: Queen’s Royal College (1904, boys’ secondary school); Hayes Court (1910, Anglican Bishop’s residence); Milles Fleurs (1904); Roomor (private home); the Roman Catholic Archbishop’s residence (1903); and Whitehall (1907) and Killarney or Stollmeyer’s Castle (1904). Many have both benefitted from recent and beautiful restoration work. And though not officially part of the Magnificent Seven, Knowsley House on the southern side of the Savannah is another beautifully restored colonial-era building.
MILITARY & AVIATION MUSEUM (CHAGUARAMAS)
Located on the Western Main Road next to the coastguard training ground and the heliport, it chronicles the military history of the country from 1498 to the present. facebook.com/militarymuseumtt, 634-4391
NATIONAL MUSEUM & ART GALLERY (PORT OF SPAIN)
Headquartered on upper Frederick Street, the Museum houses new collections, retrospectives of the island’s major artists (including the works of 19th-century artist Jean-Michel Cazabon), period installations, mineral and marine displays, ethnic artefacts, and the Sports Foundation Gallery. The Museum has small branches in Fort San Andres (South Quay), and the Museum of the T&T Police Service (Old Police Headquarters on St Vincent Street). Admission is free, and guided tours are available. Open Tuesday–Saturday • nmag.gov.tt, 623-5941/0339
TEMPLE IN THE SEA (WATERLOO)
Forbidden by colonial officials to build a Hindu temple on land, Siewdass Sadhu tirelessly built his “floating mandir” some 150m/500ft out into the Gulf of Paria instead. He laboured for 25 years, but sea erosion prevented him from completing it before his death. In 1994, the government completed it for the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the island’s first Indian indentured immigrants. Though the structure is most impressive at high tide, the exposed mud flats at low tide are great for bird-watching. The causeway opens 6am–6pm, and the temple itself at the caretaker’s discretion
Walk out onto the rocky outcrop at Galera Point, beyond the lighthouse (built in 1897, and named after the island’s double Olympic javelin medallist), and you’ll experience something beautiful and unusual. Here, at this northeastern-most point of the island, two bodies of water meet: the navy blue Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the turquoise Caribbean Sea to the north. There is a distinct demarcation in colour between them. The site is also sacred to the island’s First Peoples, whose ancestors are said to have jumped to their deaths here rather than be recaptured by the Spanish after the 1699 Arena Uprising; and to Orisha devotees, who celebrate the Olukun Festival of the ocean here each February.
WOODFORD SQUARE (PORT OF SPAIN)
Several distinct buildings overlook historic Woodford Square. Completed in 1818 in the Gothic revival style, with its hammerbeam roof made of local wood, is the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Trinity. The Hall of Justice lies to the north; the Old Fire Station and National Library (originally built in 1897, then refurbished and integrated into the new Library) to the west, across the road from the Red House (originally built in 1844, formerly the seat of Parliament, but currently being restored — work has been slowed by the discovery of First Peoples remains and artefacts dating to 430–1400 AD); and the remains of the razed Greyfriars Church to the east.
ZOOLOGY MUSEUM (ST AUGUSTINE)
Based at the University of the West Indies’ St Augustine campus, this is the largest and most significant collection of zoological specimens in the country. The Banwari Man is also preserved here — the human skeleton found lying in a crouched burial position by the T&T Historical Society in 1969, and still the oldest evidence of human activity on Caribbean soil. The area in which it was found (Banwari Trace) has yielded artefacts belonging to the Ortoiroid people, dating back to 5,000 BC. Tours of the Museum can be booked 8am–4pm, Monday–Friday. facebook.com/uwizoologymuseum, 662-2002 x 82231
Especially for families
ANGOSTURA MUSEUM AND BARCANT BUTTERFLY COLLECTION (PORT OF SPAIN)
The Barcant Butterfly Collection, the only one of its kind in the region, comprises more than 5,000 specimens (700 species, including the blue emperor) in a re-created tropical forest. Children will love it. Angostura acquired the collection in 1974, and it has been at the company’s compound since. You can book a tram tour of the Angostura factory, introducing you to the company’s history and making of their world-famous bitters and celebrated rums. Tours (two hours) are 9:30am & 1:30pm, Monday–Friday; advance booking required: 623-1841. facebook.com/AngosturaMuseumAndBarcantButterflyCollection
CHAGUARAMAS NATIONAL HERITAGE PARK
Just 20 minutes from Port of Spain, hikers, bikers, explorers, bird watchers, hashers, archers, and golfers all have their place in “Chag”. The Chaguaramas National Heritage Park is managed by the Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA, chaguaramas.com, 225-4232). There’s controversial construction along the main waterfront and significant traffic in and out on weekends, but it remains popular for beach-goers, boaters, cyclists, foodies, golfers, hikers, history buffs, partiers, and those wanting an accessible escape into nature, even if only to laze under magnificent samaan trees or amble along the Boardwalk.
In lush Tucker Valley, some favourite treks include the Covigne River trail, which passes through nutmeg groves and along a tributary of the Cuesa River uphill through a gorge before ending at a waterfall with a plunge pool. Edith Falls is located in an abandoned cocoa estate nestled against the eastern side of Morne Catherine and overlooking the golf course. A fairly gentle hike, you will hear red howler monkeys in the forest canopy along the trail. The Bamboo Catehedral is a relaxing, easy walk under a beautiful stretch of arching bamboo forest — unless you plan to trek uphill on the gravelly path to the top of Morne Catherine and the abandoned World War II tracking station (a popular spot for astronomers and star-gazers).
Going Down-the-islands (or DDI) means enjoying a getaway at one of several offshore islands, either at a holiday home or by mooring in one of the bays. There are the Five Islands (including Nelson Island, where Indian immigrants were once quarantined when they arrived by boat); the Diego Islands; Gaspar Grande; Gasparilo Island (aka Centipede); Monos; Huevos; and Chacachacare (which was once a leper colony, and has saltwater ponds, ruins, and a still-functioning lighthouse). These islands were originally the ceremonial grounds of the First Peoples. On Gaspar Grande, the jetty at Point Baleine was once a whaling station. This is the home of the underground Gasparee caves’ stalagmites and Blue Grotto, with its “sunroof”.
More recent additions to the Chaguaramas landscape, all popular with families, include the ZIP-ITT’s seven zip-lines in Tucker Valley (one passes over Macqueripe Bay) and five canopy walks or net bridges; the Boardwalk along the beachfront; the Five Islands Waterpark; and the Safari Eco Park.
LOPINOT HISTORICAL COMPLEX (AROUCA)
Lopinot (near Arouca) is popular for picnics, river limes, family days, retreats, sports, bird-watching, hiking (there are also caves nearby), or enjoying delicious meals at Café Mariposa. At Christmas time, the area comes alive with parang and pastelles. The village’s heritage is still a quintessentially Trini mix of First Peoples, European, African, and East Indian — some still speak Spanish, French, and patois. There’s a museum on site, comprising the former tapia estate house, prison, and slave quarters. The complex was originally developed as a cocoa estate (1806) by the French Compte Charles Joseph de Lopinot. He had fled to Trinidad in 1791 to escape the Haitian revolution. Legend has it that on dark, stormy nights, the count appears on a black horse dressed in military regalia and gallops across the savannah. Locals have laughed it off for years — until, perhaps, Ghost Hunters International (of the USA’s SYFY Channel) visited in 2011, and reported that they had found more evidence of paranormal activity here than anywhere else in the world …
MOUNT ST BENEDICT (TUNAPUNA)
Peace and rejuvenation await here at the Caribbean’s oldest Benedictine monastery. Its 600 acres are perched 245m (800ft) above the Central plains in Tunapuna, offering stunning views, walking and hiking trails, bird-watching from the terraces, a tea house, delicious yoghurt made by the monks, and — of course — holy masses. There is a guesthouse on site.
THE PITCH LAKE (LA BREA)
This natural wonder is the largest asphalt lake in the world. But, since it is a giant lake of self-replenishing bitumen (oozing up from a geological fault), it does look a bit like a 100-acre car park. Most of the surface is firm enough to walk on, though some spots are too soft for traffic. Natural springs, reputed to have healing properties, appear at the centre during the rainy season. You can also smell the gases escaping from bubbling puddles on the surface. The lake (75m/250ft deep) has been commercially mined since 1959, and its asphalt exported around the world. Before that, however, it was a sacred site for the First Peoples, who believed that a tribe had once been swallowed up by the lake as punishment for eating hummingbirds, which hosted the spirits of their ancestors. A small museum houses artefacts recovered from the lake, which has been called a “slow-motion black hole”, with “feelers” stretching out for miles. La Brea Pitch Lake Tour Guides Association: 651-1232
QUEEN’S PARK SAVANNAH (PORT OF SPAIN)
This 260-acre park holds a very special place in the Trini heart. Originally part of the Peschier family’s Paradise Estate, the Caribbean’s oldest recreation ground — and reported to be the world’s largest roundabout at approximately 3.5km/2.2 miles — was converted into a city park in 1817, and is popular for sports, recreation, and picnics.
On its northern side, you will find the Emperor Valley Zoo, founded in 1947 (zstt.org, 622-5344) and the Botanical Gardens (established 1820). The Gardens (est 1820) — a favourite for picnics and walks — are home to one of the oldest collections of exotic plants and trees in the western hemisphere. Founded in 1947, and recently upgraded, the Zoo’s nearly 7.2 acres house hundreds of animals (both endemic and exotic birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles, including two rare white Bengali tigers born in 2015). There’s an outdoor café, enclosures, and paths for animal viewing. Zoological Society of T&T: zstt.org, 622-5344
On the southeastern side is Memorial Park and the iconic National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA). Next door is the National Museum & Art Gallery. And on its northwestern side are the “Magnificent Seven” (see above).
SAN FERNANDO HILL
Taking its name from the First Peoples (for whom it was a sacred site), the hill rises above the hubbub of industry below, offering views of the city, the southwest peninsula and — on a clear day — up the west coast to Port of Spain, and the mountains of eastern Venezuela. It was saved from further scarring from quarrying by being declared a National Park in 1980. Open daily, free of charge, 9am–6pm
This is a 10-acre estate with hundreds of fruit trees and flocks of birds and butterflies. Enjoy several sports, fish for tilapia in the pond, cook in an outdoor carat shed, or take a cool dip in the river (or the large swimming pool). Also in the mix: peacocks, geese, parrots, guinea fowls, ducks, tortoises, rabbits, and monkeys. valenciaecoresort.com
Especially for nature lovers
Each year between March and September (sometimes longer), you can see turtles nesting across the region. Nesting females return to the shores on which they were born each year, assiduously digging their nests before laying their eggs, camouflaging the area, and returning to the open sea. Six to eight weeks later, the hatchlings emerge and scamper through the sand to the shoreline. Peak season for seeing hatchlings is June–August. The females that survive to maturity will make the long trek back, to begin the cycle anew. Though they come ashore in greatest numbers late at night — and especially during the full moon — they also come ashore in the day. Witnessing these rituals is a profoundly moving experience.
As the second largest leatherback nesting site in the world, Trinidad receives more than 6,000 leatherback turtles (each up to 2,000lb) annually. The best places to see them are at Matura and Grande Rivière (where you can see up to 50 a night, and even be lucky enough to spot the endangered blue-throated piping-guan or pawi bird).
T&T is home to five of the seven species of sea turtles found globally — the vulnerable leatherback and olive ridley; the endangered green and loggerhead; and the critically endangered hawksbill. The leatherback, hawksbill, and green turtle nest on beaches, while the loggerhead and olive ridley are occasionally sighted at sea. The turtles, their eggs, and their hatchlings are all vulnerable and legally protected.
Conservation efforts in Matura and Grande Rivière require that permits be acquired to visit nesting sites. These can be arranged through authorised tour guides (Nature Seekers: natureseekers.org, 668-7337; and Grande Rivière Nature Tour Guide Association: 670-4257/469-1288), local accommodation, or directly at Forestry Division offices.
Make sure to:
- keep disturbances to a minimum (including noise and movement) — do not touch nesting turtles or hatchlings
- use only infrared lights, and no flash photography
- refrain from driving, setting fires, or littering on nesting beaches.
Trinidad is blessed with over 400 recorded bird species — among the top 10 countries in the world for species per square mile, most of which are easily accessible. Peak birding season is November–May.
ASA WRIGHT NATURE CENTRE (ARIMA VALLEY)
This 1,500-acre sanctuary is among the oldest in the Caribbean. The main centre and guesthouse are located on a former cocoa-coffee-citrus plantation. Open 9am–5pm for day visits, with guided walks (1.5hrs) at 10:30am and 1:30pm. There are numerous waterfalls and caves nearby, and an overnight stay gives you the chance to see rare oilbirds. Reservations required (asawright.org, 667-4655). Entrance fee
WINSTON NANAN CARONI BIRD SANCTUARY
A must on every birder’s list, these are the protected breeding grounds of the national bird, the scarlet ibis. Most boat tours leave at 4pm. Mangrove channels create a dramatic backdrop for the 100 species of birds that make their home here alongside snakes (boas) in trees, crabs, snails, and more. At dusk, the sky is filled with streaks of red as hundreds of scarlet ibis return to roost in trees on an island in the middle of the swamp. caronibirdsanctuary.com, 755-7826
YERETTE, HOME OF THE HUMMINGBIRD (MARACAS ST JOSEPH)
Here, you’ll spend an intimate couple of hours at the home of Theo and Gloria Ferguson. Dozens of hummingbirds — up to 15 species — flit by, some a few inches away, as they sip from feeders and flowers. Theo is a knowledgeable host, with a slide show about the tiny acrobats, and a beautiful collection of photos for sale. yerettett.com, 663-2623
NARIVA SWAMP & BUSH BUSH SANCTUARY
Bush Bush is a protected island within Nariva Swamp, the largest freshwater wetland in the Caribbean. Here you’ll find capuchin and red howler monkeys, blue and gold macaws, and toucans. Boating and kayaking are only possible in the rainy season. It’s imperative to go with a tour guide who will arrange permits from the Forestry Division.
POINTE-À-PIERRE WILDFOWL TRUST
An oasis of ponds surrounded by green forest, set within the sprawling grounds of an oil refinery complex, this magical Trust works to reintroduce endangered wetland birds to their natural habitat. It’s home to rare ducks, scarlet ibis, blue and gold macaws, and many more. An on-site learning centre houses a small First Peoples museum, and there is a full-service guesthouse. Advance bookings required: papwildfowltrust.org, 658-4200 ext 2512
These are some of the island’s most popular hikes, listed alphabetically. Those marked “intense” should be tackled by advanced hikers only. Go with a reputable guide, and remember that old saying: take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.
- Edith Falls (Chaguaramas): a 30–40 minute hike to a 76m/250ft waterfall. Gentle
- El Tucuche (Northern Range): Trinidad’s second tallest mountain. A gruelling hike to the summit (in fact, there are two peaks!) takes 2–4 hours via Hobal Trace in Maracas Valley. (Very) Intense
- Fondes Amandes (St Ann’s): the Community Reforestation Project provides forest tours that range from quick and gentle to more intermediate
- Guanapo Gorge (Northern Range): roughly 2.5–3 hours of forest, river, and gorge trekking. Intermediate
- Madamas Bay (north coast): it’ll take you roughly 3 hours from Matelot or 5 hours from Blanchisseuse. A beach, river, waterfall, and turtles (in season) await. Intense
- Maracas Falls (Northern Range): 30–45 minute trek; Trinidad’s tallest waterfall (91m/299ft). Gentle
- Mt Tamana Bat Caves (Central Range): a roughly 90-minute hike to the limestone cave systems that massive colonies of bats — thousands from 12 different species — call home. Each evening before dusk, they depart the caverns en masse. Intermediate
- Paria Bay (north coast): it’ll take you roughly 2 hours from Blanchisseuse to Turtle Rock then Cathedral Rock/Paria Arch. A pristine white sand beach, turtles (in season), and nearby waterfall are your reward. Also accessible via Brasso Seco. Intermediate
- Saut d’Eau (north coast): a 3-hour, downhill trek from Paramin brings you to the secluded beachfront. Gather your strength, because the ascent back up will test your mettle! Intense
- Rio Seco Falls (Salybia): part of the Matura National Park, a 45–60 minute hike brings you to the falls, and a natural swimming pool. Gentle
- Turure Water Steps (Cumaca): after about 60 minutes, you’ll be bathing in the pools at these unique natural limestone “steps”. Intermediate
For beach bums…
- Blanchisseuse: the waters are rough along this long stretch of beach, but there are hiking trails, and good kayaking in the nearby Marianne River. Surfing is good November–April
- Columbus & Cedros Bays: stunning and pristine bays in quiet fishing villages on the southwestern coast, with views of Venezuela on a clear day. Cedros has the widest beach on the island at low tide
- Grande Rivière: the second largest leatherback turtle nesting ground in the world. Good for river bathing and kayaking, as well as hikes into the forest. Perfect for a weekend eco escape. Accessed via Toco
- Las Cuevas: this long, sheltered, looping beach is calmer and better for swimming than most on the north coast, especially at the eastern end. There are caves and the convenience of an on-site snack bar, bathroom and changing facilities, parking, and lifeguards on duty
- Macqueripe Bay: a small and calm bay in Chaguaramas, great for swimming and snorkelling, with a car park — and a zip-lining course overhead! Entrance fee
- Manzanilla: bordered by the distinctive “Cocal” (coconut forest). Facilities and lifeguards in specific areas
- Maracas Bay: Trinidad’s most popular beach — great food, good stretch of sand, lifeguards, and gas station nearby
- Mayaro: glorious stretch of beach — the longest in the island. Shells of “chip chip”, like clam shells, protect small oceanic organisms. A popular weekend getaway spot
- Tyrico Bay: close to Maracas’ amenities, but a calmer, smaller, quieter alternative.