The Caribbean island of Tobago has a breathtaking coastline and laidback people with two speeds: slow and slower - making it the perfect spot for a little relaxation
Tobago’s coastline is a sight to behold. A trip around the island provides you with breathtaking scenery, and an opportunity to take a dip in the Caribbean Sea on many deserted beaches.
Most people tend to stay in the Crown Point area, in the southwest corner of the island. It's home to a beautiful hotel, Coco Reef, which comes complete with its own private beach. I stayed further east at the Hilton Tobago Golf & Spa Resort, set on the Atlantic shore, where the scenery is more windswept than that in the north and west of the island. And it can get breezy! As you sit by the pool sipping on a Piña Colada from the bar, it's easy to spot kite surfers bobbing up and down in the turquoise sea. Many of the rooms at the Hilton are yards from the beach (although it's not the best for sunbathing), and the hotel provides the perfect base for exploring the island.
On the short 20-minute flight from Port of Spain in Trinidad, I started chatting to a lady who worked for the Tobago tourist board. She gave me the name of a taxi driver, Mr Cadiz, who, she said, would be happy to take me on a tour of the island. She promised he would show me the best sights and stop whenever I requested.
And that is exactly what happened. We set off at 8am and headed up to Fort King George, sitting atop a hill and providing fantastic views of Bacolet Bay, Rockly Bay and, on a good day, Trinidad. The Fort is a reminder of when the British regained control of Tobago in 1762 and named the town sitting below Scarborough.
Travelling across the centre of Tobago from Scarborough (the capital), thick dense rainforest can be seen in the distance, a true reminder of the diverse landscape of this Caribbean island. The Tobago Forest Reserve is the oldest protected rainforest in the western hemisphere. We stopped as Mr Cadiz pointed out a cashew nut tree, hummingbirds and jacamars. The amazing wildlife is all thanks to the fact that Tobago used to be a part of South America.
Once you hit the northwest of the island, the endless beaches come into view, all magnificently named. My favourites were Castara Bay, Cotton Bay, Englishman’s Bay, Bloody Bay and Man O’ War Bay. We stopped at Englishman’s Bay for a quick dip and some snorkelling. I shared the beach with about six other people – perfect. There was also a cricket match going on just up the coast in Charlotteville. All over the island you will hear people talking about Brian Lara and Dwight Yorke, famous sporting sons.
Travelling over from Charlotteville to Speyside on the northeast of the island, you can spot Little Tobago (also known as ‘bird of paradise island’). The area is renowned for its amazing diving. Whilst in Speyside you must also stop for a meal at the famous Jemma's Treehouse restaurant - which is actually a treehouse and looks out to Little Tobago and Goat Island (long-time retreat of late James Bond author Ian Fleming). Jemma’s does the best lobster on the island. But beware: it’s closed on Saturdays. Also recommended is the Birdwatcher’s Restaurant in Speyside.
On the final leg of the day trip, we stopped off for a dip in King’s Bay, on the island's northeast coast. If you have time, it is also worth taking a detour to see the Argyle waterfall, just inland from Roxborough.
The next day I relaxed in one place – the beach at Pigeon Point, near Crown Point and Store Bay. Here, windsurfers perfect their skills and glass-bottomed boats sail out to Buccoo Reef and Nylon Pool. Buccoo Reef is a protected marine park, where the beautiful underwater life led world-famous French oceanographer and explorer Jacques Cousteau to rate it as the third most spectacular reef in the world. The snorkelling here is wonderful. Just behind Buccoo Reef lies the Nylon Pool (which acquired its name from Princess Margaret when she visited Tobago in 1962). It's a shallow white-sand area, with waters that are said to have the power to rejuvenate anyone who swims there.
For longer trips up the west coast of Tobago, try Island Girl Sail Charters or Splash Sports. On these tours you can enjoy a BBQ whilst taking in the Caribbean sunset. Finally, if you’re feeling peckish, grab a shark and bake from one of the snack bars at Pigeon Point. And be sure to head to Store Bay for roti, doubles or curried crab and dumplings: absolutely delicious and real Tobagan fare.
For me, the best bit about Tobago is the fact that you can’t fail to unwind. Just try it and see.