This tiny nation comprising two islands in the Caribbean near the coast of Venezuela is not often thought of as a vacation destination. However, these islands feature something for everyone: stunning natural beauty, a thriving nightlife, and a rich history. The islands' wealth of natural resources makes Trinidad and Tobago an ideal location for travelers searching for a unique experience.
Trinidad and Tobago boast hundreds of native species of birds, from colorful hummingbirds to spectacular scarlet ibises to cave-dwelling oilbirds. Though many of these species are threatened, the Asa Wright Nature Center serves as a sanctuary. In addition to birds, the center is home to hundreds of species of reptile, butterfly, and flowering plant, most of which you can see without leaving the veranda. If you can't make it to Asa Wright or haven't seen your fill of birds, Caroni Bird Range is home to the national pride: the scarlet ibis.
East Indian immigrants coming to work on the islands brought their own traditions, including Hindu festivals. Phagwah, known elsewhere as Holi, celebrates the arrival of spring and represents the start of a new year. Color and music are the focus, so people dance and sing while splashing each other with water and brilliant colored powders.
Though Calypso and Soca have made Trinidad famous, music continues to evolve on the island. Across the country, musicians in small bars and concert halls blend traditional styles with reggae and rock, producing truly unique sounds. De Nu Pub, also known as Mas Camp, is the best-known place on the islands to hear live music, but let your ears be your guide on this one.
The Tuluche hike is not for the inexperienced. Rising over three thousand feet above sea level, the challenging trail takes about four hours to complete. Those who stick with it are well-rewarded with opportunities to observe rare species like the golden tree frog in their natural habitat. The weather is usually quite hot, so bring good shoes, bug spray, and extra water.
When the Spanish came to the area, they brought their horseback riding traditions with them. These traditions survive among the ranches and horse farms of the Santa Cruz Valley. Whether you're an experienced rider or have never been on a horse before, riding schools provide guides and mounts with which you can explore Instagrammable bamboo groves and pasturelands.
When a Hindu worker was denied permission to build a temple on the land where he worked, his solution was to make more land! In an act of devotion to his Hindu faith, Siewdass Sadhu built the artificial island and temple himself. The temple is now a place of pilgrimage for Hindus the world over. To ensure you can properly partake of this site, book a tour that includes the temple.
Don't worry, you won't be a wedding crasher! Every year, during the springtime Tobago Heritage Festival, the town of Moriah conducts a public mock wedding to celebrate local customs. Guests wear their colorful best and dance the bride and groom from the church to the reception hall. After the father of the bride gives a toast everyone is invited to partake in the lavish wedding feast.
Though colonization suppressed many indigenous customs, the small community of Arima carefully preserves the island's first cultures and earliest traditions. Every August, the community conducts the public Santa Rosa festival. Though ostensibly a celebration of Catholic saint Santa Rosa de Lima, the festival includes traditional parang music and a smoke ceremony.
Every Easter Monday, beautifully groomed goats and their jockeys assemble in the town of Buccoo for the races. And not too far from the goat track you can find the crab races, where "jockeys" gently prod their charges to stay in their lane and the fastest sideways scuttler wins.
Brought by the British, cricket has become a popular sport. The national team, Tobago Red Force, has won several international victories, and you can likely watch a match as cricket season lasts all year in the tropics. Every village has its own team, and in some places, visitors are invited to pick up a cricket bat and join the game themselves!
Declared a national holiday in 1985, Emancipation Day celebrates the end of slavery in the British Empire. Though the day itself is August 1st, celebrations last weeks and honor the African heritage of Trinidad and Tobago. Festivals occur in every town, with the largest usually being in the capital city, Port of Spain.
Made from real shark caught just off the coastline, the "Bake and Shark" sandwich is an iconic dish. Shark filets are fried in a spicy batter and served on a bun with tomato and signature coleslaw. Though seafood restaurants all have their own variety, the best bake and sharks are said to come from Maracas Bay.
This reef is home to a profusion of tropical fish, ocean sponges, and other marine wildlife. Glass-bottomed boats offer regular tours, but the best way to experience the reef is up close. Grab a snorkel and some swim fins, available for rent, and witness the beauty in person. The reef is a protected area, so swim with care!
Instead of lava, the volcano at Piparo spews mud. It's no less destructive, however, as in 1992 the volcano buried a nearby village in white mud that dried as hard as concrete. Even today, mud bubbles up through cracks in the ground. Though there's no immediate danger, tourists are advised to wear thick-soled shoes and to hire a tour guide when exploring the area.
Out in the middle of the ocean, off the coast of Pigeon Point, the seafloor rises to create a natural pool. Many appreciate the chance to swim in the shallow warm waters of Nylon Pool, which was thought to have aphrodisiac and healing properties. Glass-bottomed boats make regular trips to the pool and drop anchor long enough for people to enjoy.
This estate of private land is a lot of things: a hostel, an organic fruit farm, and a hummingbird sanctuary. People can book a stay in one of their air-conditioned villas, or just make a day trip to see the brilliant ruby topaz hummingbirds flit among the gorgeous flowers. The farm offers a variety of treats, including homemade mango ice cream, made from fruit picked right off the tree that morning.