Katie McGonagle visits Tobago to find out why it’s such a fly-and-flop favourite
Robinson Crusoe has inspired many a romantic notion of being cast away on a Caribbean island. Who doesn’t dream of deserted beaches and tropical temperatures in the midst of a British winter – but what about the island behind it all?
Tobago is said to have been the muse for Daniel Defoe’s famous tale, and it’s no wonder as this tropical haven boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the region, combined with that classic laid-back Caribbean vibe.
Together with sister state Trinidad, the island makes up the most southerly of the Lesser Antilles, close to the coast of Venezuela, and lying outside the hurricane belt. Travel Weekly visited to find out what makes it so popular with sun-seekers.
SEE: WILDLIFE AND WATERFALLS
It would be perfectly possible to pitch up on these sandy shores and stay there until it’s time to catch the flight back, so if clients want straightforward winter sun, they won’t be disappointed. But for those who like a bit of adventure with their Vitamin D, there’s plenty to explore too.
Start off gently with a glass-bottomed boat cruise from Pigeon Point (pictured below), the most popular beach on the island, to Buccoo Reef, a protected marine reserve that is home to a host of colourful fish and marine life, and a haven for snorkellers and divers.
From there, head to nearby Nylon Pool, a shallow pool in the midst of deeper waters that is suitable for swimming. Store Bay, also on the southern end of the island, is another favourite with sun-seekers and foodies alike, who flock there to sample the local speciality of curry crab and dumplings.
Fit in a visit to a rum distillery and the cocoa farm at Roxborough, on the east coast, for more insight into locally-grown ingredients. Caribtours product manager Katherine Hobbs suggests sampling the tasty local dishes – and particularly the varied vegetarian food – at Kariwak Village Hotel, in Crown Point.
Wildlife enthusiasts will find almost endless activities to occupy them: deep-sea fishing and spotting some of the island’s 220 bird species are the most popular, but visitors can also look out for hatchlings at Turtle Beach and Stonehaven Beach, or trek through dense rainforest in the central and northern parts of the island.
The walk to Argyle Waterfall must be done with a local guide, but is well worth the effort for the stunning sights. Nancy Trevains, personal travel expert with Kuoni, suggests heading off the beaten track to the north of the island for deserted stretches of coastline and even more dramatic scenery.
Tobago’s history as the subject of myriad battles between European colonisers can be seen in capital city Scarborough; look out for Fort King George, built by the British in the late 1770s with stunning views of the coastline, and the nearby Tobago Museum, which holds artefacts from the island’s earliest settlers, the Amerindians.
STAY: SMALL PLEASURES
Tobago is best known for its beautiful but low-key beachfront properties, with everything from tiny 10-room boutiques such as the Hummingbird Hotel in Crown Point, to the sprawling Magdalena Grand Beach Resort, a new opening in the 750-acre Tobago Plantations Estate complete with a PGA-designed Championship golf course (see Tried and Tested).
Hotels are concentrated on the more developed southern end of the island, near the international airport. Crown Point is home to Coco Reef Resort & Spa, the next largest hotel on the island with 135 rooms, suites and villas; Caribtours reports its ‘homely atmosphere and friendly staff’ have always made it a popular choice with customers.
On the western side of the island, the family-friendly Grafton Beach Resort and adult-only Le Grand Courlan Spa Resort overlook Stonehaven Beach; both are featured by Virgin Holidays with all-inclusive options available. Turtle Beach by Rex Resorts also offers good facilities for children, with interconnecting rooms and a separate children’s pool.
Bacolet Bay, on the eastern coast and near the capital, boasts several high-end resorts. The Blue Haven Hotel is a renovated 1940s property, and one-time stomping ground of Hollywood stars such as Rita Hayworth, where all 55 rooms have private balconies with stunning sea views.
Its communal areas are light and modern, and its beach bar is in a secluded spot perfect for kicking back and relaxing. Nearby Bacolet Beach Club is an elegant 20-room boutique sloping down towards a private beach.
For a more secluded stay, Western & Oriental features Blue Waters Inn on the northeast coast, with 31 rooms plus bungalows and self-catering apartments.
SELL: FLIGHT OF FANCY
Many visitors get their first taste of Tobago during a Caribbean cruise, and once they’ve seen how much the island has to offer, it shouldn’t take too much to tempt them back.
Even if it’s a first-time visit, though, the ease of airlift makes Tobago an easier sell than some destinations, with Virgin Atlantic, Monarch and British Airways all offering direct flights to Tobago, plus numerous connections via the Trinidadian capital Port of Spain.
That also makes it an easy twin-centre for those who want a bit more action. Port of Spain is just a 25-minute flight away – Caribbean Airlines runs several services a day – so can be enjoyed either as a day trip or a longer stay. Kuoni also suggests teaming it up with Barbados, but other combinations such as Grenada are possible.
There are also a host of annual festivals that will appeal to niche sectors. The world-famous carnival, taking place on February 11 and 12 this year, is concentrated in Port of Spain, but Scarborough also has a smaller-scale procession.
The novel Buccoo Goat and Crab Races make a popular family day out for locals and tourists, held on the Tuesday after Easter each year, while the annual Tobago Jazz festival is at the end of April.
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