When it comes to beaches in the Caribbean, no one thinks of Trinidad & Tobago as being top choice for a beach holiday destination. Between the two islands, Tobago is unarguably more famous for its beaches. But even if we let Tobago take credit for the more beautiful beaches of the two isles, Trinidad has some downright uniquely attractive ones that for the most part have remained unspoiled.
Tourists visiting Trinidad are lured to the most popular one Maracas Beach, the jewel in the crown of Trinidad’s beaches. It is on the North side of the island, a thirty minutes mountainous drive from the capital Port of Spain.
Maracas was always first (and many times the only) choice on all my holidays back to Trinidad. So now that I was actually spending more time on the island, one long holiday weekend in Trinidad saw us exploring Chaguaramas and Macqueripe to the North West, Maracas and Blanchisseuse to the North, Toco to the North East and down to Manzanilla and Mayaro on the Eastern coast. I cannot begin to count the years since I last visited some of them.
The scenic drives along the way were some that reminded me of why Trinidad is a hidden paradise treasured by its locals. And everyone knows Trinis love a good beach lime (Trinidadian slang meaning hang out or chill)!
Chaguaramas was our first destination, a little over an hour’s drive from home in South Trinidad. The very calm Williams Bay, at the entrance of the Chaguaramas Peninsula with its enhanced boardwalk, has gotten more popular as a “liming spot” for enjoying the atmosphere. I have always heard about this now famous “boardwalk” in Chaguaramas so visiting was a treat. There is now strategically placed seating with Wi-Fi hotspots. They have my vote! Day or night this is a spot frequented by locals to sit, relax, picnic, bathe and even exercise. The geek in me quite enjoyed the view of all the sailing vessels in the area though.
Macqueripe Bay, with its view of Venezuela in the distance, was always one of my favourites. Located in the Chaguaramas National Park, the water in this small bay is usually clear and calm. It is a bit rocky but to me, it has always been a free foot massage, yes my favourite part of Macqueripe! I was impressed by the beautification plan the Chaguaramas Development Authority undertook to improve Macqueripe. It should be on every tourist’s list of beaches to visit in Trinidad (and lately has been getting more popular).
Blanchisseuse was first settled by French immigrants to Trinidad in 1783. It is a small village on the north coast and is named after the french word for “washer woman.” With a longer mountainous drive to get there than some of the other beaches closer to Port of Spain, the beaches in Blanchisseuse are not as populated but equally magnificent. L’Anse Martin, is the most popular and enjoyed by surfers too for its waves. Walking along on the fine white sand with a backdrop of mainly almond and coconut trees proves this is the kind of beach to sit and be at one with nature…peaceful and perfect!
The next day’s drive to Toco on the North East coast seemed longer than expected with it’s narrow meandering roads. But getting to the Toco lighthouse, with its many improvements proved to be an ideal location for a beach side picnic in the midst of a true untamed Caribbean setting. The North East coastline is higher with cliffs and smaller beaches.
A pitstop at Balandra, view of the restless Atlantic Ocean on the Eastern side of Trinidad, proved Trinidad has a bit of it all. From the calm beaches on the North West coast to the fierce on the North Eastern side of the island, like everything else we like variety!
Leaving Toco, with its many beaches and ocean views along the way, we headed down to Manzanilla on the East Coast. Manzanilla was named by the Spanish after the manchineel trees that grew in the area because the fruit reminded them of little apples. It is still today unspoiled and unpopulated.
I always remembered as a kid wanting to go to Manzanilla to cruise along what locals call the “Manzanilla Stretch”, the beautiful seashore surrounded by coconut trees. This view has not changed in all these years. Still took my breath away!
It’s a mystery how the Manzanilla coast came to be heavily populated with coconut trees. Some say it is because the coconut palms were carried to this coast from Africa by the winds and waves. Other say that in 1760 a Portuguese ship bound for Brazil with Javanese coconuts was shipwrecked on the coast and the coconuts landed on the coastline when the holds of the ship broke open. Either way we are grateful for the scenic views it has created, not to mention fresh coconuts galore!
Manzanilla Bay (also called Cocos Bay), another favourite on the East Coast, is rather calm and unique with a sand spit across the mouth of the Nariva River that has created Nariva Swamp behind – a freshwater wetland with mangroves that has become an important habitat for many birds including waders, rails and raptors, and for the endangered West Indian Manatee.
Mayaro, also on the East coast, is one of the earliest villages settled by the original Amerindian inhabitants of Trinidad. The name Mayaro is actually an Amerindian word meaning the place of the Maya plant. The area was developed by French immigrants who were given land grants in 1783 by the Spanish Governor of Trinidad, Jose Chacon.
Mayaro has the longest beach on the island of over 9 miles. I am always impressed to see how more developed Mayaro gets each time I visit with more hotels, guest houses and holiday homes throughout the area. It give going to Tobago some competition for Trinis!
I love being a tourist rediscovering my home country and quite enjoyed reminding myself of the history with all the influences that make T&T so unique – the earliest Amerindian settlers, Spanish, French, British etc. It’s a natural paradise yet to be discovered by mass tourists; for now the locals enjoy.
It reminded me of this photos I captured of one cloudy sunset over the Gulf on Paria on the Western side of Trinidad. A cloud, in the shape of Trinidad over the gulf, proving how blessed we are to have these many natural wonders to call our own. I have a lot more to explore while I am still here though, I better get a move on…