I had the day off from work today so I took a nice long walk through Central Park, which I’m lucky to live so close to. Although the sun disappeared behind the clouds just as I was setting off for the park, it was, as always, teeming with activity.
Earlier this month I took my first trip to the West Coast to visit three of my close friends who have moved/moved back. It was a much-needed break from work and I was blessed with ‘San Francisco summer’ – the two or three weeks of heat and sunshine in September/October. I spent the first few nights in Oakland (the rest in Outer Sunset) and had great fun during First Fridays. It was also fleet week so loads of noisy airshows and festivities around the city. I enjoyed the wine and trip out to wine country. I absolutely fell in love with the ‘painted lady’ houses; ate a burrito the size of my arm; racked up so many flights of ‘stairs’ on my iPhone activity counter; marveled at the Redwood trees; and discovered Dutch Crunch bread.
Last year, for Memorial Day weekend my friend and I decided we were in need of a mini holiday. We wanted to somewhere that was a relatively quick and direct flight from New York, somewhere warm, and somewhere that wouldn’t be too touristy. We pulled open Google Maps and assessed our options, finally deciding on Trinidad!
This post is very late in the making but since we had a lot of challenges finding good info online, I thought it would be useful to do a write-up about our experiences. So if you want to spend 4 days in Trinidad, here’s what you can do…
- Day 1: Arriving in Port of Spain and “Liming” on The Avenue
- Day 2: A day trip to Maracas beach
- Day 3: A secluded beach and flight of the scarlet Ibis
- Day 4: the Temple in the Sea, one of the world’s tallest Hanuman statues and more food!
Day 1: Arriving in Port of Spain and “Liming” on The Avenue
After settling in at our guesthouse we were starving (Jetblue’s free snacks only take you so far). We had plans to meet up with a friend of a friend to go “liming” (partying) later on the Avenue, but we need to grab a bite beforehand. The lady working at the guesthouse recommend we go to the cinema/mall (MovieTowne) in town but this was ultimately not the right move for us. The mall is full of US fast food chains, none of which appealed to us. Eventually, we settled on a seafood restaurant inside but the food was pricey and ultimately the least interesting meal we ate on the trip. After that we met up with Andrew, a college friend of a friend of mine and we headed to the Avenue, which is lined with bars, ranging from more upscale lounges to chilled-out and casual dives. We hopped around drinking g&ts but didn’t stay out too late.
Day 2: A day trip to Maracas beach
Our mission for our first full day in Trinidad was to hit the beach. Some internet research prior to the trip revealed Maracas beach as the place to go. We spoke with the guesthouse when they arrived and they arranged for a driver who would arrive in the morning and take us there for the day. Victor, our driver, was really fantastic and a huge help for the remainder of our time in Trinidad.
Maracas beach seems like it is really close to Port of Spain, but it actually takes maybe 45 mins to an hour to get there, because there is only one road and it is very windey (on the day we were there, there was a huge festival/party happening not too far from the beach and the road was absolutely packed on the way back into town. The beach is not very big but it is really lovely and we had a great day there. There are toilet facilities that were very clean and well looked after, but bring change because there is a small fee.
Food wise there are tons of food stalls selling “Shark and Bake” (and other food options) but there is one that has a very long, and that’s the one you must go to – Richard’s. “Bake” is a type of fried flatbread on which you can have your choice or shark or fish. Once you get that you get into a line to choose toppings and condiments: there are so many that it can be stressful, so observe (as we did) what others are choosing before you. Honestly, this one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life and I dream about having it again all the time.
After we had recovered a little from stuffing our faces we spotted an ice cream truck selling homemade ice cream – and they had coconut flavor which is one of my favorites…or should I say it was until I had this – the ice cream was so good that it is pointless to eat other coconut ice cream again.
On our way back to the guesthouse, Victor spotted a roti stand on the side of the road in the city center and we picked up dinner. The rotis were really cheap (about 3 USD) and absolutely delicious and we ate them with champagne purchased at the airport, before passing out, exhausted from a whole day at the beach.
Day 3: A secluded beach and flight of the scarlet Ibis
for day three we had booked afternoon trip to go see the scarlet Ibis coming in to roost at sunset in the Caroni Bird Sanctuary. We were really keen to go to the beach again but Maracas would have been too far. So Victor recommended we go to a tiny little beach called Macqueripe, which was much closer. When he dropped off we were the only people there aside from a small beach clean-up crew. The beach is really really tiny but the water is amazing, and really calm and basically your own ocean swimming pool. Once it reached a little later a lot more people showed up, but at no point did it feel crowded.
In the afternoon a driver arranged as part of the Ibis tour (booked through Island Experiences) picked us up and took us to Caroni. When you arrive, it doesn’t look like much – just a few boats docked in the water.
Once you head into the mangroves it is quite a different experience: narrow waterway tunnels enveloped by mangrove trees, followed by wider open areas dotted with other boats. Seeing the brilliant red-orange birds among the dark green was really incredible but taking photos is tough so don’t expect Nat Geo shots with your iPhone. It is also a little annoying with everyone on the boat clamoring to take photos so make sure you pick a seat on the edge or front/back of the boat.
After the trip our driver dropped us at nice Indian restaurant (name long forgotten but it is inside a new condo development).
Day 4: the Temple in the Sea, one of the world’s tallest Hanuman statues and more food!
This was our last day, with our flight booked for 4:48 pm. We woke up early and decided to go for a walk around Queen’s Park Savanah, which was just a short walk from the guesthouse. There were loads of people jogging or power walking around the park.
We had no specific plans for this day before we arrived but based on some blogs I came across and advice from Victor we set out to see The Temple in the Sea at Waterloo, followed by a visit to the Dattatreya Temple to see the 85 ft. Hanuman statue. On the way out of town we stopped by Victor’s restaurant to get food for the trip. It was outrageously hot this day and the sun was merciless. The route to these sights (which are relatively close to one another) is not that scenic but the temples are really beautiful and have really interesting histories.
Although we were pretty full from our 2 breakfasts (at the guesthouse and at Victor’s restaurant) but we also had to try a local specialty – doubles – which are small flatbreads with curried chickpeas. Like all the local dishes we tried, they were delicious but very messy to eat in our unskilled hands.
From there we headed back to Victor’s restaurant to pick up rotis for the road and then it was off to the airport. We arrived a little early – and our flight ended up being delayed – but full of food and very sunburnt we returned to NYC!
A few basics:
Getting there: Jet Blue flies direct to Port of Spain from JFK New York, for around 500 USD. The flight time is apx. 5 hours. We took a flight that left in the morning on Saturday and arrived late afternoon in Trinidad. You can buy a SIM card at the airport. We took a cab from the airport to the hotel (there is an official cab booth right near arrivals).
Where to stay: after much searching online we decided to stay at L’Orchidée Boutique Hotel. Port of Spain gets quite a lot of business travelers so there are also a lot of bigger global chain hotels but the guesthouse was really lovely and a much better choice for us. We also spent time deliberating whether to stay all three nights in Port of Spain or whether to stay near the beach or perhaps even to go to Tobago for a day, but in the end the Trip Advisor reviews for some of the accommodations outside of the city were not very positive and a trip to Tobago would have been a little bit hard to fit in.
Prices: I’m struggling to remember the prices of everything…however I think the whole day trip to the beach to Maracas was around 60 or 70 USD (shared between two of us). For the trip we did on day 4 and the airport drop-off Victor gave us one amount for the whole day. The Caroni sanctuary visit was 55 USD pp and our stay at L’Orchidée was 345 USD for the entire 3-night stay, which included breakfast, but keep in mind this was over a year ago.
Tip: if you’re a coffee addict make sure to bring your own!