There’s much more to Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago’s capital city, than its world famous Carnival, lively rum shops and exciting nightlife. The cosmopolitan city boasts something for everyone, from a rich culinary scene and cutting-edge fashion industry to chic boutique inns and blood pumping, spine tingling outdoor adventures.
Day 1 – URBAN ADVENTURES
As with many Caribbean nations, Trinidad and Tobago’s capital city of Port of Spain sits on a spectacular coast line. With a reliable, safe and comfortable ferry service subsidized by the state, it is possible to enjoy a scenic cruise with the added bonus of being able to explore a new city or a national park for less than the cost of lunch.
Three ferry services operate from Port of Spain, the inter-island ferry, which provides service to Tobago, as well as water taxis which travel to San Fernando, Trinidad’s second largest coastal city, and the leisure and nightlife center of Chaguaramas. At TT$50 one way, the trip to Tobago lasts just over two hours and offers stunning views of Trinidad’s densely forested North Coast before docking in Scarborough, Tobago’s capital. Hop on the water taxi from just outside of Port of Spain’s Cruise Ship Complex for exploration of Trinidad’s west coast which includes views of the Caroni Swamp, the Temple in the Sea and the silver towers of Point Lisas, an industrial complex. When the ship docks in San Fernando, toss on your walking shoes and explore the landmark San Fernando Hill or use it as a base to head to the Pitch Lake at La Brea or for a swim at the Vessigny Beach Facility. The water taxi to Chaguaramas leaves Port of Spain at 7.30 am with the return journey in the late afternoon, leaving a whole day for adventures in a green playground of beaches, hiking trails, nightclubs, parks and restaurants. Mountain bike, hike, zipline, jog, kayak, go sailing, swim, dive, eat, enjoy a short cruise, go fishing, star gazing, caving, waterfall bathing and golfing; with so many choices, Chaguaramas is the place to be for adrenaline junkies.
For landlubbers, grab a free map distributed by Visitor Guides or at the tourist office because Port of Spain is a great city to explore on foot. With beautiful public squares, parks and historic buildings, such as the Red House and Magnificent Seven, there are ample opportunities for gorgeous photo-ops. For a day of lazy relaxation, sit under a tree, coconut in hand, and watch the world go by from the Queen’s Park Savannah, the world’s largest roundabout.
Day 2 – RELIVE HISTORY
Trinidad and Tobago’s recorded history dates back to its sighting by Christopher Columbus in 1498. But long before its oil and gas wealth, the nation was a multi-cultural mixing pot as Spanish colonists, French planters and their slaves, later the English, Indentured Chinese and Indian laborers, Lebanese and Portuguese merchants settled on the island, leaving evidence of their existence in places of worship, street names and foods. Port of Spain, the country’s capital and business hub is also home to many of its oldest churches, government buildings, schools and public parks. Start your exploration at the Cabildo Building on Sackville Street. Moved to Port of Spain in 1874 from the former capital of St Joseph, the recently restored Cabildo is a law museum and national heritage site where you can find documents chronicling the development of Trinidad and Tobago’s legal system. Another throwback to Trinidad’s colonial justice system is the Royal Gaol on Frederick Street. Completed in 1812, the jail is the oldest in Trinidad and Tobago and covers one city block. The prison is still in active use by the authorities so entrance is restricted; however, it is possible to view the imposing structure from the street. From the Royal Gaol, take a short walk to the National Museum and Art Gallery, located at the top of Frederick Street, next to Memorial Park. Established in 1892, the museum was originally called the Royal Victoria Institute in commemoration of the Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Home to precious works of local art, such as a gallery of works by 19th century artist Michel Jean Cazabon, Carnival artifacts and historical displays, the museum chronicles Trinidad and Tobago’s history and development and offers a free look into its heritage. A 15 minute walk north of the National Museum will take you to the Emperor Valley Zoo and Royal Botanic Gardens. While the zoo is a relative newcomer, the gardens are one of the oldest in the world. Opened to the public in 1818, Trinidad’s Royal Botanic Gardens comprises of 25 hectares of beautifully landscaped grounds, picnic areas, an orchid garden and 700 species of trees representing every continent on the globe. A perfect way to end your history-themed day is a stop at Brooklyn Bar; reputedly Port of Spain’s oldest (dating back more 100 years). Located at the corner of Carlos and Roberts Street in Woodbrook, the bar is famous for ice cold Carib beers and spicy, piping hot doubles (Trinidad’s national breakfast dish) served by George Doubles.
Day 3 – EAT TILL “BELLY BUSS”
With a mix of ethnicities, cooking styles and flavors, Trinidad and Tobago’s cuisine is without rival, the most exotic in the Caribbean. Port of Spain’s food scene offers a microcosm of the country’s best offerings, from authentic Tobago style curry crab and dumplings to roti, Chinese inspired dasheen pork, Arabian and a mix of everything in between. Start the day at the Breakfast Shed, a local culinary institution located on the city’s waterfront. Sit shoulder to shoulder with locals from every walk of life while sampling hearty helpings of bake (fried or roasted stove-top bread) filled with fried plantains, saltfish buljol (salted cod, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers and herbs marinated in lime juice), smoked herring (herrings fried with tomatoes and onions), fried shark or a host of other fillings limited only by your imagination. For lunch try any of the food courts located in the mini malls that line both sides of lower Frederick Street, Port of Spain’s main street and shopping district. Enjoy cheap and tasty local soups, called sancoche, Chinese food with a local twist, Indian inspired roti or hearty Creole meals including the local specialty callaloo, macaroni pie, Spanish rice and stewed meat (chicken, pork or beef). End your day with a tasty treat at one of the many restaurants on Ariapita Avenue, Trinidad’s restaurant strip. Enjoy local seafood at Sweet Lime or local fusion fare at Mélange. Around the Queen’s Park Savannah, Chaud offers up gourmet cuisine influenced by local flavors or if you prefer a more laid-back vibe, visit the Drag at the Savannah (a large paved strip opposite Frederick Street), where you can enjoy big bowls of slow-cooked cowheel and oxtail soup, Doubles, grilled meats, wings, roti and even gyros, cooked by street vendors.
Day 4 – ROOTS, PLAY AND CULTURE
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the City of Port of Spain and the Mayor and his burgesses plan to celebrate the milestone in fine style. It was back in 1914 the city regained its municipal rights, moving from a town board to City Corporation. Most of the planned activities will center on the month of June, with the city launching the celebration with the Miss City of Port of Spain pageant on June 1. Other activities will include the Mayor’s Ball on June 14, a festive parade on June 20, a church service on June 22 and a civic reception on June 26.
After the anniversary celebrations, visit the Museum of the City of Port of Spain for a leisurely look into the town’s colorful history. Originally known as Fort San Andres, the building was originally constructed by the Spanish to protect the harbor in 1757. The museum’s collection is focused on the history and developments of the capital; admission is free and you are welcome to browse the collection at your own pace. With many of the country’s top schools located in the city, Port of Spain has several child friendly attractions, including King George the Fifth Park, which boasts a safe interactive play area for babes in arms to pre-teens. The Emperor Valley Zoo is located nearby and with animals and bird exhibits representing local, African and South American habitats, it is a great outing for families. Admission is TT$30 for adults and TT$15 for children 12 years and under, with educational tours running six times daily. Finally, enjoy an evening at one of the city’s steelpan yards. Listen as the musicians play or try your hand at beating out a tune on the only new musical instrument to be invented in the 20th century, or head to Ariapita Avenue and get cozy at the NuPub, a venue for performances from local calypsonians. To take home some local music, pop over to Crosby’s or Cleves Record Shop for your pick of the latest soca and calypso music, or if you want your very own steelpan try Simons Musical Supplies on Abercromby Street.
Day 5 – GET FASHIONABLY FABULOUS
In the Southern Caribbean, Port of Spain is considered the best shopping city in the region, with everything from high-end retail malls such as West Mall to the hustle and bustle of the flea market type atmosphere on Charlotte Street. Queen Street is best known for its many stores specializing in textiles from around the world. Check the New City Mall and the Drag Brothers for handmade leather handbags, belts, shoes, sandals and crafts. If you prefer designer goods, visit the workshops of local designers Heather Jones, Claudia Pegus, Peter Elias, Radical Designs and Meiling among many others.
To learn more or to book your five perfect days in Port of Spain visit www.gotrinidadandtobago.com or email [email protected]
Trinidad & Tobago is a member of the International Coalition of Tourism Partners (ICTP) .