You’ve probably heard the name, but not much else. Where is Trinidad located? What kind of place is it? And is it worth a visit? The answers are, in order, off the coast of Venezuela, exciting and unique, and a resounding YES. So what makes this island a can’t miss, and how do you get there? Read on to find out.
Where is Trinidad?
Trinidad, the southernmost Caribbean island, is located a little less than seven miles off the coast of northeast Venezuela. It’s one of the largest islands in the Caribbean, and one of the most populous. It shares maritime boundaries with Barbados to the northeast, Grenada to the northwest, Guyana to the southeast, and Venezuela to the south and west.
Trinidad and Tobago
These two islands, Trinidad and Tobago, make up the sovereign state of Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad is the larger of the two, and many people use its name as a shorthand to refer to both islands.
A Short History
Arawak speaking Amerindian people were the original inhabitants of what is now the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Like many places in the Caribbean, the territory has experienced multiple waves of colonization. Trinidad was a Spanish Colony from 1498 until 1797. Tobago changed hands between Spanish, French, Dutch and Courlander colonizers many times during that period. In 1802, the entire area came under British power. And in 1889, Trinidad and Tobago became one unified territory. Trinidad and Tobago obtained independence in 1962 and became a republic in 1976.
The islands are home to a wealth of diverse plants and animals. They are also home to a striking diversity of cultures. The present-day population includes people with ancestry from Africa, India, China, Portugal, the Arab world and more. Also, the islands are home to a variety of religions, including Islam, Hinduism, and various syncretic Christian denominations. The republic is the most highly developed state in the Caribbean and has the highest standard of living in the Americas, after Canada and the United States. Much of its wealth comes from exporting petroleum and natural gas. The republic also has a well-developed tourist industry.
How to Get There
Many people fly into Piarco International Airport in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Tobago also has an airport, the ANR Robinson Airport. The islands are a three and a half hour flight from Miami and a four and a half hour flight from New York. You can also arrive in Trinidad by sea. The islands are a little less than seven miles from the Venezuelan coast. There is no port of call for visitors on Tobago.
What to See and Do
Many different cultures have left their mark on Trinidad and Tobago. As a result, the islands are a treasure trove for culture lovers. These islands are the birthplace of many things that people associate with the Caribbean, including steel pan drums, the limbo, and Calypso music. Its Carnival festival, also, is not to be missed.
Also, the republic is a wonderland of biodiversity. Because the islands sit on the same continental shelf as Venezuela, their biological diversity is different from that of any of the other Caribbean islands. The islands boast several diverse ecosystems, including coastal and marine, forest, and freshwater rivers and streams, and karst. You can visit coral reefs, mangrove swamps, and seagrass beds all on the same day. And the republic is very invested in preserving them.
Numerous musical styles originated in Trinidad and Tobago, including calypso, soca, and chutney, which combines East Indian musical styles with soca. Tobago, in particular, has a lively Jazz heritage.
The Tobago Jazz Experience, a week-long festival in April, brings many visitors to the island. Performers have included big names like Grace Jones and Wyclef Jean, as well as local performers. If you’re going to be in the area in April, don’t miss this world-class event.
Festivals and Celebrations
Trinidad and Tobago love to celebrate. And they have a lot to celebrate! All year long, the islands host a smorgasbord of religious, political, secular, and cultural holidays. Have a look at some of our favorites.
Carnival is the holiday that comes to many people’s minds when they think of Trinidad. The island celebrates Carnival on the Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Calypso and Soca music and band competitions figure heavily into celebrations. In addition, visitors can enjoy stick fighting demonstrations, limbo competitions, dancing, and masquerades.
But the islands are host to many different religions. And this means that you can experience celebrations of Hindu, Islamic, and other religious holidays as well. For example, Trinidad has been celebrating Divali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, since 1845! In fact, Trinidad’s Divali celebration is the largest one in the English speaking Caribbean.
The islands also celebrate Eid-al-Fitr, the feast that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting. Hosay is a ten-day Islamic celebration in honor of Hussein and Hassan, the martyred grandsons of the prophet Muhammed.
If you’re going to be on Tobago around Easter time, you can also catch the surprisingly famous Goat Race Festival in Buccoo. Goats and their jockeys train for months before the races. This family-friendly festival has become a significant event on the Tobago tourism calendar
And as long as you’re on Tobago, don’t miss the Tobago Heritage Festival. This two-week extravaganza of Toboggan culture features food, music, theatre, and more. The Tobago Heritage Festival takes place from mid-July to early August.
And perhaps, most importantly, in late July and early August, Trinidad hosts the Emancipation Pan African Festival. This festival celebrates the island’s forebears, who struggled for the freedom that the republic’s citizens now enjoy. In addition, the festival celebrates both African and Caribbean culture, music, food, dance, and more. You can enjoy stilt walkers and demonstrations of capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian martial art. It is indeed a celebration of what it means to be from Trinidad and Tobago.
The islands have a significant literary and intellectual tradition. The Nobel Laureate V.S. Naipaul hails from the Trinidad and Tobago, as well as award-winning writers Samual Selvon, Earl Lovelace, and Michael Anthony. In addition, Nobel Laureate poet and playwright Derek Walcott — who is from St. Lucia — has made significant contributions to theatre in Trinidad.
Trinidad and Tobago also have a lively newspaper, the Trinidad Express. If you want to know what’s really happening on the islands before you go, give it a look.
The Magnificent Seven
The Magnificent Seven are seven mansions in Port of Spain, Trinidad. These stately homes were built between 1902 and 1910. They are listed as heritage sites by the National Trust of Trinidad and Tobago. These homes are architecturally significant, as they combine different European styles — including French Colonial, Scottish baronial, Indian Empire, and Moorish Mediterranean styles — with Caribbean architecture. Read more about these seven impressive buildings at RebelChick.
Fort King George and the Tobago Museum
Fort King George is the best preserved colonial fortress on Tobago. The British occupiers built the fort in the 1770s and named it after King George III. Today, the fort is home to the Tobago Museum. The museum houses Amerindian artifacts, military relics, and documents from the colonial period. In addition, visitors can experience spectacular views over the town of Scarborough.
The La Brea Pitch Lake, Trinidad
No, it’s not the La Brea Tar Pits of Los Angeles, but it’s not far off. This 98-meter lake, filled with 10 million tons of bubbling pitch, is genuinely one of the islands’ natural wonders. With the assistance of a guide, you can test your nerve by walking out onto the surface of the “lake.” The La Brea Pitch Lake formed eons ago when the Caribbean continental plate slipped beneath another plate, opening a fault through which oil from deep underground bubbled up. The lighter elements evaporated, leaving the existing asphalt behind.
Paria Falls, Trinidad
Paria Falls is another natural wonder you won’t want to miss. The rewards are rich for trekking through the North Forest to reach the falls. You can jump off the falls into the water below, or paddle in the natural pools nearby. If you’re looking for a challenge, you can hike two and half hours through the forest. Another option is to walk 15 minutes from scenic Paria Beach.
You can find more outdoor adventures in Trinidad and Tobago, in the Trip Advisor article, the 10 Best Parks and Natural Attractions in Trinidad and Tobago.
Wait, Isn’t Trinidad, Cuba?
There is a Trinidad, Cuba. There’s also a Trinidad, Mississippi. In fact, there are five towns named Trinidad in North America, and thirteen in central and South America! The name is Spanish for “trinity,” which has great cultural significance in areas with large Roman Catholic populations. We’re sure they’re all nice places to visit. But if you’re looking for rich, vibrant Caribbean culture, there is only one Trinidad.