Cooling Off in Trinidad

Clients can chill out swimming in a cave or lying on a sandy beach

By: Janice Mucalov

Descending down steep wooden steps, our eyes slowly adjust to the dim light of the huge underground cave. Striking stalactites hanging from the cave roof and columns of stalagmites rising from the floor come into focus. It’s hot, very hot, in this humid grotto, and we’re dripping with sweat. And as much as I’m entranced by the naturally sculpted limestone shapes of ribbons, fans, waterfalls and even of the Virgin Mary, I can’t wait to dip into the deep clear pool at the cavern’s base.

Trinidad isn’t your typical Caribbean island. It’s more a base for industry and business than it is for tourism. But it does boast some fascinating natural attractions for the bird-watchers, eco-adventurers and February carnival-goers who make up most of the island’s vacationers. The Gasparee Caves are one such attraction.

To get to the caves, we drive out of busy Port-of-Spain, the island’s capital, to Chaguaramas National Park, where we clamber into a small boat. Fifteen minutes later, we reach Gaspar Grande Island, one of a number of small islets off Trinidad. A short hike up a hill through dry scrub forest takes us to the cave entrance.

The caves were once used by pirates and smugglers to hide their treasure. Now they’re home to bats, which circle high above us, but are no bother. In the main cave, seawater seeping in through numerous cracks and crevices with the rising tides forms the pool.

After our refreshing cave swim, lunch beckons. Back on mainland Trinidad, we park ourselves on the covered deck of the Lighthouse Restaurant overlooking the boats and yachts in Chaguaramas harbor. As we munch on sauteed shrimp and sip rum punches, a light breeze and a short burst of rain keep us cool. Nodding off in the van on the way back to our hotel, we agree this is a pretty good start for our first day in Trinidad!

The following day we head out to Maracas Bay.

“The drive is the most scenic in all of Trinidad,” exclaimed our irrepressible tour guide “Mr. Nick.”

Carved through lush rainforest, the narrow, windy road hugs the mountainous shoreline, offering panoramic views of the scalloped coast below. Along the way, we stop at Maracas lookout, where we buy “sugar cake,” a chewy candy made of coconut and sugar, from a roadside stand.

Some 40 minutes after leaving Port-of-Spain we reach our destination. Unlike its sister island Tobago, Trinidad isn’t known for its beaches (there are few accessible beaches) but Maracas Bay with its mile-long stretch of off-white sand lined with swaying palm trees, and a picturesque fishing village at one end is an exception.

The most popular beach in Trinidad, Maracas Bay has all the facilities, including changing rooms, basic freshwater showers, lifeguards, and food and beverage stands. On weekends, it’s popular with locals who love to play in the waves but during the week, it’s very quiet.

Maracas is also famous for its “shark’n’bake,” sold from several colorful vendor huts. Like a fish burger (only much better), this tasty treat consists of fried filet of freshly caught shark in a hot johnny-cake bun. We flavor ours with cilantro sauce and garlic sauce, and stuff it with sliced tomatoes and fresh lettuce. Washed down with a frosty Carib beer, the total cost per person is only $3.50.

For a more traditional sun-and-sand vacation, clients might prefer Tobago. But if travel plans and flights permit, suggest adding a stay in Trinidad too. For sure, there are some great places to cool off.


Most visitors to Trinidad stay in Port-of-Spain. Clients should be aware that there are no deluxe resort-style or beachfront hotels in the city. Accommodations are typically used as a base for touring the island rather than as a resort property.

Marriott Courtyard
Recently opened in December, 2004, the 119 spacious rooms of this moderately-priced, AAA Diamond, Courtyard brand hotel are smart and fresh-looking. All feature comfortable beds with white down duvets and strong, quiet air-conditioning. Complimentary high-speed Internet access is available in each room and free computer terminals can be found just off the lobby. The breakfast buffet is also very good. The downside is that the hotel overlooks a construction site on one side and a highway on the other, and is 10 minutes away from the downtown area.

Hilton Trinidad & Conference Center
Centrally located amid a large park and with panoramic views of the city, the 400-room Hilton is perhaps the best hotel in Port-of-Spain, offering the most in the way of restaurants and other amenities. But its tired rooms are in dire need of upgrading. The pool area, however, is the most pleasant in the city.


Sensational Tours has eight years of tour experience in Trinidad and will customize day trips for clients. Ask for owner Gerard Nicholas.