Covering an area of 300 km² and is approximately 40 kilometers (25 miles) long and 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) wide, Tobago is the smaller, sleepier, more rustic, and less populated twin island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. Although considered one country, there are so many differences between the two islands. Travelers often overlook Tobago for its better-known twin, Trinidad — but this tiny island is a true Caribbean gem. Like its southern sister island, Tobago was also discovered by Columbus, however, unlike most other islands in the Caribbean, there was never a serious attempt at colonization, although Britain, France, the Netherlands and even Latvia fought for the right to own the island for centuries. In 1888, Tobago joined Trinidad and became a self-governing territory within the British West Indies Federation. In the early 60s, Tobago, together with Trinidad, sought the right of internal self-government, and in 1962, the two islands received complete independence.
As a volcanic origin, Tobago is primarily hilly and mountainous. The southwest of the island is flat and consists largely of coralline limestone. More than a third of Tobago’s population lives in its administrative center – Scarborough, which is also the island’s main port. Laid-back Scarborough is the perfect jumping off point to explore the island, but it also offers plenty of ways to leisurely spend away the day. The town lies in the foothills with a lighthouse and an old English fort built in 1779.
For a long time, Tobago was practically unknown to tourists but recently it is developing at an incredible speed, showing an almost double the number of guests every year. The island is intimate, the culture is chill, the locals are friendly, and it’s very easy to get around. Although it’s not as developed as its Caribbean cousins, the untouched nature of Tobago has helped the island’s tourism industry to grow very actively, and this is not surprising – Its north coast is full of secluded coves and virgin forests waiting to be explored, and its south coast unlocks incredible snorkel and dive sites, including Buccoo Reef, Flying Reef, and Bon Accord Lagoon. And because it’s not yet a tourist town, the food caters to the locals—meaning you’re not getting watered-down resort fare. You’ll find spicey and chile-laden goat curry spots, as well as Italian food in tree houses, excellent takeout kebab, and freshly grilled seafood served beachside.
Tobago is hot and humid all year round with an average temperature of about 27ºC. In this tropical climate, rain is possible at any time, although the wet season is generally thought to run from the end of May to November. Most visitors go to the island between December and April. During these months, the magic of carnival is everywhere, the trees are in full bloom and the weather is at its most forgiving with long hours of sunshine, very little rain and cool nights.
Tobago is so low-key that there are essentially no travel books available on the country. Despite that, there’s no shortage of things to do on the unspoilt island of Tobago no matter what type of Caribbean holiday you’re looking for. Here are the very best reasons why Tobago is the perfect holiday destination for you:
Spend a chill day at the beach
The beaches in Tobago are pristine—you can’t go wrong making a pit stop at whatever beaches you spot in your area. The most popular is Mount Irvine Beach, adjacent to a golf course and known for its excellent surfing. Englishman’s Bay is another good option, a crescent-shaped of soft yellow sand and deep blue water where you can spot leatherback turtles chilling on the sands. If you’re looking for hidden treasure, drive 45 minutes up to Castara, a tiny but stunning spot with gorgeous views of the forests below.
Visit Pigeon Point Heritage Park
Pigeon Point, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean Sea, is the most photographed spot in Tobago. The powdery white sandy beach and the calm turquoise water with a backdrop of palm trees swaying in the breeze draw crowds of locals and tourists alike. This family-friendly enclave offers multiple activities in one spot—there are cute little shops, lots of great cafes for snacking, and a lifeguard-tended beach area, complete with a highly Instagram-able thatched-roof jetty.
Go around Buccoo Reef
Book a glass-bottom boat from Pigeon Point Heritage Park, and you can spend a day going around Buccoo Reef, a designated marine park containing hundreds of colorful species of fish and coral (Jacques Cousteau named it the third most spectacular reef in the world). There are loads to see, so it’s the ideal spot to go snorkeling. Make sure your boat makes a stop at the surreal Nylon Pool, a one-meter-deep enclave in the middle of the reef whose sheer waters and white sand prompted Britain’s Princess Margaret to name the pool after her nylon stockings.
Experience magical underwater world at Speyside
Buffeted by Atlantic currents, the Speyside area on the island’s north-eastern edge is the place to experience the best of Tobago’s famous drift diving. Here, currents propel you effortlessly along the rich sloping reefs that surround the area’s offshore islands. Speyside offers divers the best visibility in Tobago. It’s home to the island’s most impressive coral, as well as offering the best chances of spotting hawksbill turtles, nurse sharks and even the elusive manta rays.
Snorkel Over Unspoiled Coral Reefs
The coral reefs found just off the coast at Speyside, Charlotteville, and Castara are as good as you’ll find anywhere in the Caribbean. You don’t have to venture very far offshore before you see massive manta rays, colorful parrot, angel, damsel, and butterfly fish, majestic sharks, and even the odd turtle. Spend hours exploring this spectacular underwater world.
Surf at Mount Irvine Beach
From November to February, the big breakers at Mount Irvine Beach make it the perfect spot for surfing. Enthusiasts from all over the world are drawn here for the relaxed vibe and challenging conditions. The water is initially shallow and there is a reef directly offshore. The skill is not just in catching a wave, but in negotiating your way in so as not to damage your surf fin on the coral. No protective footwear is allowed. This is to stop over-eager surfers jumping in and damaging the coral. For non-surfers, Mount Irvine Beach offers excellent swimming all year round. There are showers and changing facilities, as well as a bar/restaurant which serves ice-cold drinks and simple lunches.
Hike through the Tobago Forest Reserve
As the oldest protected forest reserve in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this is the spot to go on a hike in Tobago. 14,000 acres were designated a protected Crown Reserve by the British in 1776. This was thanks to scientist Stephen Hales who feared that plantation owners were encroaching into the forest and endangering the entire eco-system of the island. The main trek is short and accessible, weaving through a few miles of untouched forest. It’s worth hiring a trained guide who can point out the various herbs, spices, and native fruit trees that are abundant throughout the trail. The hike ends at Argyle Falls, where you can lounge in natural rock tubs surrounded by idyllically green trees.
Take a Trip to Little Tobago
Little Tobago, aka ‘Bird of Paradise Island’, is a 2km² rocky outcrop off eastern coast of Tobago. It has long been a bird-watchers dream. David Attenborough no less, filmed parts of his ‘Trials of Life’ series here. You will see a variety of birds here, including the Audubon’s shearwater, brown booby and noddy, sooty, white-tailed tropicbird and bridled tern, to name a few.