So it’s Ash Wednesday, the day after Carnival Tuesday, and a high-pitched ringing in your ears has replaced the sound of loud soca music. Muscle aches have succeeded yesterday’s physical euphoria, and the streets where you danced non-stop for two days have been reclaimed by everyday traffic.
You’re grateful for the Carnival experience, but nonetheless relieved to have got through it all in one piece, too exhausted to live the masquerade every day. Maybe you’re wondering, now that the biggest party in the world is officially over, what else Trinidad has to offer. Short answer: more than you probably think. Longer answer: most visitors come here for our world-famous Carnival, but Trinidad also offers all the usual attractions you’d expect from a tropical island, plus a few unexpected ones. Since (if you enjoyed Carnival properly) you may be suffering at the moment from a touch of dehydration or fatigue, we’ve made things easy for you. Here’s a handy checklist: ten things to do aprèsCarnival, before you get back on your BWIA plane.
1 Hit the beach
An Ash Wednesday tradition for many Carnival masqueraders: soaking away the excesses of the preceding two days in warm, blue salt water, or sleeping off that hangover in the comfortable shade of a palm tree. This is the thing about being on an island the size of Trinidad — you’re never far away from the coast. Head out to the long, flat expanses of sand and coconut trees at Manzanilla or Mayaro on the east coast, or up to the smaller bays of the north coast, sheltered by the peaks of the Northern Range.
Maracas Bay, just half an hour’s drive from downtown Port of Spain, can be a bit crowded on holidays and at weekends, but it’s indisputably the island’s trendiest beach location. The winding mountain road offers breathtaking views of coast and forest — rejuvenating tired spirits — before descending to the beach, where you can replenish the body with a swim, a famous shark-and-bake snack, some fresh fruit juice. You may find it hard to tear yourself away from the near-perfect semi-circular bay, ringed with hills. No problem! The Maracas Bay Hotel at the western end of the beach will put you up for the night, so you can enjoy it all again tomorrow.
2 Head for the hills
The Northern and Central Ranges and the Trinity Hills to the south are distinctive parts of Trinidad’s landscape. Still heavily forested, and home to hundreds of species of flora and fauna, they are stretches of paradise for naturalists both professional and amateur. The Northern Range, rising just above Port of Spain and the densely populated East-West Corridor, is the most easily accessible of the three ranges, yet just a few minutes’ drive from busy highways you’ll find quiet rural valleys, rushing streams, and miles of trails for hiking. Trinidad is home to almost 400 bird species, and you can find dozens of them at the renowned Asa Wright Nature Centre at the head of the Arima valley. Or plan a more strenuous expedition, perhaps to the summit of El Tucuche, or to the Heights of Aripo, where a rare oilbird colony inhabits a series of secluded caves. It’s worth contacting a tour operator to arrange for a guide. Some parts of the Northern Range seem utterly remote from civilisation — which can be wonderfully refreshing after the crowds and the noise of Carnival — but you certainly don’t want to get lost in the forest!
3 Sample the hair of the dog
Maybe you’re one of the many people who became good friends with rum during the Carnival festivities. After drinking so much of it — and in the spirit of “the hair of the dog” — why don’t you pay a visit to the place where rum actually comes from? At the Angostura distillery just east of Port of Spain you can learn exactly how the spirit is made, see it aging in oak barrels, sample a few choice blends, and tour the small but immensely fascinating museum, housing artefacts of the rum-distilling houses of Angostura and Fernandes, some dating back to the early 19th century. (For information, call 623-1841.)
4 Try your luck
Ever heard of Caribbean stud poker? This is a five-card version of the game, in which all players play against the house. If you’re feeling lucky, and are ready for a bit of casino action, try a night out with the high rollers at one of our sophisticated gambling spots. At Island Club Casino in the City of Grand Bazaar shopping complex, you can enjoy a lavish Italian meal before you hit the card tables; or if you’re in the mood for sushi, Club Vegas in downtown Port of Spain offers an array of Japanese delights at its house restaurant, the Laughing Buddha. A couple hours of roulette or blackjack will get your heart-rate back up to Carnival Tuesday levels.
5 Nourish yourself
By now you know that Carnival takes a physical toll on you. Enjoy the partying, but when it’s over make sure the body gets some of the pampering it needs to return to the peak of health. After dancing for two days straight, fuelled by little more than rum and adrenaline, you’ll need to put away a few good meals. Luckily, Trinis take food very seriously. Your dining choices range from doubles (with “slight pepper”) from a roadside vendor to elegant nouvelleCreole cuisine. Whatever your craving, you’ll find a restaurant to satisfy you. Chinese? There are dozens of inexpensive options, or go upscale and enjoy an Oriental feast with an amazing view at Tiki Village, on the top floor of the Kapok Hotel. Indian? The authentic flavours of the sub-continent are served up every night at Apsara, housed in an elegant mansion round the Savannah, Port of Spain’s main park. Arabic? Thai? French? Just want a good old-fashioned hamburger? Your problem will be too much to choose from.
6 Hit the greens
Relaxing, quiet, with minimal physical exertion, golf is the perfect sport for those still a little sore from too much jumping and waving — carts to spare those aching legs, great open spaces to relax the mind and help it return to its pre-Carnival state. Both the Chaguaramas Public Golf Course in Trinidad’s north-west peninsula and the St Andrew’s Golf Course in Moka, north of Port of Spain, are open to non-members and within easy reach of town.
7 Take a cruise
Just south of the hurricane belt, Trinidad is popular with sailing enthusiasts. The well-developed local boating industry is centred around Chaguaramas on the west coast of the island. Many yachties make this their base for exploring the rest of the Caribbean, and all the facilities you need — whether you want to put your own boat in dry-dock or charter someone else’s for the day — are available here. For information on organising your post-Carnival sea adventure, contact the Trinidad and Tobago Sailing Association at 634-4210, or visit www.ttsailing.org.
8 Get off the island
The nice thing about being in a two-island nation is that you don’t need to leave the country in order to enjoy a complete change of scene. Just 20 minutes away by air, Trinidad’s smaller sister Tobago, with its laid-back lifestyle, gorgeous beaches, and invigorating scenery, is a great place to relax and recoup. The famous Store Bay is barely a two-minute walk from Crown Point International Airport, and with a host of guesthouses and hotels — such as the Tropikist Beach Hotel — in the immediate vicinity, it’s almost like stepping off the plane right to your hotel room.
So what’s there to do in Tobago? We’d need a whole other list to tell you properly. Swimming at Pigeon Point, snorkelling at the Buccoo Reef, exploring secluded bays, diving off the St Giles Islands, mountain-biking through the Main Ridge, inspecting the colonial fortifications of Fort King George, or simply lazing on a white-sand beach and sipping cocktails — whichever takes your fancy. A good tour operator, like Ansyl Tours, will help you plan an itinerary as ambitious or as lazy as you like.
And if you decide, as the calypsonian Shadow once declared, to chuck in the day job and “go and plant peas in Tobago” (i.e. enjoy the simple life in one of the world’s most beautiful places), there are great properties on the real estate market for you to put down roots. Help negotiating the deal is available from companies like Caribbean Estates and Sea Jade Investments.
9 Don’t stop the party
But maybe you’re not actually glad the revelry is over. Maybe you’re still raring to go, still quivering to the soca beat, still feeling the Carnival energy. Lucky you. Once there was a time when the party did really grind to a halt at midnight on Carnival Tuesday; from Ash Wednesday morning, for the duration of Lent, you didn’t even hear calypso music on the radio. Times have changed. Though the Carnival season definitively ends on Tuesday night, a series of cool-down parties in the days and weeks following helps insatiable partygoers wean themselves away from the excitement of the main event. And if you want one last taste of the best of the Carnival season, the Champs in Concert shows held in both Trinidad and Tobago will revive good memories of everything you’ve experienced.
But every Trini knows that if you’ve overdone it at Carnival, pushed the body too far, had just a little too much fun (it can happen), the most successful remedy, tried and tested over centuries, is sleep — for as long as possible. So head back to the quiet and peace of your room, fluff up the pillows, drift into hibernation, and savour your Carnival memories from the cosiness of dreamland. You can get back to your to-do list tomorrow!
For all the information you need on where to stay, what to do, where to go, and how to get there, turn to Discover Trinidad & Tobago, the definitive visitors guide to this twin-island destination. Concise, compact, and bursting with hints and valuable contacts, Discover Trinidad & Tobago is available free at all good hotels and at the airports; or check out the online edition.
Rest your head
Trinidad has no shortage of accommodation options to suit a variety of budgets, so you’ll have no trouble finding a peaceful place to recuperate from your Carnival exertions. The Allamanda — a stylish villa in the west Port of Spain neighbourhood of Woodbrook — and Par-May-La’s Inn — just south of the Savannah in Newtown — are both close to the main Carnival parade routes, so if you need to break for a nap you won’t have far to go. The Royal Palm Suite Hotel, in the Maraval valley north of the city, is on the way to Maracas Bay — a great base for exploring both the wild north coast and Port of Spain’s urban pleasures. The Airport View Guesthouse, a stone’s throw from Piarco International Airport, is conveniently near many of the Northern Range’s rugged eco-attractions. And if you want to experience another side of Trinidad, Cara Suites in Claxton Bay, central Trinidad, offers an ocean view and proximity to San Fernando, Trinidad’s “second city”.