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Trinidad and Tobago

Larger, boisterous Trinidad parlayed its oil-boom riches into one of the region's most industrialized economies. While the island is famous for its lively Carnival celebrations - one of the world’s greatest street parties - the destination's bountiful countryside with vast forest preserves and marshland, remains off the beaten path for many travelers.

Just 21 miles away, sleepy Tobago is a haven for those seeking the quintessential Caribbean vacation with cozy resorts, picturesque beaches and an abundant marine life.

One Destination, Two Island Experience

Despite its proximity to Venezuela, just eight miles away, life in Trinidad and Tobago is defined more by its colonial roots of African, Indian, Chinese, British and French decent than by its neighboring Latin American culture. The island's ethnic diversity is particularly evident in the local cuisine, which features everything from rotis (soft Indian bread wrapped around curried meat and vegetables) and doubles (a curried chickpea snack) to creole-inspired seafood dishes. Visitors to the island should head to Maracas Beach for the country’s most famous dish, the renowned Shark 'n' Bake, a fried-shark sandwich.

The capital city of Port of Spain boasts a number of art galleries featuring the works of local painters and sculptors, and visitors can also check out the Magnificent Seven, a row of early 20th-century mansions along the Savannah, Port-of-Spain's 'Central Park.'

However, Trinidad is not just about the bustle. Outside the capital, travelers can visit the tallest Hanuman Murti statue outside of India, standing at 85-feet tall, or stay at Grande Riviere Beach from March to September to see the nesting leatherback turtles. The Asa Wright Nature Centre & Lodge, a 700-acre former plantation, draws birdwatchers with its oilbirds, the only living species of nocturnal fruit-eating birds; while at the Caroni Bird Sanctuary, boat tours bring visitors within viewing distance of the rare scarlet ibis, which is best spotted at sunset.

While Tobago is known for its quiet lifestyle and breathtaking sunsets, the island is also home to the UNESCO certified Tobago Main Ridge Forest Reserve, and the waters off Tobago host the largest brain coral in the western hemisphere. During the winter months, anglers visiting the island have a chance to catch white marlin, sailfish, wahoo, swordfish, dolphin or yellow-fin tuna. For visitors seeking unique, unusual and, to some, seriously competitive sports, goat racing is all the rage on the island of Tobago with a yearly competition usually taking place in early April. Those who would like to show their competitive spirit can cheer on their goat and jockey of choice or participate in the crab races that take place at the same time.

Life is a Party and Everyone is Invited

In Trinidad and Tobago there are only two seasons: Carnival, and Getting Ready for Carnival. While Carnival typically takes place in February, the celebrations begin on December 26 each year with music and costume competitions, parties and celebrations that culminate on Carnival Monday and Tuesday. It’s the Caribbean’s biggest party and, in Trinidad and Tobago, everyone is invited. The organized bands that march in Carnival sponsor 'mas' camps (short for masquerade) at numerous venues in and around the busy capital of Port-of-Spain and visitors from around the world are invited to experience the heart-pounding rhythms and jaw-dropping costumes by joining the parade, known locally as “playing mas.”

This melting-pot culture is home to other festivals, including the Hindu celebrations of Divali, the festivals of lights, Holi and Phagwa as well as Emancipation Day, Arrival Day, Shouter Baptist Liberation Day, the Muslim holidays Hosay and Eid-Ul-Fitr and many more. The locals love an excuse to celebrate.

 

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