Trinidad Carnival, Red Costume (Trinidad and Tobago Tourism)

Maracas Beach on Trinidad (Glowimages/Getty)

Trinidad Carnival, Blue Costume (Trinidad and Tobago Tourism)

View from Maraca Point, Trinadad (Jack Hollingsworth/Digital Vision/Getty)

Trinidad Carnival, Yellow Costume (Trinidad and Tobago Tourism)


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What to do in Trinidad

Far from a sleepy Caribbean isle, bustling and cosmopolitan Trinidad is one of the most modern spots in the region. It's a mere seven miles off the coast of Venezuela, and at over 1,800 square miles it's much larger than its quieter sibling, Tobago. Yes, you'll have to make your way through the shopping centers, fast-food joints, loud nightlife, and traffic jams of the capital, Port-of-Spain, to get to the island's untouched wilderness, but it's gorgeous once you find it. Moreover, the isle's large population of over 1.2 million is a fascinating mix of Syrians, Chinese, Americans, Europeans, East Indians, Parsees, Madrasis, Venezuelans, and the last of the original Amerindian settlers of the island. Trinidad is also quite prosperous, since it's one of the biggest exporters of oil in the Western Hemisphere, and it also has the source of most of the world's asphalt—the huge 114-acre Pitch Lake.

Port-of-Spain is one of the biggest commercial centers in the Caribbean: it appeals more to business travelers than tourists because most of the good beaches are at least a half-hour drive from the city. Dating back to 1560, Port-of-Spain offers some colonial architecture, but does not have the most glamorous of reputations. With the opening of its new two million dollar cruise ship complex, it has become a major port of call for Caribbean cruise lines.

The island of Trinidad has three mountain ranges—the highest point, El Cerro del Aripo, rises to over 3,000 feet. You'll find rich flora and fauna all over the isle, including elfin woodlands, tropical rainforests, swamps, floodplains, and deciduous mountain forests.

To get a feel for Trinidad's teeming international culture, be sure to visit the little town of Chaguanas, located south of Port-of-Spain. It's the birthplace of Nobel Prize-winning novelist V. S. Naipaul. You may feel like you are in New Delhi rather than the Caribbean, with sari stores, curry restaurants, and Bollywood music. Trinidad is also known for its elaborate Carnival—one of the best in the Western Hemisphere—exploding with floats, costumes, music, and food. Calypso music, which grew out of the folk songs of the African-West Indian immigrants, stems originally from this island.

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