Family Vacations to Trinidad

Family Overview - Trinidad
TRINIDAD: Frond-fringed tropical paradise (PhotoDisc)

Trinidad Family Travel Tips

  • Dance to Calypso, steel pan, and soca rhythms.
  • Enjoy the Caribbean's liveliest Carnival.
  • See the skies turn red at sunset as scores of scarlet ibis flock to the Caroni Bird Sanctuary.
  • Stroll and people-watch in Queen's Park Savannah, an expansive park in Port of Spain.

While "a rich multicultural experience" often rings as a somewhat obvious statement when it comes to world travel, with the island of Trinidad, which sits just seven miles from Venezuela, the phrase is 100 percent accurate. Since the capital, Port of Spain, does a brisk oil and gas business, the city draws workers and merchants from South America, India, China, Syria, Lebanon, and other countries. Then there are the descendants of the British, French, Dutch, and Spanish colonizers, the indigenous Carib Indians, and the African slaves. As a result, the city thrums with a vibrant mix of languages, local patois, and lively festivals. The restaurants dish up Indian rotis and curries, Thai seafood chowder, French escargot, fish with mango salsa, and many other cuisines.

Bustling Port of Spain, population 272,000, is not for every traveler—and neither is Trinidad, where the best beaches require drive time from the capital. But for families with teens and 20-somethings, especially those interested in music, Trinidad is perfect. The island is credited with being the birthplace of several beats including calypso, steel pan, and soca (a fusion of Calypso with Indian rhythms), and the region is a major source for chutney, popularized by Indo-Trinidadians and rooted in Hindu celebrations. Calypso traces its beginnings to the African slaves, who, prevented from talking to each other, communicated in songs. Locals crafted the steel drum or "pan," said to be the only acoustic instrument invented in the 20th century, made from the island's plentiful 55-gallon oil containers (some claim that the vibraphone, an acoustic xylophone-like instrument, was invented in the 1920s—but the steel drum is oh-so-much-more tropical).

Impress (or embarrass) your playlist-obsessed progeny by listening to local bands at hotels and clubs and by dancing in the streets during the island's many festivals. Trinidad's Carnival rates as one of the liveliest in the Caribbean, starting with parties in January and building up to the days before Lent. Stilt walkers and other colorfully-costumed revelers parade to the blaring sounds of soca and steel bands.

Trinidad also supports a wide range of wildlife, especially birds that can be spotted at three island centers. Walk through the 200-acre Asa Wright Nature Centre and Lodge to view oilbirds (usually seen in caves), ruby-topaz hummingbirds, and more than 170 other bird species along with 97 native mammals, 55 reptiles, 25 amphibians, 617 butterflies, and over 2,200 species of flowering plants. Scarlet ibis star at the Caroni Bird Sanctuary. Come at dusk when these brilliantly feathered fliers turn the skies red as they return from their Venezuelan feeding grounds. The Pointe-a-Pierre Wild Fowl Trust breeds yellow-headed Amazon parrots and blue gold macaws, and you can also see scarlet ibis and muscovy ducks.

For sandy strolls, head to the beaches at Maracas Bay, Las Cuevas Bay, and Blanchisseuse Bay, but beware: the rough surf and currents make swimming difficult. In Port of Spain, promenade and people-watch in Queen's Park Savannah, a nearly 200-acre park with paths and playing fields.

Tip: To get a hotel room during the popular Carnival, book as far ahead as possible.'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 26 Nov 2007 | Last Updated: 9 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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