Layover: Port of Spain, Trinidad

A free day to explore T&T’s capital? A few hours in between business meetings? Our quick guide to getting the most out of Port of Spain when time is tight

Photo by Chris AndersonPhoto by Giselle De RochéPhoto by Franka PhilipPhoto by Kevin SammyPhoto by Tanya-Marie WilliamsPhoto by Cristi Lucaci/Shutterstock.com

Port of Spain knows how to keep business travellers busy, bouncing between boardrooms and hotel lobbies. And yes, the snarls of traffic in the city’s nineteenth-century street grid can gobble up your otherwise free time. For a spell of quiet and a breath of fresh air, head to the Queen’s Park Savannah, the city’s largest park. Around its 2.2-mile perimeter (a favoured jogging route) you’ll find historic buildings, trendy restaurants, parrots squawking overhead, and frequent benches offering people-watching opportunities.

 

After a few days of fancy meals at business dinners, you’ll need to sample Trinidad’s legendary street food. If nothing else, try a doubles or two for breakfast: the spicy “sandwich” of curried channa folded into fried dough, amply garnished, is as close to a national dish as it gets. Doubles vendors operate all around the city. Ask a local for suggestions — or ask two locals, and get caught in the crossfire of opinions.

 

There’s live music almost every night of the week in Port of Spain, ranging from traditional calypso to jazz to local rock. The Kaiso Blues Café on Woodford Street — a self-described “underground club” — has a corps of regulars, both on stage and in the audience, an eclectic programme, and an easy backyard vibe. kaisoblues.com

 

Ready to escape from the city, sample some tropical leisure, preferably wearing your bathing-suit? The drive to Macqueripe Bay, west of Port of Spain, takes you though the green expanse of the Chaguaramas National Park, at the end of which is a perfect semi-circular bay, surrounded by forested cliffs. And it’s not the middle of nowhere: downtown Port of Spain is thirty minutes away, twenty with no traffic.

 

Run out of reading matter? Paper Based, the city’s best bookshop, is a tiny jewelbox at the Hotel Normandie, crammed with new and classic books by Caribbean and international authors, plus art books, magazines, and CDs — and staffed by avid readers ready to make solid recommendations. paperbased.org

 

Looking to decompress over a drink or two, and tired of hotel cocktails? Ariapita Avenue in the west Port of Spain neighbourhood of Woodbrook has become the city’s main nightlife district, with bars and restaurants spilling over into nearby streets. It’s liveliest on Friday nights, but Thursday is quickly becoming the new Friday, and Wednesday’s not far behind.