10 things to do in Trinidad after Carnival

When the music stops and the costumes are put away, there’s still a multitude of things to keep Carnival visitors here in Trinidad a few days or weeks

An Exodus bass pannist at Panorama finalsBoats at ChaguaramasLunch at the Blue Crab Inn, TobagoPigeon Point, a.k.a paradiseSpare changeThe beach at MayaroTrinidad’s Northern RangeTrinidad’s world-famous Angostura bitters

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 après Carnival, 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 nouvelle
Creole 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.

10 Sleep

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!

The details

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”.