Marc Farrell, once Starbucks’ youngest Vice President and the current owner of Ten to One Rum—the rum of choice for NYC hotspots such as The Aviary and Momofuku Noodle Bar—shares his local guide to his home country.
Trinidad and Tobago is hands down the most dynamic and interesting place you can visit in the Caribbean Islands due to the remarkable natural beauty, culture, and history that are unlike anywhere else in the Caribbean (or the world! I promise I’m not biased).
Trinidad and Tobago is such a unique melting pot of cultural heritage—from African and Indian influences to Chinese, Syrian, Lebanese, and European—that have all combined to create the Trinidadian way of life that we celebrate as our own.
From the outside, traveling to Trinidad and Tobago can seem somewhat intimidating given its lack of inherent focus on tourism (compared to most of its Caribbean counterparts). But Trinidad is also the type of place that’s best enjoyed either in the company of locals or by immersing yourself in what the locals do.
A Rum-tastic Day in Trinidad with Marc Farrell
10 a.m. — A Full Beach Day
Once the early morning traffic has died down, jump in the car and head up to Maracas Beach for a chance to experience Trinidad’s most popular beach, located on the north coast of the island. It’s naturally the most packed (by locals!) on weekends. For anyone hoping to sample Trinidad’s local favorites, grabbing a “bake and shark” on the beach is an absolute must.
3 p.m. — Roundabout Trinidad
While this may seem like a slightly more standard suggestion, the Trinidad Savannah offers a glimpse into the urban side of Trinidad (without getting stuck in downtown Port of Spain’s traffic), as well as a quick visual overview of some of its post-colonial history. The Savannah—the world’s largest roundabout—connects Port of Spain to a number of surrounding suburbs, and is lined with old colonial buildings (known as The Magnificent Seven Houses), coconut vendors, snow cones, and other unique signs of Trinidadian life.
7 p.m. — Catch the Last Rays
Paramin is one of Trinidad’s truly hidden gems up in the hills above Port of Spain. A quiet, scenic, and epically beautiful neighborhood from which you can witness much of Trinidad’s natural beauty. There is a great elevated lookout point from which to see the Trini sunset.
8 p.m. — Panyard Visits
Though Panorama (the annual steel pan competition) is held in the run up to Trinidad Carnival, visiting a steel drum panyard is an amazing experience at any time of year. The musical talent on display is incredible, as is the pride that we take in an instrument that was invented right here in Trinidad & Tobago.
10 p.m. — Liming on the Avenue
There is no more quintessentially Trinidadian activity than “liming,” (a Trinidadian word for socializing or hanging out), and there is no better place to experience this as a part of daily life than on Ariapita Avenue. You’ll find a mix of everything from wine bars, lounges, bare-bones rum shops, and nightclubs, which cover a typically broad range of Trini occasions and tastes. My favorite spot on the avenue is DRINK Bar (which also houses an art gallery directly above it).
3 a.m. — Double Trouble
Trinis love food; Trinis love to eat. And there is probably no single food more near and dear to our hearts than doubles. It’s a simple street food (that can be messy if you don’t know how to eat it) that is enjoyed by Trinis for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and as a late-night snack (my preference) after a night out! My favorite spot is Donkey Doubles in Barataria, which doesn’t even open until 3 a.m.
At a doubles stand, you will find so much of what encapsulates Trinidad culture, with a mix of classes and cultures (Indian, Black, White, and everything in between) often set against an amazing backdrop of Trini humor. I believe that it’s these organic settings that are oftentimes harder to come by on some other islands.
The Trinidad Essentials
Where to stay in Trinidad
In Trinidad, The Hyatt is the best hotel on the island for business travelers and visitors seeking all the modern comforts. Anise Resort and Spa is a lovely small resort on the north coast that presents a great launching point for turtle watching in Grande Riviere and other gems on Trinidad’s North Coast.
The Best Day Trip
Heading “Down De Islands” (or DDI as Trinis refer to it), entails jumping on a boat—usually with close friends or family—for an epic day on the water off the northwest coast of Trinidad. While this activity doesn’t always feel universally accessible to all Trinidadians (those who live in the more affluent suburbs in West Trinidad more frequently participate), it is still an activity worth doing and provides a unique lens into Trinidad life and culture.
The Best Time of Year to Visit
Parang in Paramin
Listening to Parang (folk music that originated in Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago) is a special activity reserved for the Christmas season, but my family would consider it essential. In my opinion, Paramin is one of the best-kept secrets in Trinidad. Stunning views, remarkable sunsets, and an inspired community that combine to provide a unique window into what makes Trinidad so special.
Turtle Watching at Matura or Grande Riviere
Trinidad has some remarkable eco-tourism for those so inclined, and at different times of year, you can see these huge leatherback turtles come to nest (and hatch) their young ones. A very cool adventure for nature lovers.