After years of visiting my birth country of Trinidad and not seeing much beyond the chaotic Port of Spain and its equally hectic surroundings, I was starting to wonder where the island’s beauty was hiding itself. Sure, I’ve seen places like Maracas Bay and the Caroni mangrove, but it was only recently that I’ve finally gotten the opportunity to see more than that. I’ve hiked to a secluded beach, explored a verdant gorge, and seen beautiful birds at a world renowned birdwatching centre. I’ve also recently did a mini road trip through the island’s northeast coast. And here it was confirmed that Trinidad’s beauty truly is in its nature and countryside. So if you’re heading to Trinidad, this day trip is something I recommend you consider doing.
What Do You Need?
To do this trip, you have two options. Either hire a car and a driver for the day or rent a car and self-drive. The roads on this trip are good (narrow in parts, though) so most experienced drivers would be fine to drive themselves. Once your transportation is sorted, I suggest figuring out a picnic. Restaurants are few and far between along this route and those that do exist, you may not recognize them as such. Besides, a picnic on a beach is certainly nothing to sneeze at! The final thing you need is one full day, preferably during the week. This way you can take your time, linger wherever you want, and not be inundated with weekend revelers.
Where to Start?
This trip starts in a small village called Valencia. But more than likely, you’ll be starting from Port of Spain so just take the Churchill Roosevelt Highway east and follow the signs until you reach the village. Then you’re looking for a T-junction between Valencia Main Road and Toco Main Road. This trip will not take more than one tank of gas so fill up before leaving Port of Spain.
Who Doesn’t Like Beach Hopping?
As you drive along the coast, you’ll probably start drooling over the various places at which you can stop. Some of them having parking facilities and others you’ll just need to pull over onto the grass. Half the time, you’ll have no idea what particular beach or viewpoint you’re at but in the end, it doesn’t really matter. You’re at a beach! Relish the view! Soak in the sun, frolic in the sand, take a quick dip in the sea, and enjoy a picnic. The beaches along this stretch of coast include Saline Bay, Balandra Bay, and Rampanalgas. One thing that you’ll notice is that the coastline demonstrates how Trinidad is very much unlike the other Caribbean islands – this landmass used to be part of Venezuela eons ago which explains its nature and ruggedness.
End of the Road!
If you’re following along on a map right now, you’ll notice I skipped over Toco. Fear not – you’ll soon see why. For now, trust me and continue on towards Matelot. This is the last village on Trinidad’s northeastern coast. Don’t worry about missing it – the road ends here! Seriously, it is not possible to drive beyond Matelot. The village really small and very quiet; its source of income tends to be from eco-tourism, agriculture, and fishing. Find a side road to park and take a wander. There really isn’t much to see here as a day tripper other than more views of the ocean and fishing boats. But it is still a pretty unique place!
On the Edge of the Island
So the reason why I suggest leaving Toco for last is because the late afternoon light makes for better photos, especially at nearby Galera Point. A beautifully rocky end of the island, Galera Point is a fantastic place to admire the wildness of Mother Nature. After you tilt your head up at the tall Toco Lighthouse built in 1897, head towards the fencing and pass through the gate. You can walk down the rocks to get closer to the edge. Just be careful if it is a windy day! The deep blue Atlantic Ocean and the lighter Caribbean Sea meets on this coast so the waters can be pretty dramatic here. Standing here, breathing in the salty air and hearing the crashing waves against jagged rocks, I found beautifully invigorating and inspiring. Moments like these are for what I live, dream, and travel.
Spending More Than One Day?
You’ve probably figured out by now that there is a lot to see and do in this region of Trinidad. Toco is home to several craft projects and a small folk museum. Along the whole coast, in addition to swimming and boat trips, the surfing is apparently good. Also, from March to September, it is leatherback turtle nesting season and this region is one of the few places in the world where you can see this phenomenon. Finally, there is tons of hiking. The dense forests and valleys would be amazing to explore on foot. There are many waterfalls and secluded beaches that can only be accessed via hikes, too. So if you have more than one day, I suggest thinking about spending more than one day along the northeastern coast of Trinidad. I certainly plan to do so soon!