The beaches in Tobago make a point of letting natural scenery speak for itself. You won’t find stretches backed by hotels or café-lined promenades – the closest you’ll get is a shack-style eatery or an off-duty fishing boat with its nose buried in the sand. Palm trees and wedges of greenery form a tight ring around most sandy coves, so there’s a real castaway feel to sunbathing.
Pigeon Point’s the best known Tobagonian beach, thanks to its cut-above swimming scene and Instagram-friendly jetty. The pastry-coloured waterfront curves around a thumb-shaped headland, and there’s a thatched promenade that’s the dictionary definition of tropical. When it comes to taking a dip, you won’t find a spot on the island with bluer waters, either.
Despite its name, Englishman’s Bay doesn’t bear any resemblance to a typical British seaside resort. This away-from-it-all pocket of sand’s not the sort of place you find by chance, as it’s tucked behind a curtain of palm trees. The peaceful waters are hemmed in by a couple of rainforest-covered bluffs, and the shoreline’s a go-to location for nesting leatherback turtles.
The capital, Scarborough, sees a glut of visitors arrive for its Friday and Saturday market. Fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and fish are all stacked up on stalls, and there are clothes and keepsakes on offer, too. Elsewhere, Store Bay’s art and craft market sells wooden sculptures and shell jewellery.
Don’t expect big-name brands in Tobago – the fashion stores here are mostly independents, and work from a more traditional template. Scarborough and Crown Point both have a good selection of shops where you can pick up hand-printed sarongs, leather handbags and beaded necklaces.
For high-end buys, the Gulf City Mall in Lowlands sells some of the finest paintings on the island. You can browse an exhibition-style collection at The Art Gallery, where the works of local artists are for sale.
Chilled nights are the main port of call in Tobago, with the signature sound of steel pans accompanying rum cocktails. The bars in Buccoo are close to a sandy beach, and the foot-tapping live music’s a major draw after dark.
High-tempo nightlife’s not Tobago’s forte, but there are still a handful of places to fit the drinking and dancing bill. You’ll find most of them in the Crown Point neighbourhood – between Bon Accord Lagoon and the airport. It’s a mixture of nightclubs, beach bars and casino-cum-cafés, and the most popular spots keep things going until dawn.
Debate rages over the best curried crab and dumplings in Tobago, but it’s certain to make an appearance on practically every menu. The base is a korma-coloured coconut milk broth, which is loaded with shell-on crab, coriander and pimento peppers. Doughy flour dumplings are served on the side for dunking and mopping up the sauce.
Tobago’s cuisine takes a leaf from different parts of the world, but the Indian roti’s a recipe that’s stuck. Thin flatbreads are the staple ingredient, and the rest is up to you. Curried goat, spicy shrimp and chickpeas are just some of the fillings favoured by locals.
Pastelles are like Tobago’s version of Central American tamales. Spicy peppers, tomatoes, onion, beef mince and raisins are folded into a corn flour parcel and wrapped in a banana leaf. They’re steamed, and then unfolded and served with the banana leaf playing the role of plate.
This slightly bitter drink’s a favourite with locals – some like its taste, and others sip it for its supposed health benefits. It’s made from an unusual combination of tree bark, aniseed and cinnamon, and often accompanies a Caribbean Christmas spread.
The trusty banana leaf’s rolled out for this sweet dessert, which has a fudgy, cake-like consistency. Cornmeal, raisins, coconut and sugar are blended with spices to form a dough-like mixture, before being wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed.
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