Beauty and the Beach

Photography by Julie Guaglardi and Skene Howie

If I had to give Tobago a personality, I’d say she was one of those naturally beautiful young women, the kind who does not need to wear a smack of make-up and who looks magnificent even when she’s wearing old tattered jeans and a pair of flip-flops. She’s an unbelievably talented artist but you need to seek out her pieces because this young lady isn’t showy; in fact, she’s gentle and humble. No single feature in particular commands attention—but there is no denying the beguiling effect of her natural beauty.

One of the unique characteristics of Tobago is her wonderfully diverse beaches. It’s almost as if you can select a beach depending upon your mood—from north to south, leeward to windward, there is something for everyone. Some of Tobago’s most noteworthy beaches stretch from the southern end of the island, nestle along the leeward coast and run up to the northern end. Some are secluded, special rewards for the discerning traveller, such as Pirate’s Bay at the northern edge of the island. Others are festive and famous and draw in the crowds. It’s hard to choose, since each has its own charm but here’s my choice of the ten best Tobago beaches.

So let’s begin. Starting from the bottom and working your way up, you’ll find Store Bay. This beach is closest to Crown Point Airport and is a favourite among locals and tourists alike. Look for the craft village with a wide assortment of handmade island keepsakes as well as a courtyard lined with food stalls named after the ladies who run them. So, you’ll find Miss Trim’s and Miss Jean’s, offering some of the most delectable Tobagonian dishes, such as curried conch and crab and dumplings. There are wonderful accommodations nearby, from cosy apartments to Coco Reef, one of Tobago’s high-end hotels.

Next on the list is Pigeon Point. This is quite possibly Tobago’s most famous beach and jetty. Often depicted on the face of Caribbean postcards or the centre pages on any number of travel magazines, this beach offers over a quarter of a mile of powdery soft sand, a forest of swaying palms, the Buccoo Reef marine park, plus a brilliant vista of sparkling turquoise water, the Nylon Pool, a wide variety of water-sports, beach volleyball, thatched-roof cabanas for shade, live local entertainment, food and beverage stalls offering burgers, pizzas and local cuisine. Don’t miss the glass-bottom boat tours and get in some snorkelling and shopping. There is also a beachfront hotel for the budget conscious. Pigeon Point is the quintessential Caribbean beach experience,

Next on your route you’ll find Mt Irvine Bay, the hot spot for surfers and those who wish they knew how! Mt Irvine is the quiet tiger of the surfing community in Tobago and although the swells come few and far between, the experts say this perfect right-hand-point-break can be a whirl of fun. In addition to fabulous surf, this beach offers fantastic snorkelling, as well as a beach bar, little pavilion-like cabanas, a snack shop, a local craft store and the best place on the island to buy the day’s fresh catch! You can also find luxury accommodation just across the street at the Mt Irvine Bay Hotel and Golf Course.

Moving right along, you’ll come across Back Bay but drive slowly as the sign is easy to miss. It’s tucked away and secluded beyond a trail of thick razor grass and down a dirt carved rocky road. You’ll feel as though you’ve stumbled upon paradise when the foliage begins to clear.

Begin the climb at about 50 feet above this gorgeous beach and pick your way down winding steps made of wood, rock and earth. But when you reach the bottom, you’ll find one of Tobago’s sexiest landmarks. This wide stretch of unspoiled, undeveloped beach is laden with dark, rugged rock formations, creating private rock pools approximately 15 to 20 feet deep. Be careful, though, the water can be quite rough and dangerous at times. Bring along a picnic lunch but be sure to take your rubbish with you when you leave.

Next on the journey and typically associated with Grafton Beach and Le Grand Courlan Resorts, Stonehaven Bay beach is chock-a-block with holiday tourists. And no wonder. Here’s what comes in this package: beachfront hotels; diving excursions and water-sport rentals; and the quintessential thatched-roof beach bar with afternoon reggae beach parties, happy hour gatherings with live music and pitchers of beer. There are several engaging places to stay, including Le Grand Courlan Spa Resort, Grafton Beach Resort, Plantation Beach Villas, Stone Haven Villas, Tobago Beach Villas and Indigo Restaurant and Inn, the best hot spot on the island.

As you move along, you’ll stumble onto one of Tobago’s most precious beaches…and we’re not talking gems and stones. Turtle Beach is precious because it is frequently home to the four- to six-foot long, 1,000-pound leatherback turtles looking for a safe haven to nest and lay their eggs. Fortunately, Tobago is brimming with environmentally-conscious residents who regularly volunteer to watch over the endangered turtles and help keep their nesting environment undisturbed. There are qualified individuals and environmentalists who would be happy to arrange for you to witness this unforgettable sight but check your timing as the nesting occurs from April to June. Turtle Beach sits just behind the Rex Turtle Beach Hotel.

Right about now, you’re moving away from the crowds and into more rugged terrain. The next beach you’ll find exists in perfect harmony with Footprints Eco-Resort. Culloden Beach is best known for its snorkelling and diving. However, if you’re new to the sport, you might want to take a dip in the island’s only saltwater pool. The owners of Footprints designed the pool with this very idea in mind. Who knows…you might even spot a fish! Footprints is slightly out of the way, so you may wish to make a day of it and dine at the Coco House Restaurant.

Our next beach is usually only accessible by boat (although rumour has it there is a secret path that takes about one hour). This spectacular little beach is definitely a haven for lovers and those seeking complete seclusion. Day trips to Cotton Bay on Tobago’s only tri-maran, Natural Mystic, leave from Mt Irvine several days out of the week and include a barbeque lunch, drinks and snorkelling, a relaxing sailing experience and, if you’re lucky, the company of an occasional school of dolphins. At the northern end of the bay, you’ll find a rocky inlet with a big rock pool, which is great for snorkelling, jumping, or just frolicking in the crystal clear water with the one you love!

Castara, a charming little fishing village, is the marker for a breathtaking journey into Tobago’s rainforest. Once you round the bend after leaving Castara, you’ll encounter winding turns and jagged cliffs and then you’ll find yourself enveloped by a remarkable swathe of green. This is Tobago’s rainforest, the oldest protected rainforest reserve in the Western Hemisphere. And if that isn’t enough, you’ll find yourself at the foot of one of the most enchanting beaches Tobago has to offer, Englishman’s Bay. Nestled deep inside a bamboo forest just beside the reserve, this South-Pacific-like stretch of sand will call to you, much like a frothy drink on a scorching-hot day. Can you imagine a half moon of velvety soft sand, sparkling turquoise water amidst a rugged forest?

There’s a nearby waterfall with its river running through the base of the beach and spilling into the sea, completing the Gilligan’s Island enchantment. But get there quick; this magnificent beach has been a well-kept secret for some time but it seems the cat is out of the bag and the tourists are claiming their seats. Although Englishman’s Bay is a distance from any nearby market, there is a little lunch hut with delicious local cuisine, as well as a craftsman selling brilliantly-coloured sarongs and island trinkets.

Over the river and through the rainforest to heavenly Speyside we go. The attraction here is diving—some of the best in the Caribbean—and the largest known brain coral in the world. Speyside is also home to a famous tree-house restaurant, affectionately referred to as Gemma’s. Be sure to try the breadfruit casserole. If you’re feeling adventurous, from here you can take a glass-bottom boat trip to Little Tobago to see the Red Billed Tropic Birds nesting and fishing. Call ahead and make an appointment with one of the local tour guides.M

Leave a Comment