Castara Retreats - Review Page 1
Reviewed by Steve & Jill Wooler in February 2012
Castara is a small fishing village. It lies nestled in the folds of a shallow valley, overlooking the stunning golden sands and turquoise waters of Castara Bay, backed by the lush green hills that edge Tobago’s tropical rainforest.
Despite a population that can be counted in hundreds, rather than thousands, Castara boasts more than 30 guest house and holiday rental properties. Whilst other parts of Tobago have suffered a decline in tourism in recent years, Castara is invariably fully booked during the peak months. Preeminent amongst these local hostelries is Castara Retreats; a property that has consistently appeared in the myTobago Reader Satisfaction Rating top-5 list of most highly rated Tobago properties for the last 10 years. No wonder then that both the village of Castara and Castara Retreats have received endorsement from luminaries such as Edmund de Waal of the Telegraph Magazine (February 2012) and National Geographic Magazine (January 2010).
Castara is clearly getting something right. But what? I have been pondering that question for some hours, sat here on the deck of our lodge at Castara Retreats as I look out over the beach and village. I haven’t arrived at an answer that I can express in just a sentence or two. The truth is that Castara is far more than a number of ticked boxes on a feature list. Castara is an experience, not just a destination. Both the village and Castara Retreats are very much more than the sum of their parts. Whilst there are many cheaper alternatives in the village, the exceptional repeat rates are adequate evidence that visitors are "getting" Castara Retreats. A review such as this can only hint at the magic of this unique property.
Castara is a 50-minute drive from the airport. Castara Retreats is managed on behalf of the British owners by a wonderful local couple, the charismatic Porridge and his charming wife Jeanell. Porridge invariably meets guests at the airport and transfers them to Castara, generally via one of the main supermarkets. Shopping facilities are limited in Castara, so a weekly shopping trip to the more developed end of the island will generally be required.
Castara Retreats has the advantage of being just a stone’s throw from away from the two most popular dining establishments in the village: Marguarite’s Local Cuisine and Cheno’s Coffee Shop. By common consensus, Marguarite is the best cook in the area and her restaurant opens every evening, even on public holidays. Directly opposite, Cheno offers great breakfasts and lunches and his small café/restaurant has become a very popular place for visitors and locals alike to meet and lime (relax).
As with all our Tobago reviews, I would recommend that visitors hire a car or jeep for at least some of their stay. Porridge has a couple of rental vehicles and there are also two small rental services in the village. Vehicles can be rented by the day or week. You will not require transport around Castara, but a self-drive is by far the best way to get the most out of Tobago.
The simplicity of Castara will not be to everyone’s taste. There isn’t a Starbucks on every corner. I accept that I am being flippant, but that is because during our 2010 visit I was waylaid by an angry American family. One comment that summarised their complaints and expectations was “the village is so primitive that we can’t even get fresh bagels or ground coffee for breakfast”. The fact that they recognised me surely indicates that they read myTobago.info extensively – and yet still hadn’t grasped the reality of Tobago or Castara. One assumes that their concept of a ‘fishing village’ was a charming Disney set with modern fast-food establishments behind the backdrop.
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