Kapinjala - Review Page 1
Reviewed by Steve & Jill Wooler in February 2008
Completed just a few months before our stay, Kapinjala is a luxury rental villa located on a quiet hilltop on the stunningly beautiful Arnos Vale estate. The property offers breathtaking views of Tobago’s lush hilly interior and dramatic coastline. Beautiful Arnos Vale beach is just a 7-8 minute stroll down the hill.
Kapinjala will undoubtedly accommodate parties of up to eight adults in superb comfort. The house is attractive, elegant and highly tasteful. Furthermore, it is furnished and equipped to standards as high as we have seen on Tobago.
Very few visitors will leave Tobago without having visited, or at least having heard of, Arnos Vale. This former sugar cane and cocoa plantation lies just outside Plymouth, Tobago’s second largest town (think small British village).
All signs of the former sugar plantation are long gone. Having arguably the best location on the island, a small hotel was built on the plantation. I last stayed there in 1988. Even then the hotel was on a slippery downward slope in the face of stiff competition from new hotels. The Arnos Vale Hotel never recovered and is now a sad travesty of the hotel it once was, or could be.
What cannot be denied is that Arnos Vale still boasts one of the finest bird habitats on Tobago. As if this was not enough, the bay arguably also provides the best snorkelling on the island.
An unusual combination of geographical features combines to create this unique environment. The Arnos Vale estate lies in the fertile valleys between undulating hump-back hills that run north-east from Plymouth towards Culloden. The terrain is quite unique in that these hills are largely bare, primarily covered with tough bush-grass and only sparsely by small trees and shrubbery. The appearance is almost totally at odds with the lush green hills that face them and which form the central spine of Tobago.
Kapinjala takes full advantage of this terrain. These hills seem far from ‘bare’ when you are actually on top of them. However, the sparse vegetation enables wide panoramas, unlike the more restricted views typical of properties surrounded by normal 'rainforest' vegetation.
Over the past six years, we have stayed at around 60 hotels, guesthouses, apartments and rental houses on Tobago. We have inspected countless others. Many have offered spectacular views. None have come close to the views at Kapinjala in terms of width of panorama and the range of land and seascape seen. Guests benefit from a vista extending more than 180°. The sea views extend from Arnos Vale Bay down to Pigeon Point and Buccoo Reef. The interior views range from the low hills of southern Tobago to the start of the Main Ridge rainforest reserve in the north.
To be honest, it is beyond my literary skills to describe the view. Neither can photographaphy do it justice because it is impossible to envisage or reproduce the massive scale of the panorama. However, readers with a large high-resolution computer screen and a fast broadband connection can click on the photograph below for a taster. We would recommend that you resize the enlargement window to the maximum size of your computer screen. You will need to use the horizontal scroll bar at the bottom of the window to pan across the full view.
Arnos Vale is a 30-minute drive from the airport. It lies on the edge of the Crown Point-Plymouth-Scarborough triangle, the most densely populated part of Tobago. As such, it is a little further from the main shopping and restaurant areas. Against that, you are located in the heart of one of the most beautiful areas of Tobago and truly at one with nature. This is what Tobago is really about!
Guests staying at Kapinjala will receive a full meet and greet service at the airport from the property’s friendly manager, Marlon. A self-drive rental vehicle is essential if you are to get the best out of this property. Local shopping facilities are extremely limited and there are no facilities within walking distance. Taxis are available, but given the distance to the main shopping/restaurant areas, this is likely to prove a more expensive and less convenient option than a self-drive rental. The owners of Kapinjala have arranged car/jeep rental facilities with one of Tobago’s most established and reliable agencies. Rentals can be collected at the airport or delivered to Kapinjala. In addition, a good relationship with a local taxi driver has been established for the convenience of guests.
The Trinidadian architect who designed Kapinjala has done a grand job. The layout takes full advantage of the spectacular views, is totally practical and draws on many influences to present an attractive and elegant mottled ‘aged’ external appearance totally in keeping with the environment.
The concrete block work building is nominally a two-storey building. However, being built on a steep hillside, a third basement level has been utilised to provide a fourth bedroom and the somewhat less interesting pool pump house and water tanks.
A narrow concrete road provides access to the villa from the beautifully-named Mot Mot Trail. This wonderful unmade road was the original north-coast ‘road’. Sugar and cocoa would have been brought down the narrow trail, on the backs of mules and donkeys, from Culloden and other plantations further north. Adventurous (and fit) visitors might care to walk the trail, but it should not be attempted by vehicle. Although possible in 4x4 vehicles with experienced drivers, it is not a drive to be undertaken in rental vehicles (not least because your insurance will be invalid in the event of accident).
The access road ends, shortly past Kapinjala, at a lookout point that offers beautiful views of Arnos Vale Bay and beach and the spectacular sunsets often experienced in Tobago. To protect the privacy and security of guests at the villa, a wall shields most of the frontage and high wire fences surround the entire perimeter – even though most of it traverses a very steep hillside and would be inaccessible to anything but a mountain goat. The main entrance is protected by electronic gates operated by remote control and/or by monitor and intercom control from the house.
A six-inch step leads up from the entrance yard into the villa. The main terrace and pool deck are on slightly different levels with a few short steps leading down to each. There are no wheelchair ramps and so although one bedroom is located on the ground level, the villa would not be suitable for wheelchair users.
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