Reviewed by Steve & Jill Wooler in February 2010 and March 2015
Kapinjala is a fascinating 4-bedroom luxury rental villa located on the clifftop beside Arnos Vale bay. The villa offers the most breath-taking views of Tobago’s hilly interior and dramatic coastline that we have ever seen. It is furnished and equipped to the highest possible standards and in the most elegant and tasteful of styles. Kapinjala represent a wonderful holiday home for parties of up to eight adults.
This beautiful villa is located on the magnificent Arnos Vale estate. Originally a sugar and cocoa plantation, the estate was destroyed by Hurricane Flora in 1963. Boasting a picture-postcard beach, exceptional snorkelling and the finest bird habitat on the island, the plantation eventually became home to one of Tobago’s first hotels. Afternoon tea at the Arnos Vale Hotel, watching hummingbirds and other tropical species feed, became a visitor ‘must’. Sadly, lack of investment and bad management outweighed the attributes and the hotel eventually closed.
Kapinjala is located on the northern side of the hotel grounds. It is situated on a high bluff adjacent to the bay. However, trees and foliage conceal all but teasing glimpses of the beach. Only the keenest-eyed visitor will notice any of the old hotel buildings.
In our opinion, Arnos Vale marks the start of the ‘real Tobago’. The terrain is unique and markedly different from that of the coral-based flatlands to the south, or the lush rainforest to the north. The Arnos Vale plantation lies in the lush shallow valleys created between a series of highly distinctive scrub-covered humpback hills that run from Plymouth to the island’s mountainous rainforest-covered main ridge.
We have stayed at well over 80 hotels, guesthouses, holiday apartments and rental houses on Tobago. We have inspected countless others. Many have offered spectacular views. Not one has bettered the views at Kapinjala, both in terms of the width of panorama and the range of land and seascape seen. Guests benefit from a vista extending more than 180°. The sea views stretch 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. The scale and width of the panorama is so vast that neither photographs nor video can do it full justice. It is something that has to be seen to be appreciated.
Arnos Vale is a 30-minute drive from the airport. The location is relatively isolated, total rural and further from the main shopping and restaurant areas than most villas. Against that, you are in the most beautiful part of Tobago. Nature abounds. This is what Tobago is really about.
Guests staying at Kapinjala receive a full meet and greet service at the airport from the property’s friendly and efficient manager, Helen. A self-drive rental vehicle is essential. Local shopping is limited and there are no facilities within walking distance.
The Trinidadian architects of Kapinjala did a magnificent job. They took full advantage of the spectacular location, whilst creating a practical and yet aesthetically pleasing two storey four-bedroom house.
The house is of modern concrete block construction, but rendered and painted to give an intentionally ‘aged’ appearance. The frontage of the house extends out from the hillside and features one of the largest and most attractive infinity edge pools on Tobago. A fourth bedroom, with independent access, is situated beneath the pool.
Kapinjala sits in an acre of hillside garden. The gardens have matured since our first review, five years ago, and are a riot of colour. They are also a haven for the wonderful birdlife that is so much a mark of Arnos Vale. In fact, the house is so encompassed by lush mature tropical trees and shrubs that it was impossible to capture all the external photographs that I would have liked.
The lower reaches of the old Motmot Trail that provides access to Kapinjala, and half dozen other villas in the area, has now been surfaced. Guests no longer suffer the bumpy ride of previous years. Another change is the remotely controlled security gates that now protect the narrow steep concrete road leading to the top of the hill, supplementing the original electric security gates that lead into the villa itself.
There is a six-inch step from the drive to the house. The main terrace and pool deck are on different levels with a few short steps between each. There are no wheelchair ramps. Although one bedroom is located at ground level, the villa is unlikely to be suitable for wheelchair users and may also prove a challenge to those with serious mobility issues.
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