Paradise Point Villa & Hanging Garden Villa - Review Page 1
Reviewed by Steve & Jill Wooler in March 2007
Tourism has experienced major growth on Tobago in recent years. Much of the island has benefited, but no village has captured public imagination more than Castara. When myTobago launched in 2002, we knew of only five holiday accommodation properties in this small fishing village. We now list twenty-two.
Visitors come to Castara in search of the ‘real’ Tobago. Although tourism has replaced fishing as the primary occupation, the village remains surprisingly un-commercialised. Most of the new accommodation has been absorbed into the community without despoiling the nature and ambience of the village.
In keeping with the simple lifestyle enjoyed by the fisher folk, visitor accommodation has tended to be basic – even rough and ready. In the last few years, however, a few enterprising local and foreign owners have changed Castara’s ‘back packer’ image and are now offering more sophisticated levels of accommodation.
Paradise Point Villa comprises two adjacent cliff-side houses with air-conditioned bedrooms and en suite facilities. Paradise Point Villa is a two-bedroom villa. Hanging Garden Villa is two apartments. The properties can be rented in total, or as smaller individual units and would undoubtedly provide wonderful holiday accommodation for a party of up to 10 people.
The picturesque village of Castara lies midway along Tobago’s Caribbean coast. Castara is the fifth largest community on the island, with a population of around 500 lucky souls.
Castara is a fishing village. There is no industry or commercial agriculture. Until recent years, most of the local population eked out a simple subsistence living, growing their own vegetables and fruit; keeping goats and sheep for meat and milk and relying on the fishermen to bring in a good catch each day. Nowadays tourism is playing a large role in village economy. Life may be simple, but there are probably more happy faces in the village, and certainly less stress, than most visitors could ever envisage.
Holidaying in Castara will not be to everyone’s taste. There are no luxury hotels, no big supermarkets and no pharmacies. A few small local shops sell the essentials - essentials by Tobagonian standards. You don’t go shopping for items you want; you go shopping to see what is available. It varies day by day. There are no banks or cash machines and payment by credit card is the exception, not the rule. Dining choices are severely limited and the menu invariably the same – chicken, meat (lamb/goat), fish or shrimp. Fortunately a very good small restaurant serving international cuisine has recently opened on the outskirts of the village.
If you have toured the northern Caribbean coast of Tobago, you will almost certainly have stopped at the lookout point immediately above Paradise Point and Hanging Garden Villa and admired the wonderful views of Castara Bay and village. No doubt you also commented on the good fortune of those lucky enough to stay in the property beneath you.
The villas are not suitable for those in wheelchairs or with any degree of mobility difficulty. Access to both houses involves several short flights of stairs. Although not a problem to those of average fitness, the steps could tax the elderly. The property is also not ideally suited to those with young toddlers - except under the VERY strictest of supervision.
Your own transport is absolutely essential if you are to get the best out of Paradise Point and Hanging Garden Villa. The 3km walk to the village is entirely downhill and would be a real pleasure during the early morning hours when the sun is on the far side of Tobago’s central hilly spine and most of the road in shade. However, the walk back up hill in the heat of the day would be more than most would contemplate. There are absolutely no shops, restaurants, beaches or other feature within walking distance of the property.
When an American visitor, Alice Farling, purchased a few acres of land on Tobago’s north coast cliff side and talked about building a villa, locals scoffed. Many said the land was too steep and that it could not be done. Of course ‘architect’ and ‘civil engineer’ are not words in common usage. Houses in the area are invariably designed during construction; the work being undertaken by the owner personally, aided by family and friends.
The locals hadn’t bargained on Alice’s vision. Employing a good local architect and construction firm, she proved them wrong – and built two houses side by side.
A steep driveway leads from the Castara lookout to a three-car parking area. Two flights of steps lead down to a 2,000 square foot partially-covered deck that offers exceptional views of the bay, village and Caribbean coast. Two flying staircases lead to the lower deck and the single-storey Paradise Point Villa. Another short flight of steps leads to the two-storey Hanging Garden Villa. You are almost knocked back by the riot of colour. In addition to dense natural foliage, every square inch of hillside and garden have been planted with colourful tropical plants, trees and shrubs. As if these aren’t enough, every terrace and balcony features a collection of huge white clay pots planted with even more tropical species.
The buildings are of standard reinforced concrete construction and have corrugated roofing with deep overhangs to provide shade to the balconies below. The balconies feature attractive arched wooden columns and decorative balustrades. Stylish lattice window shutters and fretwork complete the picture. The style is most impressive – even though nobody can actually see the fascia of the villas other than through binoculars from Castara, or from one single gap in the trees on the road down to Castara.
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