Sightseeing: General On & Off-Island Tours
Suggestions of general day-trip excursions both on and off Tobago
Full details of the specialist and sports-related tours available on Tobago are available through the Activities sub-menus of the Out & About section. Refer to these articles for full details of bird watching, diving, fishing, golf, horseback riding, mountain biking, sailing and snorkelling on Tobago.
Apart from these activity-related tours, there are a number of outings that visitors will wish to consider. Our personal recommendation is to avoid the tours offered by representatives of the large package holiday operators. They are sold to a captive audience and seldom represent good value for money. Worse still, you will probably be part of a crowded coach party. This is NOT the way to see Tobago. The island simply isn't geared to large coach parties - and long may it remain that way. If your tour operator tells you that the total party will consist of more than eight visitors including yourselves, run a mile - seriously!
Unless you know Tobago, it is a bit of a mistake to simply hire a car and do it on your own. Tobago is not Disneyland. There are no brightly-coloured fluorescent signs pointing the way. There are hardly any road signs. A guided tour or two is an great way of getting used to the road system and geography of the island. Most visitors are astonished at how low-key everything is and how difficult it can be to find so many of the sightseeing spots mentioned in this feature. And, once you've got there, what are you seeing? There are no audio-visual or other visitor aids. You could walk through a few hundred metres of rainforest and see nothing of note. Do the same with a decent nature guide and you will be astonished at the variety of interesting things he will point out to you. Having done the preparatory tours, then hire a car and get out and explore - and see the real Tobago.
Tobago taxis operate at a rate of US$25 per hour. This will often be considerably reduced for a full day's hire. You can simply hire a taxi to take you to the main sightseeing spots. Some taxi drivers are very knowledgeable; others less so. Some can be downright misleading. The services of a TTTIC-certified guide is more than worth the extra cost.
Being only 26 miles long by 8 miles wide, it is quite feasible to do a circular tour of the island in a day. The mileage is neglible, but the road are narrow, twisty and bumpy so choose your tour guide carefully and ensure that you will be travelling in a new(ish) air-conditioned vehicle large enough to comfortably accommodate the required number of passengers.
With the main aim of doing a circular tour of the island and limited options of stopping places, most tour operators offer variations of the same basic theme: a drive up the Caribbean coast, possibly stopping briefly at Castara and Englishman's Bay; over the Main Ridge Forest Reserve; lunch at Jemma's Treehouse Restaurant (and just hope that you're not there at the same time as one of package holiday inmate outings); a trip into Charlotteville; then return down the Atlantic Coast.
With Trinidad only a 25 minute flight away, boundless opportunities exist. Trinidad is rich in sightseeing opportunities, but the security situation means that it is not somewhere to wander off on your own. Most of Trinidad is perfectly safe, but it would be easy to inadvertently wander into areas best avoided. I recommend that you only go to Trinidad with an experienced guide.
The most popular visitor destination on Trinidad is undoubtedly the Asa Wright Nature Centre in Trinidad's beautiful northern hills. Tours to Asa Wright normally always include a stop at Arima, an old Amerindian town, before moving on the the Caroni Swamp Bird Sanctuary to see the spectacular Scarlet Ibis, Trinidad's national bird.
There are a variety of other islands within close distance (Grenada 90 miles, Barbados 150 miles) but few that can be visited on a day-trip basis. Yes Tourism (email now) offer a private charter to The Grenadines. The 40-minute flight in a small Cessna is a wonderful way to see the Caribbean in itself. After arriving at Union Island, you sail the Grenadines in an old schooner, visiting picture-postcard islands of Mayreau, Tobago Cays and Palm Island. It's not the cheapest of trips, but for something special, its one to consider.