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Cuffie River Nature Retreat - a myTobago guide to Tobago holiday accommodation
 

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Cuffie River Nature Retreat, Tobago

Cuffie River Nature Retreat

12-room Hotel / Inn

The Cuffie River Nature Retreat is a unique, privately owned and run, 12 room eco-lodge. It is situated on the edge of Tobago's rainforest in the very centre of... the island, about fifteen-minutes from Castara. The retreat is unquestionably the island's leading hotel for bird watchers but will be of equal interest to anyone seeking peace and tranquillity in a wonderful and natural rainforest environment. Children are allowed, but not encouraged.

We have stayed at the Cuffie River Nature Retreat numerous times over the years. It continues to hold a special place in our heart. The standards of accommodation are excellent and owner, Regina, continues to produce Caribbean catering without peer.
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Cuffie River Nature Retreat

12-room Hotel / Inn

The Cuffie River Nature Retreat is a unique, privately owned and run, 12 room eco-lodge. It is situated on the edge of Tobago's rainforest in the very centre of the island, about fifteen-minutes from Castara. The retreat is unquestionably the island's leading hotel for bird watchers but will be of equal interest to anyone seeking peace and tranquillity in a wonderful and natural rainforest environment. Children are allowed, but not encouraged.

We have stayed at the Cuffie River Nature Retreat numerous times over the years. It continues to hold a special place in our heart. The standards of accommodation are excellent and owner, Regina, continues to produce Caribbean catering without peer.

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Property Description

Provided by the property, or taken from their website

Cuffie River Nature Retreat, a romantic and secluded tropical rainforest and exotic birding resort located at the edge of Tobago´s main ridge - the oldest protected tropical rainforest in the western hemisphere.

Enjoy exotic birding and tropical rainforest tours, romantic and secluded weddings, honeymoon and anniversary experiences, comfortable accommodation and wonderful cooking.

Our romantic and secluded resort offers opportunities for adventure vacations, unique and romantic wedding and honeymoon experiences, rainforest adventure tours and exotic birding in a tropical rainforest setting.

Tobago - World´s Leading Eco-Tourism Destination

Tobago, the gentle and tranquil half of the nation state of Trinidad and Tobago, the most southerly islands of the Caribbean island chain, exudes a lush, relaxed gracefulness throughout its entire 16-mile length and 7-mile width. Tobago gently charms her callers with the finest opportunities for eco-tourism: a pristine rain forest, exotic birding, mountainous grandeur, unexpected waterfalls, beautiful exotic birds, protected marine parks harbouring fascinating worlds of underwater coral, white sand beaches, warm-hearted and generous people and the CUFFIE RIVER ECO-LODGE - a rainforest retreat, mere steps away from the finest rainforest birding adventure tours.

Our Unique Tropical Rainforest Retreat

On the edge of Tobago´s rainforest, surrounded by wild heliconias, bamboo groves and ancient forest trees, and cradled in the remote and idyllic Runnemede valley lies the Cuffie River Nature Retreat and Eco-lodge , a secluded rainforest resort offering the ultimate in tropical rainforest birding and rainforest adventure tours. The eco-lodge is a remote yet modern, upmarket facility set against a backdrop of mountains and encircled by cool, refreshing mountain streams and pools. This is nature tourism at its most subtle yet refined - allowing you a complete rainforest experience while enjoying the creature comforts of home.

The concept of this eco-tourism resort was born out of the rural development experience of owner/Manager, Regina Sanchez, whose work in this field led her throughout the Caribbean where issues affecting rural people and their livelihoods were all too evident. For Regina, the human, environmental and infrastructural factors were found to be the most significant to the well-being of the rural sector and thus played a central role in the envisioning and development of this project. And while the envisioning of the project came from Regina, it was Anthony´s architectural and construction skills and creativity which permitted its transformation from dream to reality. The result? A beautiful blending of attractive architecture set in the midst of idyllic rainforest and with warm and welcoming hospitality awaiting every guest who enters the eco-lodge.

Cuffie River Nature Retreat offers an elevated swimming pool to our guests! Located 4 ft. above the ground and accessible via a ramp, this 640 sq.ft. elevated pool has a deck area of over 1,300 sq. ft. and a deep end for diving. It is ideal for use in a natural setting such as this . Guests can cool off with a freshly mixed rum punch or fruit drink after a walk in the rainforest. Moreover, the swimming pool boasts an environmentally friendly purification system which eliminates the need for harsh chemicals. The ramp feature ensures not merely privacy, but also accessibility by our physically challenged guests.

myTobago Review

Hotel / Inn, Runnemede, Tobago

The following review was produced during a 7-night stay at Cuffie River Nature Retreat in March 2016.

Introduction

We first reviewed the Cuffie River Nature Retreat back in 2005. We said then that we looked forward to our return. However, it was some eight years before we could fit another stay into our busy review schedule. We promised that we wouldn't leave it so long until our next visit, so just four years later, we planned our third visit to this small intimate hotel; one of our Tobago favourites.

The Cuffie River is a unique establishment. It offers a unique experience to anyone looking for a truly peaceful place to chill and relax. In addition, it can also justifiably claim to be Tobago's premier bird-watching and nature resort.

Background

The Cuffie River Nature Retreat is owned and managed by a very determined lady, Regina Dumas. Her mother and father were both born and raised in villages close to the retreat and the creation of the lodge was the culmination of a dream she held for many years.

Regina never knew the father she so closely resembled and after whom she was named. He died when she was just seven weeks old. His legacy was a cocoa estate in the Runnemede valley, on the edge of the Main Ridge Rainforest Reserve. The estate had been his dream and his life.

After Reginald's death, the estate was leased to local farmers. The devastation of Hurricane Flora in 1963 was the final blow to an ailing industry. Cultivation stopped. The land was reclaimed by the forest from which it had been hewn.

Regina grew up to constant stories about her father. She has no recollection of him, but that did not hinder the bond she felt. Completing her studies, she became involved in rural development and was the first director of the Caribbean Network for Integrated Rural Development (CNIRD). During a business trip to Belize, she spent a weekend with a Mayan family. The wholesomeness and simplicity of their natural lifestyle had a material effect on her own attitudes.

Influenced by the Mayan experience, and despite family opposition to her allegedly madcap ideas, Regina started work, planning a nature resort deep within her father's former cocoa estate. After many years of hard work, the Cuffie River Nature Retreatopened its doors to guests in 1998.

Location

The Cuffie River Nature Retreat is unlikely to be somewhere you will happen upon by chance. It is located three miles from the nearest village; nestled in a tranquil valley whose northern slopes mark the foothills of the oldest protected rainforest in the western hemisphere.

As you drive along the narrow and twisty Caribbean coast road (Northside Road) in Tobago, you could easily miss the small sign that marks the turn-off to the hotel. Having followed the sign, you could equally be excused for thinking that you must have taken a wrong turn. Fear not! The three-mile five-minute drive through secondary bush, may initially concern you, but fear not – a unique experience awaits. The road to the retreat was largely unpaved until mid-2015. It was a slow and uncomfortable drive with constant concern that your vehicle could get stuck. The road is now a scenic joy.

If you want or expect a beach holiday, then forget the Cuffie River. If you intend to sample a different restaurant every day, or if shopping of any type is on your list of priorities, then likewise, forget the Cuffie River. If, on the other hand, you are looking for high standards of accommodation with the best Caribbean cuisine on Tobago, in an environment that is as close to nature as it is possible to get, then this small romantic property should be top of your list.

The Cuffie River Nature Retreat is around 45 minutes drive from the airport. Tobago's capital, Scarborough, is 30 minutes away and is the nearest place for pharmacies and 'serious' shopping (as serious as it gets on Tobago). The hotel offers a range of organised excursions, but a self-drive rental vehicle will undoubtedly allow you to maximise your stay at this remote location and the stunning Caribbean coast on which it is situated.

Architecture

Given the demanding topography of Tobago's interior, I have to take my hat off to Regina for the vision, dedication and perseverance that it would have required to create the Cuffie River Nature Retreat.

The hotel is made up of three spacious two-storey buildings built on a ridge above the River Cuffie, a small tributary of Tobago's largest river, the Courland. As with all good tropical architectural designs, the buildings are orientated to take maximum advantage of the prevailing winds.

The main building is home to the ten guest rooms, the dining room and a lounge area. A second lower structure houses the open-air swimming pool, above a general utility area. The third building, known as the Annexe, has two self-catering guest rooms beneath a covered pavilion that is used as a games and relaxation area and also for weddings, corporate meetings and other functions. All three buildings are constructed of red clay blocks and wood, with reddish brown banister rails and mint-green rendered dividing pillars.

A wheelchair ramp leads from the driveway into the hotel, and also from ground level up to the elevated swimming pool. All the shower enclosures offer easy access and the three guest rooms on the ground floor of the property have now been fitted with grab bars, making the resort quite 'disability friendly'.

Clientele

Given that a love of nature is not limited to age, gender or any other factor, it is hardly surprising that the Cuffie River Nature Retreat appeals to a very wide cross-section of visitors to Tobago. As might be expected in such a small and intimate hotel, guests soon mingle and share experiences; in fact, evening dining is normally served at a communal table, although private tables are available should anyone prefer.

The Cuffie River will be of particular interest to bird watchers. The bird life around the hotel is stunning. The hummingbirds, in particular, often fly into the hotel and are tame enough to seem unperturbed by human presence. Stand close to the feeders and within minutes you will experience the dramatic buzz of hummingbird flying inches from your ears as they chase each other during territorial disputes. Evening entertainment is regularly provided by nocturnal species such as the Common Potoo and White-tailed Nightjar.

Children are welcome at the hotel, but need to be closely supervised at all times. It is important to remember the hotel's popularity as a nature and bird watching retreat. A sign at the entrance to the hotel makes no bones about the ethos of the establishment: "We thank you for your visit and ask you please to be very quiet while on these premises". Quite right!

Accommodation

The Cuffie Riveroffers three categories of accommodation. Except where mentioned, all categories share the same general features and facilities.

The Suites

Family Suite and a Executive Suite are located at the northern end of the main building; the former on the ground floor and the other above it, on the upper floor. Both suites feature windows on three aspects; in fact, including the balcony doors, these rooms boast some 9m/27ft of open window space, offering fantastic panoramic views of the valley and surrounding rainforest-clad hills.

All the rooms at Cuffie River are spacious, but the two suites are exceptionally so, measuring 8x5½m (47m²). We enjoyed the Executive Suite, on the upper floor. The high vaulted wooden ceiling rises to more than 8 metres and makes the rooms appear exceptionally spacious: the largest bedroom suite that we have come across in Tobago.

The Executive Suiteboasts a massive 2.8m (9´) ultra-king-size bed. I think that Regina should offer guests a map so that they can negotiate their way around it. A wooden panel above the bed provides excellent lighting for reading in bed. The room features very attractive banquette seating plus a couple of small armchairs and two remarkably comfortable beanbags. Hugely vibrant soft furnishings complete the picture. Few rooms on the island can have greater 'wow' factor than this. Given the nature of the retreat, the large flat-screen satellite television seemed something of a contradiction in terms. Needless to say, the rooms are not equipped with telephones. Internet access is available, but only in certain areas of the hotel.

Hair dryers are provided on request and the hotel offers an efficient laundry service. The rooms would benefit from a small refrigerator, but a kettle and tea and coffee making supplies are provided, together with a flask of iced water.

Wardrobe space in the suites consists of a large wooden four-door cupboard offering a substantial 2.3m of hanging and shelf space. The nature and length of our review trips means that we carry a lot of luggage. Despite that, and having totally emptied our cases, we managed to fill less than half the available wardrobe space.

Measuring 2.2x2 metres, the bathroom is spacious and attractively finished in pink with a vanity unit housing the wash basin and, for once, enough space to lay out the entire contents of our wash bags. A range of toiletries are provided, together with a box of tissue and 110v two-pin flat electric shaver socket. The tiled corner shower with wrap-around shower curtain was a total joy, with good pressure and lots of hot water.

Air-conditioning would hardly be sympathetic to the ethos of the Cuffie River Nature Retreatand the rooms are so breezy that it would be totally superfluous. Birders don't come here to be locked in air-conditioned cells; they want to throw their balcony doors open and see and hear the birds even when lying in bed. With bird-feeders just 10-12m from the hotel frontage, it is remarkable how much bird-life you can view from the balcony.

Our room had a large ceiling fan and this proved perfectly adequate, even when the curtains were drawn. In fact, I had to avail myself of the provided extra blanket. Night-time temperatures can drop significantly in Tobago. The retreat has a night-time security guard supported by guard dogs, so we had absolutely no concerns about leaving our windows and balcony doors open. It was such a wonderful experience to fall asleep to myriad rainforest sounds, of which the bullfrogs were perhaps the most noticeable.

The retreat is located next to a river and so it is inevitable that mosquitoes will be present. We visited during the dry season and mossies were almost conspicuous in their absence. The hotel provides an electric mosquito deterrent in each room. Despite sleeping with all windows and balcony doors open every night, we suffered no bites or other insect-related problems.

All the rooms, regardless of category, feature a small balcony or terrace of around 3.5 x 1 metres, furnished with a pair of chairs.

The terracotta floor tiles are cool to the touch and any starkness, particularly in such large rooms, relieved by rattan floor mats. The rendered walls were finished in magnolia; a nice foil to the bold grey and gold curtains and furnishings of our room. The overall impression is of space, lightness and comfort. Everything was in excellent order and we couldn't have been happier with the room.

The Family Suite on the ground floor is almost identical to the Executive Suite, except that it is furnished with three double beds, rather than the single ultra-king. This room still appears enormously spacious despite the bed configuration.

Deluxe Rooms

The eight Deluxe Rooms are of identical size, measuring a very generous 7.25 x 4.5 metres (32 sq.m.). The soft furnishings and décor vary from room to room, giving each a distinctive character of its own.

These rooms are furnished with two double beds, separated by a central bedside table and overhead reading light unit. Additional furnishings include a small circular table with two upright chairs, one easy chair and a balcony or terrace furnished with two chairs. The bathrooms are identical to those in the suites and equipped with electric shaving socket, tissue dispenser, assorted toiletries and a small bottle of citronella oil (a highly effective insect repellent). All the room have efficient ceiling fans.The 1.75m of full-length wardrobe and shelf space should prove adequate for any normal guest.

The Deluxe Rooms are bright, breezy and spacious and, like the rest of the property, were in excellent decorative order. They may lack the open vistas and extra floor space of our Executive Suite, but nonetheless are delightful rooms that we have no hesitation in recommending.

Self-Catering Rooms

The hotel has two self-catering guest rooms located in the Annexe, a 75m walk from the main building. Regina is content with her ten main guestrooms and does not promote the self-catering apartments. They are, however, often available to guests on request.

Dining & Public Areas

I was always aware that Regina and the Cuffie River Nature Retreat had an excellentreputation for the quality of their catering and this has been more than confirmed on each of our visits. Every meal was a perfect and enjoyable example of Caribbean cooking at its very best. I use the word 'Caribbean' food advisedly. To compare Regina's offerings to that of normal 'local' restaurants would be an insult.

The home-made fresh fruit juices and soups are particularly exceptional. Despite being brought up in the region and having eaten West Indian food for most of my childhood, I confess that I have no real appetite for some of the local fruit and most of the local vegetables. However, under Regina's expert eye and hand, local dishes that I would previously refuse suddenly became not just edible, but hugely enjoyable. We were not alone in our opinion. Every other guest commented on the excellence of the catering. I would go so far as to say that the Cuffie River Nature Retreat is the only hotel on Tobago where I truly look forward to meal times.

Regina is very hands-on and you will regularly see her in the kitchen, tending the stove and preparing dishes. She has clearly trained her assistants well. You will also often see her tending her market garden. Most of the herbs used in her cooking, and a large proportion of the vegetables, are grown on the compound.

One reason for the consistent excellence of her catering is that she does not over-tax herself. She does not, for example, offer à la carte dining. Except where special arrangements have been pre-arranged for guests with special dietary requirements, the table d'hôte menu offers but a single choice and is served at a single sitting, normally at a communal table.

To enhance your meal, Regina offers a small range of reasonably-priced wines, available by the bottle and house wines by the glass. Like the rest of the hotel, the dining room is non-smoking.

The Cuffie River Nature Retreat offers a choice of catering plans, from Bed and Breakfast to All-Inclusive. The restaurant is also open to non-residents (reservation essential).

Adjacent to the dining room, is a very comfortable and relaxed lounge area with lovely views to both the front and rear of the property. There is a small terrace just outside the lounge and we found this a particularly pleasant place to relax and lime, with a glass of Cuffie River's gorgeous fruit juice or a cold beer. Finally, there is a quiet lounge area and 'library' on the first floor, adjacent to an open terrace with stunning views of the hills and rainforest to the rear of the property. You are almost spoiled for choice with so many spots to sit and relax.

Pool & Beaches

The swimming pool is located on the upper deck of a small building adjacent to the hotel. The pool measures 6 x 9.7 metres, with depths ranging from just over 1 metre to nearly 3 metres. In keeping with the ecological policies of the Cuffie River, the pool is sanitised by salt, rather than chlorine.

The surrounding pool deck is furnished with sun loungers, tables, chairs and sun umbrellas. Whilst a lovely spot to sunbathe or relax, it is also something of a sun trap and liberal doses of high-factor sunblock are essential. Where else can you float around a swimming pool, or relax on a sun lounger and enjoy the sight and sound of flocks of parrots flying overhead?

The nearest beach is King Peter's Bay, near Moriah. The three-mile track down to the beach is very narrow and highly eroded. I wouldn't risk it even in a 4x4 SUV. Worse still, there are serious security concerns associated with the beach and trail down to it. The last time we visited the black-sand beach, the area was very badly littered. We would therefore strongly advise against visiting King Peter's Bay.

The fact that the road to the retreat has been paved has made a huge difference to the resort's accessibility. Jill is a beach babe and craves her daily swims in the sea. The golden sands of Castara were a simple and picturesque 20-minute drive from Cuffie River.

Grounds & Nature Walks

The Cuffie River Nature Retreat was built on land recovered from secondary bush. The old cocoa estate was abandoned after Hurricane Flora wreaked her devastation in 1963. Growth is rapid in the tropics. After thirty-five years it must have been a nightmare to survey the land, much less clear it and decide how best to utilise it for the retreat.

The hotel is surrounded by wild heliconias, bamboo groves and ancient cypress and pine trees. The immortelle trees planted to provide shade to the more delicate cocoa plants have survived, reproducing themselves continuously. They normally flower between December and February, but sadly we missed the spectacle this year. There is nothing more beautiful than the setting sun casting her spell over the flame vermillion blossom of the immortelle. The terraced slopes of the ridge upon which the lodge stands have been planted with every manner of tropical plant and bush, in total sympathy with the natural environment. This is no place for formal gardens. You are surrounded by nature, to the very foundations of the buildings. Even inside, potted exotic plants continue the theme.

Bird feeders have been placed at strategic points around the hotel and are clearly visible from all common areas of the retreat and most bedrooms. Although the birds appear largely unconcerned by human presence, guests invariably talk in hushed tones, so as not to disturb them. Breakfast and lunch tend to be long drawn out affairs – it is hard to drag yourself away from the simple pleasure of watching myriad species of birds arguing over the fruit provided for their enjoyment and sustenance. I've never seen as many white-necked Jacobins anywhere on Tobago and their territorial disputes continue all day long.

There are several trails in the Runnemede valley, but the dangers of getting lost and the often impenetrable bush make it unwise for guests to go wandering along trails on their own. However, walks up the three-mile driveway are relatively easy-going, despite the heat, and can be very rewarding.

The hotel has an excellent resident guide, Desmond, who takes small parties on general, nature or bird-watching tours. We have had the pleasure of three-hour 'general' nature walks with Desmond on previous visits. He is knowledgeable, articulate and amusing and always pitched the tour at just the right level.

The nature walks are open to non-residents of the hotel. I can highly recommend visitors (staying anywhere on the island) to book a tour with Desmond, followed by lunch at the hotel.

Conclusion

If you love nature and birds or are seeking a small friendly establishment and intimate environment in which to chill out and relax, we can thoroughly recommend the Cuffie River Nature Retreat.

Providing the highest levels of accommodation, service and catering within a natural and eco-friendly environment is no easy task. Regina has undoubtedly achieved her dream and ambition and must be congratulated for her vision. Her establishment is unique on Tobago. The standards of accommodation and overall service levels rank with the best the island has to offer. Her catering is a clear winner and by far the most interesting on Tobago.

Yes, the Cuffie River is a truly unique and special place. We shall continue to think of it with very great fondness until our next visit. We highly recommend the hotel, particularly as part of a multi-centre holiday.

Reader Reports

This property has a weighted Reader Satisfaction Rating of 100%   . Click below to read the 29 reader reports that this is rating is based on.

Geoffrey Seabrook from U.K. visited in January 2018 and awarded   

Came here for two nights on a longer stay in Tobago. We had tried to book Asa Wright on Trinidad and were lucky it was full because this is a nicer place to stay. Regina is a great host and the rooms are excellent. The food is also wonderful.

We were here for the birds and our guide for the rainforest walk was Desmond. He was brilliant and whst we saw exceeded our expectations.

All the guests here were bird watchers, mostly on organised tours. Dinner was a delight with everyone exchanging notes about what they had seen that day.

If you are into birds this is the place to stay on Tobago.

Simon Gibbons from U.K. visited in April 2016 and awarded   

Extremely relaxing and enjoyable stay.

Easy access to birdwatching for anmateurs such as us.

Very friendly and welcoming staff.

Hotel facilities and food good.

Tour guides very knowledgeable.

Cannot imagine a better location to stay in the Tobago rainforest.

Location Map

To view a detailed interactive map showing the location of this property relative to restaurants, shops and sightseeing features, click this link  

Standard Rooms:0 - 0
Superior Rooms:0 - 0
Executive Suites:0 - 0
Minimum Nights:0 nights
Property Type:Hotel / Inn
Bedrooms:12
Air-Conditioning:None
Children:No children
Hair Dryers:Available
Telephone:No
Internet Access:No
Television:Yes
Safety Deposit:Yes
Wheelchair Access:Yes
Swimming Pool:Full pool
Spa Facilities:No
Fitness Centre:No
Restaurant:0
Meal Plans:

Housekeeping:No housekeeping
Baby-Sitting:No
Personal Laundry:Yes
Personal Cooking:No
Location:Runnemede
Region:Upper Caribbean
Location Type:Very Rural
Airport:45 minutes
Beach:20+ minute Drive