Tobago at a glance
TOBAGO – a low key, relatively undeveloped and friendly island with superb natural life above and below the waterline, a late developer by Caribbean tourism standards and still quite unspoiled; there are very pretty beaches, some classic palm-backed Caribbean strands but also remote coves forested down to the shore; just a few nice hotels (across the price range) but also a very good range of villa accommodation, both private homes and some excellent villa resorts; interesting restaurants, good value; some of the best scuba diving in the Caribbean, other watersports including windsurfing and gamefishing; on land truly magnificent nature and birdlife, turtle-watching and sports, good golf, excellent guided hiking.
Read about Tobago history, population and politics in Island Essentials.
The Definitive Tobago Island Guide gives you independent reviews, listings, and information from top travel journalists and Caribbean specialists.
- Best for:
- Gentleness of pace, excellent natural life and romance
- What for:
- Birdwatching, Eco/Nature, Hiking & Walking, Scuba Diving, Sport fishing
- Not for:
- All-inclusive, Naturist, Camping, Nightlife
- How to get there:
- Direct flights from the UK and mainland Europe and via Trinidad, Grenada and Barbados
- Top tip:
- Visit Little Tobago; make the most of good value restaurants; combine with a few days on Trinidad especially for Carnival
Tobago in depth
Tobago has a wonderful, natural quality, both in terms of its relative lack of development (by comparison with some other islands in the Caribbean, certainly) and in the island’s natural life itself, above and below the waterline. It has superb forest, flora and birdlife, and some of the finest diving in the Caribbean.
Of course Tobago also has many of the usual things that people expect of the Caribbean. The beaches to begin with. There are the postcard perfect, palm backed strands with white sand and gin-clear shallows, but there are also others that are wilder, more remote and incredibly attractive, with undisturbed forest that descends right to the coastline. And then the Tobagonians are easy-going and polite. Life is run at a gentler pace here than elsewhere, including the frenzied life in its sister island Trinidad. There is good nightlife if you are looking for it. Finally, for the Caribbean, Tobago is still reasonably priced.
There are two distinct halves to Tobago. The western end, with its stretches of coral sand beaches, feels more like the classic Caribbean. Here you will find the bulk of the tourism, with the sports to match, windsurfing and golf, and the hotels and restaurants. As you head east, though, beyond the main town of Scarborough, the land crumples and rises into hills and mountains, which are furred with incredibly lush greenery. Here you will find a much wilder Caribbean, less developed. Many Tobagonians live in simple villages clustered above bays and on the hillsides. The eastern end of the island has a magic that few places in the Caribbean can match. The hotels in this area are smaller and the restaurants are much more local.
And it is here that you will find the superb natural life. The flora, similar to South America, is staggeringly beautiful. Tobago is home to one of the oldest forest reserves in the world. The birdlife is plain to see, from your veranda or even your breakfast table. And, unexpectedly for the Caribbean, there is quite a bit of visible fauna, both on land and in the sea. Inland there are caymans (a species of alligator), iguanas, opossum or manicous and armadillos, called tattoos. Turtles nest on the beaches. The scuba diving, the best of which is around Speyside and Charlotteville at the eastern end of the island, is some of the finest in the Caribbean.
Tobago doesn’t have the extraordinarily mixed racial heritage of its sister Trinidad. The two were linked politically only in 1884, and before that the island’s history was more similar to the Windward Islands farther north, with its sugar and cocoa plantations. There are some Trinidadian influences in the food, but the population is still overwhelmingly of African descent.
In many ways it is due to this connection with Trinidad that Tobago has developed more slowly than the other Caribbean islands. Trinidad’s wealth (largely from oil and natural gas) meant that there was less drive to develop the island. In fact many Trinidadians didn’t want Tobago to be developed. The result is that where the other islands pushed on and modernised, Tobago retains some of its gentle, old time Caribbean atmosphere, in most areas at least.
The Definitive Tobago Guide is maintained by a team of top travel writers and our own in-house team of Caribbean specialists. The guide contains independent reviews about Tobago, its accommodation, things to do, places to see, getting around, how to get there and links for travel to Tobago.
Contributors include Jane Anderson, Deana Bellamy, Alexander Gray, Feona Gray, Peter Ellegard and Sara Macefield. Picture editor, Holly Cocker. Senior Picture Editor, Alexander Gray.
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Looking for inspiration?
- Visit the oldest protected rainforest in the Western Hemisphere
- Head to Buccoo for some Goat Racing and the Sunday School street party
- Scuba dive around Speyside and maybe spot a manta ray or whale shark
- Try your hand at a day's sport fishing for the whopping Blue Marlin
- Learn about Tobago's history at Fort King George, Scarborough