One of the most industrialized nations in the Caribbean, Trinidad draws more business travelers than tourists and entertaining a booming cruise-ship industry. Trinidad's population is a mosaic -- you'll find descendants of Hindustanis, Javanese, Lebanese, Africans, and Creole mixes. But all come together at Carnival, when Trinidad erupts in a riot of color and sound, lilting steel pans moving the party along. Tobago, it's tiny cousin, is an unspoiled paradise of lush, natural beauty, where amber sunsets sink into gin-clear waters.
Beaches -- While the island has an extensive coastline, most beaches are undeveloped and remote, far removed from the capital. The closest of the better beaches, Maracas Bay, is delightful. Encircled by mountains, it has white sand, swaying coconut palms, and crystal-clear waters. On Tobago, sunbathers share space with giant leatherback turtles on the sandy shores of Turtle Beach.
Things To Do -- Port-of-Spain can be explored on foot and includes a varied sampling of colonial architectural styles, including the "Magnificent Seven" row of mansions. Carnival is an amazing spectacle of dazzling costumes and gaiety. Hundreds of sequined and feathered masqueraders parade through the cities to the sounds of calypso and furious steel-band competitions. Pitch Lake, a wonder of the natural world, is an expansive deposit of asphalt with a surface like elephant skin.
Eating & Drinking -- Leave your hotel restaurant behind and head to local hot spots where you can dine on island specials like stuffed crabs and chip-chip, tiny clamlike shellfish (you may want to skip the armadillo and opossum stews). Spicy rotis (Caribbean burritos) filled with vegetables or ground meat make a hearty, filling lunch, and the drink of choice is a fresh rum punch flavored with locally produced Angostura Bitters. Except for a handful of fancy places, dress tends to be very casual.
Nature -- The island landscape is a fertile wonder of flora and fauna -- with 700 varieties of orchids and 400 species of birds. The sanctuary Pointe-à-Pierre Wild Fowl Trust is tucked away in an unlikely setting: near an oil refinery. Despite the seemingly inhospitable clime, wildfowl flourish amid luxuriant vegetation such as myrtle and mango trees; look closely and you may spot a toucan. Caroni Bird Sanctuary is a mangrove swamp and home to clouds of scarlet ibis, the national bird of Trinidad and Tobago.