Hitting the Beach
On Tobago you can still feel like Robinson Crusoe in a solitary sandy cove -- at least until Saturday, when the Trinidadians fly over for a weekend on the beach.
Pigeon Point, on the northwestern shore, is the best-known bathing area, with a long coral beach. It's public, but to reach it, you must enter a former coconut estate, which charges a fee of $1.60. Set against a backdrop of royal palms, this beach is becoming increasingly commercial. Facilities include food kiosks, crafts shops, a diving concession, paddleboat rentals, changing rooms in thatched shelters, and picnic tables. Pigeon Point is also the jumping-off point for snorkeling cruises to Buccoo Reef.
Another good beach, Back Bay, is an 8-minute walk from the Mount Irvine Bay Hotel on Mount Irvine Bay. Along the way, you'll pass a coconut plantation and an old cannon emplacement. Snorkeling is generally excellent, even in winter. There are sometimes dangerous currents, but you can always explore Rocky Point Beach and its brilliantly colored parrotfish. In July and August, the surfing is the finest in Tobago; it's also likely to be good in January and April. Stop in Scarborough for picnic fixings, which you can enjoy at the picnic tables here; a snack bar sells cold beer and drinks.
Great Courland Bay is known for its calm, gin-clear waters, and is flanked by Turtle Beach, named for the turtles that nest here. Near Fort Bennett and south of Plymouth, Great Courland Bay is one of the longest sandy beaches on the island and the site of several hotels and a marina.
The locals and the fishing boats make the setting at half-moon-shaped Parlatuvier Beach (on the north side of the island) more bucolic than the swimming. If you can't stand crowds, head for Englishman's Bay, on the north coast just west of Parlatuvier. We don't know why this beach is virtually deserted: It's charming, secluded, and good for swimming, and there have been no reports of muggings despite the seclusion.
Near the little fishing village of Charlotteville, Man-O-War Bay is one of the finest natural harbors in the West Indies. It has a long, sandy beach and a government-run rest house. Sometimes local fishermen will hawk the day's catch (and clean it for you as well). Nearby Lovers' Beach is accessible only by boat and is famous for its pink sand, formed long ago from crushed sea shells. Negotiate a fee with one of the local boatmen; expect to pay around $25.
The true beach buff will head for King's Bay in the northeast, south of the town of Speyside near Delaford. Against a backdrop of towering green hills, the crescent-shaped grayish-sand beach is one of the best places for swimming.
Sports & Other Outdoor Pursuits
Golf -- Tobago is the proud possessor of an 18-hole, 6,800-yard course at Mount Irvine. Called the Tobago Golf Club at the Mount Irvine Estates (tel. 868/639-8871), it covers 60 breeze-swept hectares (148 acres) and was featured in the Wonderful World of Golf TV series. Even beginners agree the course is friendly to duffers. Guests of the Mount Irvine Bay Hotel are granted temporary membership, use of the clubhouse and facilities, and a 15% discount on greens fees. The course is also open to nonguests, who pay $55 for 18 holes or $35 for 9 holes. Cart rentals are $42 for 18 holes or $23 for 9 holes. Tobago Plantations Golf & Country Club, Hampden Road, Lowlands (tel. 868/631-0875), lies on a 303-hectare (749-acre) estate that was previously a sugar-cane plantation. Some holes on this par-72, 7,000-yard course follow the coastline. Greens fees, including golf cart, are $100 for 18 holes, $50 for 9 holes.
Scuba Diving, Snorkeling & Other Watersports -- The unspoiled reefs off Tobago teem with a great variety of marine life. Divers can swim through rocky canyons 20 to 40m (66-131 ft.) deep, underwater photographers can shoot pictures they won't find anywhere else, and snorkelers can explore the celebrated Buccoo Reef (off Pigeon Point), which teems with gardens of coral and hundreds of fish in the waist-deep water. Even nonswimmers can wade knee-deep in the waters. Remember to protect your head and body from the sun, and to guard your feet against the sharp coral. Nearly all the major hotels arrange boat trips here. After about half an hour at the reef, passengers reboard their boats and go over to Nylon Pool, with its crystal-clear waters. Here in this white-sand-bottom spot, about 2km (1 1/4 miles) offshore, you can enjoy a dip in water only 1m (3 1/4-ft.) deep.
Wreck divers have a new adventure to enjoy with the sinking of the former ferryboat Maverick, in 30m (98 ft.) of water near Mount Irvine Bay Hotel on Tobago's southwest coast.
Dive Tobago, Pigeon Point (tel. 868/660-7767; www.divetobago.com), is the oldest and most established operation on Tobago, run by Jay Young, a certified PADI instructor. It offers easy resort courses, single dives, and dive packages, along with equipment rentals. A basic resort course costs $75, although for certification you must pay $450. A one-tank dive goes for $45.
Tobago Dive Experience, at the Manta Lodge, Speyside (tel. 868/660-4888; www.tobagodiveexperience.com), offers scuba dives, snorkeling, and boat trips. All dives are guided, with a boat following. Exciting drift dives are available for experienced divers. A one-tank dive costs $50 without equipment, a two-tank dive starts at $90, and a resort course costs $75.
Tennis -- The best courts on the island are at the Mount Irvine Bay Hotel (tel. 868/639-8871). Nonguests may use one of the two courts here for $6 per hour. There is an additional $4 light fee on request.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.