Twelve hours isn’t enough time to truly experience Tobago, but sometimes that’s all you’ve got. Luckily, if planned carefully, you’ll be able to check out the 3B’s – beautiful beaches, boat tour, best views. And still make it to the airport with time to spare! Here’s how…
Getting There and Getting Around
The ferry is a great option if you have time, but the schedule, duration, and the distance of the Scarborough Port from all the action, makes it a less efficient option if you’re spending less than a day. Your best bet is to book a Caribbean Airlines flight. Flights arrive from Trinidad as early as 6:10 am and depart as late as 1:50 am, and The ANR Airport in Crown Point is close to several great beaches, restaurants, bars and attractions.
NB: The following itinerary is based on a 8:40 am arrival and a 8:25 pm departure.
Cost: $300TT / $48US
Rent a Car
If you’re flying in and plan on doing more than lounging on Store Bay Beach all day, you need to be mobile. There are a host of car rental companies on the island but Tobago Auto Rentals saves you precious minutes by picking you up at the airport and conducting the transaction on-site. Bonus: They also arrange tours so you can avoid dealing with the persistent tour operators who descend upon you as soon as you arrive at the beach.
Grab Breakfast to-go
Under normal circumstances I’d recommend taking in the ambiance of one of the many great restaurants in Tobago, but in this instance you don’t want to cut into precious beach time. Instead, grab breakfast to-go and dine on the sand. The options are varied, but I recommend sampling a hearty local breakfast from the Store Bay Food Court. Then kill two birds with one stone by pairing your meal with a great ocean view and the fresh, crisp Tobago sea breeze.
Set up Camp at Pigeon Point Heritage Park
There are two popular beaches relatively close to the airport, but I strongly recommend setting up a base at Pigeon Point Heritage Park for the day. It ranks among the best all-day beaches in the Caribbean, and with good reason. The sprawling park comprises manicured lawns, towering coconut trees, a white sand beach, brilliant blue water, (rent-free) cabanas, comfortable beach chairs and umbrellas (for rent), bathroom facilities, two restaurants and bars, and the most photographed jetty in the world. Best of all, you have easy access to other activities, including glass bottom boat tours; jet ski rentals, stand-up paddle tours and kite surfing lessons.
Entry Fee: $20TT
Take a Glass Bottom Boat Tour
The glass bottom boat tour demands 2 hours out of your precious 12, but it’s absolutely worth it. I’m not a big fan of touristy activities but this is one ‘tourist trap’ I think everyone will be happy to get caught in. The famous Buccoo Reef isn’t as vibrant as it used to be but its still a magnificent sight to behold. Snorkeling at this spot offers you the chance to get close to many different varieties of fish and coral, and if you’re lucky you might even see a stingray or two in search of food. After the reef, you visit the Nylon Pool, a sand bank a few miles off the coast. Wade in clear, knee high water and reap the benefits of its alleged mystical powers:
- It reverses the effects of aging 10 years for women
- It enhances that most favorite part of the male anatomy
- It promises a lifetime of happiness for couples who kiss under the water.
Finally, you get to disembark for a little quality time on No Man’s Land, a usually isolated islet that’s perfect for lounging or frolicking in the cool water.
Do Lunch at the Beach
Have an authentic Trinbagonian lunch at one of the two restaurants on the beach. Renmar’s menu varies daily but it always features local cuisine like curry goat, stew chicken, provision, peas and rice. I’m partial to this spot because of the home-style cooking and spacious indoor dining room. If however, you prefer fast food combos such as fish and fries or the island’s trademark curry crab and dumpling, Traditions is the resto for you.
Take a Quick Trip to a Nearby Fort
Having changed hands at least 33 times among several European powers, history is a big part of Tobago’s story. As such, the various forts sprinkled along the island’s coastline are among its most popular attractions. Thankfully, there are several close to Pigeon Point and I strongly recommend scheduling a trip to one of them. Fort Milford is less than 5 minutes away but it is small, not very elevated, an offers average views. Fort Bennett in Black Rock is approximately 15 minutes away and it offers a great view of the Caribbean Sea. The furthest from Pigeon Point, Fort King George is The Crown Jewel of Tobago’s forts and its expansive grounds feature an impressive collection of cannons, a light house, a museum and some amazing views of the old coconut plantations, the Atlantic Ocean, as well as the island’s capital of Scarborough.
Shop for Souvenirs at Store Bay
No matter how brief your visit, you can’t leave the island without a few souvenirs. Whether you’re in the market for some local sweets; kaleidoscopic beach wear; handcrafted jewelry or wood carvings, the craft market at Store Bay is the perfect one-stop-shop. It’s open all day but I prefer to indulge in light shopping in the early evening when the sun has gone down, the crowds have dissipated and the vendors are more open to negotiations.
Cost: Something for every budget
Have Dinner at The Pasta Gallery
There are many great restaurants in Tobago and if you have the time I encourage you to sample from as many of them as you can. With limited time however, my go-to spot for a tasty meal close to the airport is Pasta Gallery. Having indulged in local dishes for breakfast and lunch, I think it’s acceptable to venture beyond Trinbagonian flavor for dinner. The Pasta Gallery serves freshly prepared Italian dishes, including pastas, salads and desserts. All delicious and all reasonably priced. Since you’re less than 5 minutes away from the airport, you can take your time and enjoy your meal in their brightly colored, Caribbean themed dining room, or dine al fresco on the beautifully appointed patio.
I repeat: 12 hours is not enough time to spend in Tobago. But, if it’s all you’ve got, this itinerary will help you make the most of it. If by chance the recommendations in this post don’t align with your tastes, feel free to check out this older post on my seven favorite things to do in Tobago. There may be some other options in there that tickle your fancy!