Trinidad & Tobago

Tellin It Like It Is
By Mark Rogers


Allison Mason was born in Port of Spain, and spent her first 25 years living on Trinidad and visiting Tobago. She's currently the marketing and public relations manager for NYC-based Travel Span Vacations, and a frequent return visitor to the islands.

"For us Trinidadians, Carnival is in the blood," says Allison. "If you're born on Trinidad, you have to play mas from the time you can walk. In fact, some parents dress their infants up for Carnival and take them along in a stroller."

I asked Allison if she had any recommendations for first time visitors to Trinidad and Tobago. "When they get to Trinidad, they shouldn't miss the Asa Wright Nature Centre. It always blows me away; there are so many beautiful birds and flowers. For those who are into nature it makes a nice activity for families and couples."

Alison also suggests visitors spend some time in Queen's Park Savannah – Port of Spain's version of NYC's Central Park. Here families take a stroll in the evening and food vendors ply their wares.

"I haven't been to Maracas Beach for awhile, but I hear they've done some upgrades," notes Allison. "Maracas Beach makes for a real good lime (this is Trini slang for hanging out with friends). The bake and shark at the beach is not to be missed. In fact, food is a must when you visit Trinidad and Tobago. You should sample everything, the curries, the callaloo and the stew ox tail, one of my favorites."

Click HERE for a very entertaining Trinidad food tour with Andrew Zimmerman of the Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods.Andrew visits Maracas Beach for the perfect Bake & Shark, with plenty of stops along the way.Agent

If you're venturing out to St. James, Allison proposes you make a stop at a little bar called Smokey and Bunty. "It's got great music and atmosphere," says Allison. "Tables are set up right on the street, so you're not cooped up inside the bar. It's lively every night, with people dancing in the street."

Allison likes to book her clients in to Cascadia Hotel and Conference Centre, in the foothills of the Northern Mountain Range, in the scenic St. Ann's Valley; and into Monique's Guest House, which lies outside Port of Spain but is still close to the action, "I feel confident booking my clients into these properties because of the quality of the guest experience," says Allison.

She also turns to Marriott Courtyard Port of Spain and Hyatt Regency Trinidad. "Both of these hotels have a friendly atmosphere and central locations in Port of Spain," notes Allison

Touring Tobago

Allison sums up Tobago as being a destination with a lot of history, and a lot of natural
history. "There's lots of bird life, and it's a great destination for birders," she says. "In Tobago, diving is a big thing, and the coral and marine life is amazing. For those who don't dive there are plenty of glass-bottom boat tours."Agent

Allison is a fan of I like the Nylon Pool at at Buccoo Reef. This is a shallow white sand area just behind the Buccoo Reef reached by small boat. It's a natural sandbar covered by a few feet of water, allowing visitors to stand waist deep while far from shore. Kids love it and adults get a kick out of standing in the water drinking a potent rum punch.

Allison also recommends Jemma's Treehouse Restaurant in Speyside. "It's actually a treehouse, where you dine up in the branches," she says. "They'll catch your lobster while you wait and cook it fresh for you. During the day it would be great for families, and it's very romantic at night." For a special night, Allison proposes a meal at the restaurant at the Sandy Point Beach Club, Crown Point, on the island's south western coast: "It has very romantic sea views and dim lighting that really sets the mood."

For clients traveling to Tobago, Alison is partial to booking her mid-level clients into the Tropikist Beach Hotel and Resort, in Crowne Point; and her high-end clients and honeymooners into the Grafton Beach Resort in Black Rock.

The Perfect Mix

Many of Allison's clients are repeat visitors – they've done Carnival and now they want to see a different side of the islands. She finds that 45 percent of our clients visit both islands. This percentage used to be higher, since it was mandatory to stop in Trinidad. Caribbean Airways now has a Sunday flight out of JFK that flies directly to Tobago.

"Trinidad is hustle and bustle, sugar cane and oil – there's lots of business going on," says Allison. "Tobago is a more laid back and natural destination."

Most of Allison's clients stay a week. "I recommend they visit Trinidad first and hit the clubs, go shopping and sightseeing," she says. "They can then unwind for several days in slower-paced Tobago and return home rested and refreshed."