This Caribbean nation proudly celebrated 50 years of independence in 2012—but with its sublime landscapes, sensational food, riotously fun nightlife and vibrant culture drawing a new generation of appreciative visitors, the best is yet to come
Author Sam Polcer Photography Sam Polcer
WHEN CONFRONTED WITH THE BEAUTY OF THE CARIBBEAN, said the poet Derek Walcott, “the sigh of History dissolves.” This may be especially true of Trinidad and Tobago, the dual-island nation in which Walcott has spent much of his adult life, and which possesses such an abundance of natural splendor it’s a wonder anyone here can recall what they did yesterday.
But memory, it turns out, plays a big part in the life of these islands, which were first settled 7,000 years ago. Their modern history dates back to their “discovery” by Christopher Columbus in 1498, followed by colonization, economic exploitation and, in 1962, independence. Given the extraordinarily diverse population (dubbed “Trinbagonians”), which claims origins primarily in Asia, Africa and Europe, celebrating heritage is one of the things Trinidad and Tobago does best—yielding a kaleidoscope of sensory riches that both honors old traditions and combines them to create new ones.
Wrapping the nation’s yearlong 50th birthday celebration while gearing up for February’s Carnival, the cosmopolitan, passionate and proud Trinidadian capital, Port of Spain, works and plays as hard as any place in the Caribbean. But when it does come time to relax, idyllic, lightly developed Tobago has enough hidden waterfalls, secluded coves and thickets of tropical greenery to refresh the weariest of souls. It’s the best of both worlds.