Castara, Trinidad and Tobago

Photo: Sioned Sims
Photo: Sioned Sims

Sunlight peeks through the louvered windows, creating stripes across the bed. A light breeze rattles a loose blind every few minutes. Noisy Cocricos rustle through the banana palms and the bamboo below your room. Slowly, you open your eyes. You aren’t sure what time it is. Not that it matters. It isn’t too hot though, so it must still be early. Eventually, you stretch your legs to the floor and walk out to the deck. It’s a beautiful morning. The sparkling blue water laps up against the sandy beach, and lush green mountains are in the distance. The dark shadows moving through the water are stingrays. Paradise.

You’re at Castara Retreats on the northern coast of Tobago. The hilly, unspoiled island is in the Southern Caribbean, outside of the hurricane belt. Castara is a seven-room eco-resort that overlooks Castara Bay and the oldest protected rainforest in the Western Hemisphere. Hammocks and sun terraces provide plenty of places to relax among the mango trees, the fragrant shrubs, and the exotic flowers. You may just have to share the space with an iguana. An orchard is full of plantains, avocados, papayas, and citrus. From the deck, watch colorful birds fly by. Hummingbirds, Bananaquits, Green-rumped Parrotlets, and Blue-gray Tanagers. And the high-pitched noise? Probably an agouti scurrying up the hill.

There’s no sight of the agouti by the time you head down the path. If it’s Wednesday or Saturday, walk to the Village Bakery to buy homemade bread or rock cake. Otherwise, rent a sun lounger from Dorn and get comfortable on the beach. When it starts to get hot, ask for a fruit smoothie or float in the calm water. Walk to Marguarite’s and eat fresh fish for lunch. And then spend the afternoon snorkeling at Little Bay. You’ll be surrounded by fan and brain coral, angelfish and parrotfish, and more stingrays.

Photo: Sioned Sims
Photo: Sioned Sims

Walking back toward Castara late in the afternoon, you can buy more fish on the beach to cook for dinner. But who really wants to cook on vacation? Especially when Kenny and Patricia are in the kitchen. Take a seat in the pagoda. Start with a rum punch–it’s made with local Angostura bitters–to watch the sky turn pink. A Blue-crowned Motmot seems just as pleased as you with the view. Then choose between handmade carrot and ricotta ravioli, fish cakes with tzatziki, and lamb tagine. And maybe another rum punch.

This is what the Caribbean used to be. Before the all-inclusive resorts, the multi-tiered pools, and the cruise ships arrived. And though sometimes you want to be pampered, other times you want to get a real feel for an island. Welcome to the real Caribbean.

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