What to see and do in Tobago

It may be that I’m a little biased toward this sweet isle I spent much of my life in, but it’s still pure fact that Tobago is a charming, untapped Caribbean island.

Its beauty is the pure kind, it’s never overrun by tourists and it’s always warm, in more ways than one.

If you make it to Tobago, here’s a few things that are favorites for me (and I think I’ve done just about everything on the island. At least once).

Go beach hopping

For most of us, going to the Caribbean is about beaches above all. And in Tobago, they are plentiful, pristine and always pretty close by. There’s Store Bay when you’re looking for still waters and a more lively scene, Pigeon Point when you want postcard perfection, Grange Bay when you want the waters all to yourself, and tons of others you’ll uncover as you move from one place to the next.

Store Bay is where you’ll find a slew of gentlemen offering up glass bottom boat tours, but more on that later. It’s also known for its food vendors, all named Miss-something (like Miss Esmie, Miss Jean) each with similar offerings, like conch and dumpling and chicken roti, but all with their own spin on the dishes. Don’t leave Store Bay without having a meal here.

Pigeon Point is what Caribbean dreams are made of. It’s the beach that looks just like what your imagination calls up when you’re fantasizing about a tropical vacay. The water is striking in its tealness, warm and gentle. The sand is silky and light, save for the scattered coral. The signature jetty is where many a Caribbean calendar have been made, and quite possibly the site of your best photo opp in Tobago. It’s fun to jump off of it too. Music plays from sand-side bars and ladies well versed in the art of homemade local cuisine, will serve you up fried snapper and bake that you’ll miss when you’re done with it.

At Grange, the waves are a touch bigger and the crowds are a lot smaller, pretty much non existent, actually. It’s a good beach for reflection or privacy or long walks. Go here early on mornings and start the day in total peace.

Do a glass bottom boat tour

OK, now back to those glass bottom boat tours. It’s kind of a must for Tobago. And put aside at least a half day to do it. Eager boatsmen will sell you the fairly affordable tour at Store Bay. There’s no special booth or stand to go to to buy boat tour tickets, but I promise you, there’s no way the gentlemen won’t find you and make sure you know all your options for a boat tour. The price should be no more than 120 TT dollars ($20) per person. The boat, which comes with a glass bottom for viewing coral and fish in the reef below, takes off from Store Bay, goes on to the reef, where those who choose can plunge into the water and snorkel with the rainbow of fish as they—and you—navigate the coral below. Then it’s on to the Nylon Pool, a shallow coral pool where, as legend goes, the waters can restore youth/enhance males in certain areas/make marriages last forever. Certain tours (if you select them that way, and it’s only available on certain days of the week, so you’ll have to inquire) will deliver you to No Man’s Land, where you and the people on your boat will likely be the only ones there for a BBQ Caribbean style and the music to match.

Eat at Miss Jemma’s

On the northern side of the island, there’s Speyside. And in Speyside, there’s Jemma’s Seaview Kitchen, and at Miss Jemma’s, you’ll find all a mother’s love sautéed right into the local food. You can eat traditional Sunday lunch if it’s Sunday—callaloo, stew chicken, macaroni pie, (lentils can be part of the mix depending on whose home you dine at—or there’s fried King fish (the best) and breadfruit pudding. The best part is that you’ll eat it all from the restaurant’s treehouse perch while watching waves lap on the secluded, teal water beach below. That beach will be the perfect place to walk off the food coma you’ll definitely slip into.

See street life in Scarborough

In Tobago, Scarborough is “town” because it’s the only major one on the island. It’s where the port is, the hospital, the main market for food. Mostly though, it’s where local life happens. It’s where ladies with head ties go to buy their provisions for dinner. It’s where men sit, selling fruit or fish or the latest soca record. It’s where local artists paint murals on walls showcasing Tobago’s traditions, like old time weddings and heritage dances. It’s Tobago life and it’s worth a look.

Take in views from Fort King George

Nevermind that Tobago’s forts were sometimes used to stop the island’s original inhabitants from uprising in the fight for their own land, but this article is about thinking happy travel thoughts, not colonization. So, moving on.

At Fort King George, the best kept of Tobago’s seven forts, you’ll find uninterrupted views of much of the island. From the sea to the sprinkles of bougainvillea and the curves of the island’s edges, you’ll see it all. It’s quiet at the fort, you’ll probably feel like reflecting. And since there’s rarely ever a swell of visitors at once, you’ll probably be free to do so. Hit the Tobago Museum there too to take in a little more of island’s past and see how looked in the old days (which, beautifully, isn’t all that different from today).

Try J’n’J ice cream

If you leave Tobago without slurping the perfect, smooth deliciousness of J&J ice cream, stop playing and go right back because you would have missed out. Invented, sourced and made locally, the homemade ice cream comes in flavors the represent Tobago: coconut (in my opinion, the best ice cream ever in life), soursop (also known as guanábana in Spanish) and peanut which is also pretty superb. Whatever flavor, they’re all rich and creamy and just everything. J’n’J ice cream tastes so real, it might confuse you. You’ll think the coconut isn’t coconut because it’s like no coconut ice cream you’ve ever tasted before, but that’s really because you’ve never tasted real coconut ice cream before. Find it in Store Bay, on the esplanade in Scarborough and in local supermarkets, among other places. You can thank me later.