Tobago travel guide

Tobago holidays travel guide


2 minute summary

For those who know Tobago, this independent streak is what makes it so special. It is a Caribbean island that has shunned the standard, polished development; on Tobago, high rise hotels and glossy resorts are replaced by gingerbread houses and wild tropical gardens, and nothing can be built higher than a coconut palm. Wooden fishing boats outnumber yachts and cruise ships, and home cooked stews – made with a pinch of pepper and a whole spoonful of love – take favour over international buffets. But the Tobagonians have learned to strike the balance between craziness and cosiness, roughing it and relaxation. They just recognise that, sometimes, gazing off your balcony at the fishing boats bobbing in the deep emerald ocean is a better option than a TV screen – although there’s never a substitute for a comfortable bed and a full night’s sleep to a backdrop of crashing waves.
There are postcard-perfect beaches here, of course – but unlike the rest of the Caribbean, these are often seen as just one jewel in a treasure chest of land and sea activities, the prize at the end of a long day horse riding, sailing or surfing. With over 200 bird species in an island 42km long, the birding is world class. The Main Ridge rainforest is one of the world’s first examples of conservation – protected for almost two and a half centuries, and now a haven for hikers, mountain bikers and elusive island wildlife. Tobago’s underwater ecosystems are equally as bounteous – with over 60 dive sites spanning all abilities, scuba diving is one of the biggest draws. When you do, finally, get to sprawl on that gem of a beach, you may find yourself itching to get out and snorkel the reef – or captivated by a tiny, hatching turtle.
Tobago’s famous exports betray its love of the good life – chocolate and calypso, carnival and coconut rum – and being indulged is, ultimately the theme of any holiday to Tobago. The triumph is, however, that Tobagonians have managed to achieve thoroughly spoiling their guests – without spoiling any of their sparkling natural and cultural treasures.

Food, shopping & people


Travel like a local on your Tobago holiday

Eating & drinking in Tobago


Tobago’s Creole cuisine has African and Indian roots, blended with native Caribbean ingredients. Cumin, cinnamon and curry sauce are standard – though hot sauce is usually (thankfully!) optional.

Crab and dumpling is the local dish. The crab is still in its shell, you have to work for your food here... Doubles are the most famous street food. Curried chickpeas are served between fried flatbread – ask for “slight pepper” to be on the safe side!

You may be surprised by the breakfast menu. Fried, smoked and salted fish are all common – a spicy, zingy start to the day.


Tobago has changed hands more times than any other Caribbean island. The British, French, Dutch and Courlanders (Latvians) all wrestled over this tiny isle.

People & language


Around 54,000 people live in Tobago – and it seems like most of them know each other, which makes arranging tours and transfers particularly easy. English is the official language but the streets bubble with Tobagonian, a typically West Indian patois which blends English, French and African words. It differs from Trinidadian Creole.
The most important word is “lime” – meaning hang out or socialise. You can lime anywhere, but alcohol and good conversation are essential.
A “fete” (pron. “fett”) is bigger than a lime – it’s a full-blown party or carnival.
This is a very visual language – “skin yuh teet” means “smile” and “shif yuh carcsass” means “move over!”

Gifts & shopping


Food and drink are the best local souvenirs. Angostura Bitters are produced in Trinidad and Tobago – pick up a bottle, or opt for Angostura’s aged, amber-hued 1919 rum.

Treat yourself to cocoa balls from the Tobago Cocoa Estate (cheaper than at the airport!). Spiced with nutmeg and bay leaf, they can be grated to make hot chocolate. Or just buy a bar of the divine chocolate – though it’s unlikely to last until you get home…

The owner of Kariwak Village uses locally grown ingredients in her flavoursome dishes. Her beautifully illustrated recipe book will encourage you to have a go at recreating them yourself.

Never buy items made of turtle shell, feathers, coral or any other product which may have been sourced from endangered species.

Fast facts





The name Tobago is believed to come from the Amerindian word “tavaco” – the pipe that tobacco was smoked in.

How much does it cost?


Double from a street van: 40p

Shot of 1919 rum: £7.20

Full day catamaran tour of Caribbean coast, inc. lunch & drinks: £60

Entry to Pigeon Point Beach (the only beach with an entry fee): £2

Boat tour from Speyside to Little Tobago, including snorkelling: £10

Full day snorkel equipment rental: £6.60

A brief history of Tobago


As the many discarded forts and canons along its coastline suggest, Tobago’s allure has not always worked in its favour. Since the early times, the inhabitants of this unassuming little isle have struggled to defend themselves against invading forces – who in turn had to defend themselves against the next surge of invaders, and the next wave, and the next….Read more ▼
Responsible Travel would like to thank Visit Tobago for their sponsorship of this guide
Photo credits: [Tob box - Nylon Pool: Tobago Tourist Board] [Top ten box - turtle: Giancarlo Lalsingh - Tobago Tourist Board] [Food and drink: Vicki Brown] [Gifts and shopping - Angostura bitter: Dominic Lockyer] [How much: Paleontour]
Written by Vicki Brown
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