Trinidad and Tobago

Siblings Trinidad and Tobago are vastly different. Larger, boisterous Trinidad parlayed its oil-boom riches into one of the region’s most industrialised economies. And while its famous and lively Carnival is one of the world’s great street parties, the destination’s bountiful countryside, with vast forest preserves and marshland, remains off the chart for many travellers.

Sleepy Tobago, on the other hand, just 21 miles away, is a haven for those seeking the quintessential Caribbean vacation with cozy resorts, picture-postcard beaches and a stunning marine environment. Since both islands were once part of the South American mainland, they offer a far more diverse variety of plant and animal species than those found elsewhere in the Caribbean.

The famous Trinidad Carnival typically falls in February, but those who arrive at other times can still enjoy the lively beat of calypso and soca music, and the city’s many nightclubs offer a lively mix of the throbbing island beat. Despite its proximity to Venezuela, life on Trinidad is defined more by its colonial roots – African, Indian, Chinese, British and French – than by Latin American culture. The island’s ethnic diversity is particularly evident in Trini food.

Escape the capital to the beaches along the north coast, or the vast forest in the interior. The Asa Wright Nature Centre & Lodge draws birdwatchers with its oilbirds, the only nocturnal fruit-eating birds extant. At the CaroniBird Sanctuary, boat tours bring visitors within viewing distance of the rare scarlet ibis, and the Nariva Swamp features howler monkeys.

Divers will find the world’s largest known brain coral, as well as rocky canyons and deep caves populated with barracudas, dolphins, whale sharks, orange ball anemones, porpoises and manta rays.