Trinidad & Tobago
June was a month full of surprises and this trip still has me dreaming. I feel as though Trinidad and Tobago is the Caribbean's best kept secret with its humble personality and bold culture. The island life hits you like a wave and then everything just slows down to a perfect pace.
This was my second time cruising with El Camino Travel and I'm obsessed with how this trip contrasted with Mexico City. These two trips have changed my life in such synchronicity and in a way I never would have expected. This particular trip, however, was an unforgettable getaway all on its own. It's one of the few places I've been where the photos could never do it justice.
Part of the El Camino experience is having a group photographer in on the moments that would otherwise be missed if you were trying to capture them yourself. Our photographer this time around was Emma McAlary and not only was she lovely and hilarious, but undeniably gifted. I'm including some of her photos in the post and will note her work throughout!
From the start I was so ready to get on that plane! I had been shooting three days in a row and at the end of the last day, I hopped straight onto a red eye. All the pajamas. All the neck pillows. From Miami to Trinidad, it was one more flight to Tobago with the entire crew. Our first hotel was Castara Retreats, an hour ride through the jungle and tucked away in the hills above the sea.
Every morning in Tobago looked a little something like this. We would all walk down for breakfast wherein I would order an iced coffee (which was actually ice cream blended with a hint of espresso) and I MISS IT plus a plate of champions. That coconut bread was a huge hit and I am now on the hunt.
This is Cleo but her real housewives name is Leche. She roamed Castara Village and we would see her everyday. She's a precious goddess of the Caribbean.
We hit day one running onto a boat (Sun Arise) with our captain/tour guide/local extraordinaire: Porridge. His real name is Derek...go with it! We were whisked away to a secluded snorkeling spot and then we were off to a BBQ on the beach where lunch was waiting for us.
This is a very traditional Trini dish that we had a few times throughout the week but this one was hands down my favorite. Chicken roti with veggies and beans...I miss this!
This happened on our way back!! I sacrificed taking photos to get some video. I promise you'll see it!
This was my little studio. The living area was all outside and overlooked the water. Sunset that night was a showstopperrrrr!!
The next day was everyone's favorite. We boated with the crew again but this time, to Nylon Pool. This is a naturally shallow region in the middle of the sea where the water is crystal clear.
My wonderful new friend Grace took this photo of me sporting the rum punch Porridge brought for everyone. Nylon Pool was the most beautiful place I've ever been to in my life. It's so surreal being there in the moment and no words can describe it.
Straight from the pool was lunch on No Man's Land. We saw giant sting rays and I definitely touched one.
Lunch was literally oh so fresh, seeing as we caught that very fish on the boat ride over. Rum became a side dish quite frequently.
Above is Porridge telling us tales of No Man's Land. Then a jet-ski rolled up out of nowhere and we all took turns. This day just got better (and amazingly rowdy) as time went on.
We boated back to Castara at sunset and said so long to Tobago!
A quick flight the next morning and we were in Trinidad! Our next home base was Mt. Plaisir Estate Hotel. Whoever designed Disneyland came here for inspiration and nailed it. There was something so endearing about this place and I felt a special presence from the second we rolled in. It's a beach bungalow with pops of color and every room has a beach front view.
I eventually found the bar (also read: natural habitat) and was hooked up with a special cocktail made with local rum, fresh mangos, bananas, and other magical ingredients. This was a blended concoction literally sent from heaven and when it's 94% humidity, you drink that custom daiquiri.
One of the highlights of this trip was the leatherback turtles. We not only got to release babies into the sea, but we witnessed giant mamas coming up on shore to nest.
That night we went out late to see the giant turtles nesting but could only use red lights and be very calm around them when they were on shore. I couldn't take any photos that night but was told they would be on shore early in the morning. So OF COURSE I hopped out of bed at 5:30 and went down to see them!
This is how close they were to our hotel. You really can't tell by looking at this how massive they actually are. Imagine roughly five feet long and upwards of 1500 pounds. When nesting, they go into a trance and are in a state where you can touch them and be close without them feeling harmed. Once the eggs are laid, they cover them with the sand they dug up, and head back to sea.
After that little photo sesh I wandered passed the hotel to this area and just sat for a good 20 minutes. I didn't have a phone to check or anything to rush back to. That feeling was something I need to cultivate much more often. There's no thoughts, everyone is sleeping, and it's truly tranquil. I'm so happy I got up early that day.
Adventure number one in Trinidad! We hiked into the most stunning jungle where there was a waterfall and swimming hole waiting for us. This is the day we met Tano and Janelle, our unbelievable guides from Island Experiences. When we were en route to the hike, Tano would tell us stories of the Islands and anything else we could possible want to know about Trinidad. Anytime there was silence he would just profess: "Ahhh life is good". That stuck with me.
This is the Rio Seco Waterfall and it's a stunner. We all took turns jumping off of its 40 foot rock and had a mini picnic together. The lighting in this wonderland was fresh and unique. I had never seen anything like this and the color of the water changed my life.
On to market day! We spent some time walking around Port of Spain, hitting up the biggest market in the city and grabbing lunch.
Straight from the market we landed at our next hotel but first, a few of us wanted to run a quick errand before dinner. Tano took us to the highest point in Port of Spain right at sunset where we were able to see the entire city and all the way to Venezuela.
One of my favorite nights was a private cooking class and dinner at Fanatic Kitchen Studio. We walked in and immediately got to make our own rum punch with so many different options. There was a demo with every dish and we got to be super hands-on with the food.
Our sweet last day! We got dressed for a different jungle excursion and headed into the mountains. On the way there, we totally learned how to wine, which according to Urban Dictionary is "twerking but way better".
We made a quick pit stop at Maracas Lookout where ALL the snacks were had.
Once we got to our hiking point, we geared up to repel down a 75 foot waterfall. It looks like a cake walk when you're on the group looking up, but once you're on the top it's a different world.
We could hear the water before we could see it and so many people were at the bottom watching as we repelled one by one. Below is a shot I took just to show scale. It's such a rush in the moment and I would totally do it again.
Our farewell dinner was held at a gorgeous residency within walking distance from our hotel. Before we sat down to eat we had a chance to shop pieces made by local designers, some of which joined us for dinner. It was so cool to chat with them about what inspires their work culturally.
This is a destination that has so much to offer and I really felt like everyday was lived to the fullest. It's one thing to spend a week in paradise going on all kinds of adventures but the people I got to meet...I don't even know where to start. Everyone was so unique and genuinely interesting.
I feel like I've had my eyes opened a little bit wider. El Camino truly does it so right when it comes to experiencing authenticity by bringing cultural awareness in conjunction with every detail. Time spent experiencing something so stunning and unforgettable fills me up beyond measure. Thank you and beyond to Katalina and El Camino for the ride of a lifetime.
Be sure to check out @gotrinbago for more photos and info on these beautiful islands.