Popular Trinidad Shore Excursions
Queen's Park Savannah and the Magnificent Seven: The Queen's Park Savannah, once a sugar cane plantation and now a public recreation area, occupies 260 acres of land and is surrounded by a road, affectionately dubbed the longest roundabout in the world. Locals come here to walk, jog, play football or cricket, and watch outdoor concerts. Around the park lie the Magnificent Seven, seven turn-of-the-20th-century grand mansions, most of which have fallen into disrepair (though plans are in the works to start refurbishing them). Also by the savannah are restaurants, the botanical garden, a zoo, and the new National Academy for the Performing Arts, which just opened in November 2009 and has a modern design, reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House.
Royal Botanical Gardens: The Royal Botanical Gardens, located just north of the Queen's Park Savannah, houses one of the oldest collections of exotic trees and plants in the world. It's a great place for a pretty walk or picnic outdoors. Admission is free. (It's open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.)
Asa Wright Nature Center: Bird-watchers flock to this 1,500-acre nature preserve to catch a glimpse of some of Trinidad's 425 bird species, including colorful toucans and parrots. Located about an hour from the port, the Asa Wright Nature Center offers guided nature walks, a restaurant, a hotel and a gift shop. The land, formerly a coffee-cocoa-citrus plantation, is now covered with rainforest and caves and is home to birds, bats, butterflies, lizards, iguanas, armadillos and agouti. You'll need to a full day there to properly explore the grounds. (It's open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and guided walks are offered at 10:30 and 1:30.)
Fort George: For a view over Port of Spain and the harbor, drive up to Fort George, set on a peak more than 1,000 feet above the city. It was built in 1804 as a defensive site and was later turned into a signal station for ships. Visitors today can see original cannons and some of the dungeons. Admission is free. (It's open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.)
National Museum and Art Gallery: The diverse exhibitions at Trinidad's main museum include displays on early Amerindian history, the technology of the oil industry, Carnival, steel pan music and the island's geology, flora and fauna. Admission is free. (It's open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 2 to 6 p.m. It's located at 117 Frederick Street.)
Caroni Bird Swamp: The 20-square-mile mangrove wetland that makes up the Caroni Bird Swamp is home to more than 200 species of birds. The big-name attraction there is the Scarlet Ibis, a bright red bird that's the national bird of Trinidad, even gracing the country's coat of arms. Visitors take tours through the waterways on motorized canoes and may see snakes, anteaters, caimans and a wide variety of birds. The best time to visit is at dusk, when the scarlet Ibises come home to nest for the night, but most cruise travelers visit in the morning, when bird viewings are possible but not as plentiful. It's a half-hour drive from Port of Spain.
Hiking: Trinidad's mountain ranges and rainforests make for great hiking, with opportunities to see birds and wildlife, explore caves and swim in natural pools by waterfalls. Short day-hikes are within driving distance of Port of Spain, but you'd do best to hire a guide for the best experience within a limited port call. Try The Pathmaster, Caribbean Discovery Tours or Banwari Experience.
Tobago is better known than Trinidad for its beaches, and most beaches on Trinidad are far away and not convenient for cruise travelers to visit in a one-day stop. However, Maracas Bay is only an hour's drive from the cruise port and is actually quite a beautiful Caribbean beach that's well worth a visit. This popular spot has clean, white sand, lots of palm trees, waves for jumping, and a plethora of Bake & Shark stands for a local lunch. Changing stations and bathrooms are available for a small fee, so be sure to bring some local currency.