Trinidad is for the most part outside the mainstream Caribbean tourist trade of 'sun, sea and sand'. It attracts instead a variety of visitors interested in wildlife, nature and the island's rich culture. Walking and trekking are also good options. There are some excellent local beaches along the north coast: crescent bays with quiet sandy beaches backed by palm-trees, fishing villages enlarged by a few beach houses and very few hotels, and livelier beaches near Port of Spain serving its week-enders.
Trinidad lies only 7 miles off the coast of Venezuela and the South American continent, to which Trinidad was once joined. To the north of Trinidad is the Caribbean Sea, to the south the Orinoco runs into the Atlantic. It is just 50 miles from north to south and 30 miles across the centre.
Columbus passed Trinidad on his third expedition; Sir Walter Raleigh called in and raided the main Spanish settlement on his way to the Orinoco and his search for El Dorado. Though increasingly settled by the French, Spanish rule continued until the end of the eighteenth century, when Trinidad was surrendered to Britain. The plantation economy begun by Spain continued beyond the end of slavery in 1838 with the indenture system that, until 1917, brought destitute workers from India on pittance wages. Independence came in 1962, under the brilliant radical Dr Eric Williams.
Trinidadians trace their heritage to many origins. Some have roots among the Caribs that lived here before the arrival of the Europeans, many are descended from Africans brought to the island in the barbarity of the slave trade, others have European, Indian, Chinese, or Arab backgrounds.
Mutual respect, tolerance and the celebration of different cultures are themes that run through the island's life, centred on the capital, Port of Spain. Here you'll find one of the most multicultural, vibrant and cosmopolitan societies in the whole of the Caribbean. Outside the capital and a few small towns, rural communities lead a simpler, more relaxed, rather upright way of life.
Musically, Trinidad's heyday came with the popularity of calypso. Now replaced by soca, one of the most danceable beats, Trinidad's popular music stays at home and has not found the same recognition as reggae or rap. But Trinidad's Carnival still leads the Caribbean in music, costume, dance and sheer partying. The lead-up to Carnival is almost as good as Carnival itself, with lots of practice events-as much fun, and in more manageable doses.