Castara, Tobago: an undiscovered gem wrapped in awesomeness wrapped in paper cliché 42

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There are some places that you just have to see to experience them in person. Tobago is one of those places.

It is the far smaller of the two islands that make up the country of Trinidad and Tobago, but it is so much more than just an island – it is a state of mind that moves to a reggae beat.

map of tobago

On this little exotic spit of land perched off the coast of South America, I stumbled upon the quaint little fishing village of Castara and I was smitten from my first glimpse. It is a peaceful oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the real world.

Sun, sand, cold beer – it was unlike any place I have ever been before. And don’t be mistaken; I have been to a lot more places than you.

Speaking of some of those places, I could compare this to Zanzibar (completely unnecessary internal link for SEO purposes), the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua (I haven’t had anyone click on this story in ages), or another sleepy little coastal town you have never heard of before (this link is more just to show I have been lots of places) but to do so would be an injustice to this place of stunning awesomeality.

my breakfast in Castara, Tobago

hidden gem of a breakfast spot (real eggs!)

The local cuisine here almost matches the boundless uniqueness of the sun-dappled, pristine white sand beaches. Just as one example, you don’t want to miss the breakfast at “the Coffee Place,” a quaint little local eatery right on the sleepy and picturesque main street. In addition to some of the best Nescafé that has ever tickled my taste buds, the eggs are from real chickens. Try them scrambled. They took my breath away.

After I caught my breath (special thanks to Norma, who in addition to be a fabulous chef can adroitly perform the Heimlich), I wandered down to catch the local festival I had heard so much about since my arrival the night before.

I forget the reason for this particular celebration, but does it really matter? Whatever saint from a forcibly imposed colonial religion was being venerated, festivals are windows into the soul of a community that let you take a glimpse behind the curtain and get an authentic taste of what makes a place like this so spectacular, unique and spectacular. I tore away the shroud of mystery, drank a few shots of rum with the locals and basked in the glow of true religious devotion. It was an once-in-a-lifetime experience. So I partook again a hour later.

Castara possesses the kind of charming little bit of rustic quaintness that can only be properly summarized with a top five list.

The top 5 books that should inspire you to come experience this little bit of heaven on earth:

(1) “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer – After reading this, you’ll want nothing more than a beach vacation and beers to drown your sorrows. Check and check.
(2) CIA World Factbook by unnamed spies – an inspiration for almost any travel destination, but check out this little factoid on Trinidad and Tobago: Pitch Lake, on Trinidad’s southwestern coast, is the world’s largest natural reservoir of asphalt.
(3) “House for Mr. Biswas” by V.S. Naipal is a Trinidad and Tobago native famous for two things: getting in Paul Theroux’s angry crosshairs and winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. Yes, I read Nobel Prize winning authors and let their awesome-sauce wash over me for inspiration. So should you.
(4) “The Snow Leopard” by Peter Matthiessen. Do I even need to explain the obvious connection?

The best-kept secret about this undiscovered gem is the variety of world-class options you have for lodging. Unlike most undiscovered gems, hoteliers have discovered Castara. There are 42 listings for possible lodging in this town of about 500 inhabitants that I found on the internet, but no more than 20 are nestled into the landscape as beautifully as Johnny’s Shacks, the rustic charmer that I picked to rest my travel-weary head for a few days.

Johnny is a well-preserved Englishman that came to Tobago on holiday a decade or so ago, fell in love with the place and just never left, which has to be a completely unique life story in this part of the world. It is the sort of enchanting tale that Jimmy Buffett should write a song about. Johnny boasted that this little slice of paradise boasts the most incredible sun-kissed beaches this side of the next cove. I drove to the next cove. It was true.

The sparkling crystal blue and azure waters in this off-the-beaten path locale are literally the finest I have ever seen. I mean like “War and Peace” good. Maybe even “King Lear” good. If I’d read either, could speak a bit more authoritatively, but I can say this… this place is spectacular. And unforgettable.

worst sunset all time tobago island caribbean

yesterday’s sunset was epic, but I forgot my camera

There best must be saved for last: the sunsets. Vibrant oranges, bloodstained reds, and lots of other fabulous colors just explode on the horizon, like an A-Bomb off Bikini Atoll, without the decades of radiation fallout and increased risks of all forms of cancer.

As I sipped on my world-class beer in the charming little beach bar with its homespun and charming sailing décor I could only think one thing – the sun has never set this awesomely in any other place. The moment was magical, literally suspended in time.

Castara: a must-see destination, before it becomes a mecca for sun-worshipers and gets overrun with people that read travel magazines.

Alternatively: Castara, a place that will touch you in ways that only the TSA thinks is normal.

When to Go: Anytime you have the money.
How to Get There: Airplane, most likely.
Need to Know: Use the latch to lock the door at public restrooms.
Things to Do: There’s a beach, do I need to explain everything to you?

Postscript for F.T.C. compliance purposes: I did not get paid anything or receive any benefit to write this post. However, I am willing to whore myself out to any destinations that wish me to glowingly review them. Price negotiable depending on how awesome and spectacular the review needs to be. I do prefer my freebies to be to unspoiled gems, but am willing to discuss other semi-precious stones as well.

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About Michael Hodson

I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all.

42 thoughts on “Castara, Tobago: an undiscovered gem wrapped in awesomeness wrapped in paper cliché

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      I actually just read this comment and thought you said “enema that left you breathless.” LOL.

  • Jason

    You have uncovered the best-kept travel secret in the world. Your ability to get off the beaten track and do as the locals do is amazing. Clearly, you’ve been there done that.

    • Michael Hodson Post author

      Thank you, kind Sir. I talked to many locals as they served me beer 😉

  • Sally

    Very nice. I think you could have gotten a bit more heavy-handed with the snark… but I am fully supporting your use of parenthesis for snarky asides… as well as random list of reading material.

  • Jim

    Gee, I was thoroughly enjoying this awesome post, caught up in the silky spun words, reading wrapped in the oblivion of the moment,visualising how I may someday write as well…..
    then I read Ayngelina’s remarks and pissed myself laughing.
    Still wanna get there someday though.

  • Michael Hodson Post author

    I love you all and have no appropriate reply. I think I shall go buy a sack of weed for the locals that hang out on the beach and tell them it is all from you…. my travel peeps.

  • Sophie

    Forget rib-tickling, this was a full-on belly laugh. The only place I’ve seen/heard so many cliches is X Factor.

  • Mikeachim

    I don’t get it. What’s everyone laughing at? This post moved me to tears. I just literally exploded with tears.

    This is what travel is all about, this, and all other forms of travel are null and void if you try doing them. If you’re not travelling like this, you’re a failure at life. This post oozes with authenticity and slowness and culture, all things that I believe in strongly to the complete exclusion of everyone who doesn’t. I’m in tears again. Tears are bursting out my face like those uncontrollable floods you see on Fox News where people in other countries don’t know how to build homes. Tobago is indeed an enigma wrapped in a gem. Literally.

    That beach photo is the best thing ever. Better than the Moon landings. Better than Gandhi. Thank you.

    It’s so quaint and rural and I wish I could meet the locals and learn their authentic ways of doing things completely untouched by modern life, and then blog about it if they have Wifi. I could *totally* build a beach-house there and have parties every night! LOL. I mean I’d be respectful of local traditions and yadda but I mean, who doesn’t like alcohol? Nobody is *that* rural ROFL. Next you’ll be telling me there’s people in the world who don’t like bacon. ROFLMAO.

    Anyone who doesn’t go to see these things for himself or herself is subnormal and needs to breathe the ambrosia of sweet adventure with their feet. There’s only one beach, and this is it. I’m crying again. Thank you.

  • Amanda

    Hahahaha. I love it. Especially your snarky asides, that “sunset” photo, and the fact that your Top 5 list only includes 4 entries.

  • The NVR Guys

    We have wanted to visit Tobago ever since reading “The Snow Leopard.” I mean, how could you not want to just jump on a plane and fly down there the second you put that book down!?

    Just out of curiousity, too which beach will you be delivering this “sack of weed?” Our *ahem* friend would like to know.

  • Phil Paoletta

    That was great. Suggestion for your next glowing review: Monrovia. Or anywhere in Liberia. Their tourism board might not have any money. Or it might not exist. So I will fund the review out of my own pocket. What are the rates? I would want at least 3 superlatives in each sentence. Let me know. B well, Phil

    • Kelsey

      My partner may be going to Liberia for a year to work as a military contractor. If he goes, I’ll be sure to have him write a similar post. 😉

  • Marsha

    I have a very, very special connection to Tobago — great beaches and lots of awesome food to be had.

  • Andrew Murray

    Wow it sounds amazing! Into the Wild is one of my favorite ever reads, must get The Snow Leopard now lol. Thanks to @ayngelina for the share too!

  • DTravelsRound

    Ha! Wouldn’t you know, right after you email me your list of writers, I Stumble Upon this post. 🙂

  • Dina

    Very nice way to describe the sunset:
    “…like an A-Bomb off Bikini Atoll, without the decades of radiation fallout and increased risks of all forms of cancer.”

  • Sophie

    After getting back up on my chair (bruised my knee falling off, damn it), I’m left with two questions:
    1. Does Castara actually exist? – and
    2. What did you really think of it?

    Although what does it matter… hanging out in a place that boasts(!) the world’s largest reservoir of asphalt in the neighbourhood … how awesome is that…

  • Justin Hamlin

    Amazingly written piece. Like Baconator, I laughed so hard at a few of the paragraphs, I had to go back and read them twice. Definitely a glowing review of the quaint little town. Now you ruined it for all of us.

    Your hoards of readers will be flocking there, more than likely to a 4-star hostel that you are probably setting up as we speak, complete with chickens out back to keep up the facade that the eggs come from real chickens.

    I am on to you Hodson..

  • Leslie (Downtown Traveler)

    LOL! I like your honest descriptions of your hyperlinks and FTC compliance note. Truth in journalism 🙂

  • Roy | cruisesurfingz

    Haha, I love the cheeky SEO links. I should start whoring myself out in this way too 🙂

  • Erin

    bwahaha I had to do a double take on some of this too, nescafe, real eggs from real chickens lol, and SEO links are hilarious! Thanks for the laugh! 😀

  • challeve

    I can’t believe you also wrote “People Watching From the Breakfast Table: Crown Point…” Reads like someone else wrote it.

  • Don Faust

    Haha! I almost spit my coffee out on your last “postscript” paragraph.

    Nice piece. I would love to go there. The closest I have been is Grenada, but I just love the the East Caribbean. I hear Tobago has a great Carnival season.

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