Trinidadians will tell you — “fuh true” — you don’t have to spend a bundle to vacation here. They flock to Tobago for holidays, and to chill out after Carnival. (Don’t expect to get a room then at any price unless you book long ahead.)
Stay for $105-$175 a night
Kariwak Village Holistic Haven
Admittedly, this stretches the affordable label a bit, but its Amerindian-style thatched-roof ajoupas, hidden among gardens and rainbow-hued birds, are hard to pass up. Helping to even the balance sheet are free yoga and tai chi, a gratis shuttle to iconic Pigeon Point beach (Store Bay beach is a six-minute walk) and breakfast included in the room rate. Try the cocoa tea instead of coffee, and the fried flying fish instead of eggs. Low-season rate is $175 a night.
It’s all about location here. With Store Bay at their doorstep, the 27 cabana-style one-bedrooms have a private stairway to the beach, plus they share the grounds (and pool) of Crown Point Beach Hotel. A balcony and kitchenette make eating in enjoyable, not just money-saving. Low-season rate is $105 a night.
Did You Know? Tobago law requires children attend school for just six years.
Eat for $5-$35 a day
Store Bay Kiosks
A chalkboard is often a sign of killer food — and in Store Bay, it’s one after the other listing the day’s specials ($5-$10). They usually include the national dish: curry crab and dumplings. I favor Miss Esmie, my husband likes Miss Alma, but whichever cook you try, eat in your swimsuit: The dish rightly lays claim to being the world’s messiest.
At Kariwak Village, owner Cynthia Clovis recently published a cookbook. Her grilled mahimahi and peppery ginger beer are first-rate; her coconut cream pie with homemade coconut ice cream had me swooning. A three-course dinner set us back about $35, but we went cheap and cheerful the next night: with pizza at Store Bay’s La Cantina, a lively spot owned by an Italian Tobagonian ($25 for two).
Play for $0-$5 a day
Tobago has enough rare easily spotted birds (210 nesting species compared with 80 on most other islands) to excite even a non-birdwatcher like me. I spotted motmots with long jewel-colored tail feathers on phone lines and was awakened by the raucous calls of chachalacas, also called “cocricos” because that sounds exactly like what they’re shouting.
If a Tobagonian insists you go to Sunday school in Buccoo, think street party, not church. Things get going about 8 or 9 p.m. with steel-pan music, which turns into soca, dance hall and hip-hop later. A few bucks in my pocket for the barbecue and drink stalls were plenty.