Located on Tobago’s quieter western coast, away from the island’s more populated south, in the small fishing village of Castara you’ll get a sense of the ‘real Tobago’. Whether your aim is to soak up the local culture, hang out on the beach, or appreciate the splendour of flora and fauna, Castara reveals its hidden gems to anyone seeking a Caribbean experience within an authentic and welcoming local community.
Castara is blessed with two sandy beaches, offering a delightful location for soaking up the sunshine, and enjoying dips in the ocean. We have supported our neighbour Dorn to establish a sunbed rental business, and you can now find that perfect spot under the shade of the swaying palms. Snorkelling opportunities are just moments from the shore – dipping below the surface you’ll be awed by palaces of colour and a coral reef thriving with life.
Castara is backed by the oldest protected rainforest in the Western Hemisphere, and a safe and easy way to independently explore it is by following the village’s stream leading you into the deep green of rainforest. You’ll soon reach the Castara waterfall that cascades into a freshwater rock pool that will beckon you in for a dip. It’s a magical spot, and being off the beaten track for visitors to the island, you’ll often have the waterfall to yourself.
Being a fishing village, each day you’ll see the fishing boats heading out early and returning mid-afternoon in their small pirogues signalling it’s time to head down to the fisherman’s co-op to purchase the daily catch for dinner. You will also see fishermen pulling in their seine nets- a real spectacle, and a privilege to watch this declining tradition which goes back 150 years. Pulling in the great net can take over an hour, and anyone wanting to lend a hand is welcome.
Tobago’s stunning rainforest reserve encompasses fairytale forest that springs from Tobago’s spine. It feels a world away from Castara’s sandy beach. Several trails lead through the forest, and a guide is recommended to help find your way, and to spot the birds, insects and animals.
Tobago has one of the highest densities of bird species in the world – with some 220 varieties to be spotted. But it’s about quality as much as quantity– whether you’re a seasoned twitcher or simply taking a stroll, observing the birds in their natural habitats around Castara is an absolute pleasure.
Several boat trips run from Castara, offering snorkelling excursions, fishing trips, and all day outings which include BBQ on a gorgeous beach. If fortune finds you, along the way you may meet a pod of dolphins frolicking in the deep blue – jumping in to join them in the water is an unforgettable experience.
Castara is less than a five minute walk away, and here you’ll find a range of small restaurants and eateries serving tasty Caribbean cuisine. In the local bars, experience the rhythms of calypso whilst getting a taste for the local beers and rum punch. Here you can enjoy limin’; an important part of the island’s culture and generally means hanging-out while sharing food, drink, conversation and laughter.
Tobagonians love to party, and local restaurants and bars often put on a special event which welcomes visitors and locals alike. Whether it’s a steel pan and barbecue night at Cheno’s, African drumming and limbo at the Boat House, or bonfire and beers on the beach, you’re sure to enjoy a rum-punch or three, and if the music gets going, may like to learn the Tobagonian dancing style wining.
The village has a handful of small local shops selling groceries, fresh fruit and vegetables. Shopping is a great way to get to know people, and our guests love to explore what is on offer knowing that the dollars they spend add real value to the local economy. During quieter months (May – November) some shops, restaurants and bars may have sporadic opening times.
In 2015, over 30 village stakeholders came together to form Castara Tourism Development Group (CTDA), a non-profit organisation that works to protect Castara’s local culture and natural environment, and to ensure tourism in the village develops along sustainable lines. Within Trinidad and Tobago, Castara is now seen as a role model for community-led tourism.
Castara has more churches and chapels than we can count, and many of our guests have received a very warm welcome at the weekly services. Notices are pinned outside the doors, noting which day and at what time the services take place. Those who aren’t church-goers can enjoy the sound of the service wafting up the hill, from hymn singing to evangelical preaching.
For a taste of ‘ole time’ baking, the traditional open-air clay oven bakery is open twice a week. The Castara Heritage Baking Ladies turn out sweet breads, pumpkin loafs, tarts and coconut cakes from this community oven. Clay ovens date back nearly a hundred years but today are increasingly rare on Tobago. It is a privilege to witness this traditional community activity, and the results are simply delicious!