If you thrive, like we do, on taking “Island Runaways,” that is, magical escapes to refresh and re-new both body and mind, one Caribbean island that can’t be missed is Trinidad. While its little sister isle, Tobago, gets more attention for its pure sand beaches and aquamarine sea, Trinidad holds plenty attractions of its own. (And it has a special place in Zickie’s heart, because he lived here while attending the University of the West Indies.) From Creole-Indian-African inspired cuisine to infectiously fun steel pan music, this special culture offers visitors a unique richness and cultural variety.
If you do venture down to Trinidad (which is, by the way, about 7 miles north of South America) you’ll want to make a pilgrimage to Maracas Beach. This is a favorite outing not only for tourists seeking sand and sea, but also for Trinidadians or “Trinis” of all ages.
Maracas Bay lies on the north coast of Trinidad, an hour drive’s from the busy capital city, Port-of-Spain. To get there, you pass through verdant mountains and soothing scenery, before emerging onto this prime ocean-front destination. Protected against rougher waves, the beige-sand cove at Maracas stretches in one graceful crescent, punctuated by impossibly tall coconut palms. This is a rustic, unspoiled place to hang out, take a dip, contemplate the horizon where sea meets sky, and most of all – eat.
Island Runaways tip: Be sure to bring cash and a big appetite, because you’ll need them both.
West Indians acknowledge that Trinidad is a real foodie’s paradise, and certainly one of this island’s claims-to-fame is the Maracas Bay’s Bake and Shark. At open-air stands cooks hustle to create this classic Trini beach meal for you, so you can savor the flavors as you relax in a gorgeous island setting.
What exactly is this “Bake and Shark”? First they create the “bake” part, which is kneaded dough that is then fried, so that the outside is crisped while the inside stays soft and doughy. This savory wrapper then goes around a piece of delicious deep-fried shark. (Lately, Bake and Shark stands are also offering other fish besides shark, to keep the shark population from dwindling too low. These new variations taste excellent, too.)
But wait, the process of preparing your sandwich doesn’t then there. Now you get to doctor up Bake and Shark your way. Do you want hot pepper sauce? Lettuce and tomato? Or maybe mango chutney or a delectable tamarind sauce are more your thing? You can keep it simple, or load your Bake and Shark with a whole heap of condiments.
Either way, once you bite in, you’ll be hooked. And if the meal gets a little bit messy? The best way to clean up is to go for another swim!
Trinidad may not be the largest Caribbean island, but there’s nothing small about its impressive landscape, the uproarious Trini sense of humor, its musical genius, and indeed, its variety of delectable cuisine. Be sure to spend some time at Maracas Bay if you travel to this isle at the very end of the Caribbean chain. It’s island relaxation at its most authentic. Just writing this post makes us suddenly nostalgic…and very hungry.
(Photo credits: 1. Maracas, Marc Aberdeen, 2. Maracas, Trinidad, neiljs, 3. Maracas Bay, Katina Roger, 4. P1070002 (Richard's), Gavin, 5. #Bake and #Shark bliss from Mona, Izatrini.com, from Flickr)