Hacienda Jacana — Trinidad
For a total immersion in nature, wake up to the birds at Hacienda Jacana, named for the colorful Wattled Jacana that frequents its small lake. Hacienda Jacana is situated on a 22-acre estate on the edge of a tropical rainforest in Talparo which is a 30 – 40 minute drive from Piarco International Airport. Its location is perfect for exploring the various birding hotspots we know so well from years of touring from the Asa Wright Nature Centre, which is currently closed.
This is a small and intimate property with just 4 wooden cottages along the perimeter of a small lake, each named after a bird that can be seen on the estate: Gallinule, Lapwing, Nightjar and Woodrail. The cottages are air-conditioned and security on the estate makes for a peaceful stay. The cottages are built with beautifully finished greenheart wood from South America. Each cottage has one toilet/bath, living room, kitchen, dining area and front porch overlooking the lake. Our Caligo tours book a full cottage for two persons to insure a private bath; for friends willing to share the bathroom the cottages comfortably hold 3-4 persons.
When not birding, enjoy a small pool to freshen up or gather with your bird list and a cold brew (bring your own at this location) in a central entertainment area of the garden. Or paddle one of 2 canoes for use on the lake - sunrise is a magical time! The lake contains tilapia and other fish, and the occasional peaceful caiman.
The property has recorded over 100 species of birds. Notable species include flashy hummingbirds like White-necked Jacobin, Ruby Topaz, Copper-rumped Hummingbird and Black-throated Mango. Purple Honeycreeper, Crimson-crested and Golden-olive Woodpeckers, Green Kingfisher, Bat Falcon, and Spectacled Owl are favorites of photographers. White Hawk, Pearl Kite, Little and Squirrel Cuckoos as well as Channel-billed Toucans remind you that you are in the tropics. Listen to calls of Rufous-browed Peppershrike and both Barred and Black-crested Antshrike.
Hacienda Jacana photos by Joanne Husain. Wattled Jacana by Mike Boyce.
Hyatt Regency — Trinidad
Feel connected to the sea as you enjoy sweeping views of the Gulf of Paria, perched on the edge of downtown Port of Spain, in one of the capital city’s finest hotels just 30 minutes from Piarco International Airport. Experience the comfort and conveniences of a luxury hotel, upgraded in 2017 with light and airy spaces, open-air dining, and sincere Caribbean hospitality.
After a full day of birding, take a refreshing swim in the seaside freshwater pool. Indulge in a signature drink (rum punch included!), and enjoy fresh seafood and local cuisine in the fresh-air restaurant or one of two bars. Then relax in fully air-conditioned non-smoking guestrooms with private bath including bath amenities and hair dryer as you prepare for the next day’s adventures. Airport shuttles are easily available for independent travelers, making this a great choice for the start or finish of any tour.
Pax Guest House - Trinidad
The Pax Guest House, established in 1916, is the first of its kind in the country. Part of the Mount St. Benedict monastery complex, it is situated eight hundred feet above the city on the slopes of the Northern Range, with six hundred acres of tropical rainforest at its back and vast views over the Caroni Plain to the ocean in front. The view from its mountainside perch is stunning.
This peaceful retreat receives cooling breezes, inviting you to sit and enjoy the views on one of two verandas, or to stake a seat by a feeder and flowering plants in the tea garden. Buffet-style Caribbean dishes are served in a classic dining room with hardwood floor, hand-carved furniture, and striking views of Mount Tabor. And afternoon teas are served daily, in the oldest tea house in the country. Meet in the high-ceilinged living room with antiques from 1850 to browse bird books or recap the day’s sightings. All bedrooms are in colonial style with ceiling fans.
Birders have loved this centrally-located base for exploring Trinidad for many years. It has a charming ambiance in the way that European hotel of that age would have – as it is on the historic register, nothing on the ground floor can change – some rooms are small and simple and single rooms may have shared bath. It’s a well-loved and comfortable, but not luxury hotel. We do book those with private bath as available.
Lodge images are coming soon.
Blue Waters Inn — Tobago
The Blue Waters inn is a small, 35-room island resort right on the beach on Tobago, with picturesque vistas across private Batteaux Bay to Little Tobago Island. Unwind as Magnificent Frigate birds peacefully glide above the Caribbean. Venture by boat to Little Tobago Island, searching for soaring Red-billed Tropicbirds, Red-footed Boobies, Audubon’s Shearwater, and Sooty Terns.
Relax in comfortable, air-conditioned rooms with private baths, and indulge in fresh seafood and local cuisine at Blue Water Inn’s delicious restaurant. The Inn is two-storied and all rooms face the ocean with patio or balcony seating right out your door – the beach is just a few steps away.
The Inn offers swimming, kayaking, paddle-boarding, casual snorkeling, and diving. A professional dive shop is located on the property. There is also a short trail on the property’s acreage, on which both Trinidad Motmot and Rufous-vented Chachalaca may be found. Like to explore? Walk to some of the finest remains of a turn of the century sugar mill on the way into the friendly town of Speyside, where the pace of island life still prevails.
Cuffie River Nature Retreat — Tobago
Cuffie River Nature Retreat is an intimate 10-room ecolodge set in the lush and remote Runnemede Valley on Tobago. The lodge is two-storied, with modern rooms, fresh-air ventilation, and is surrounded by forested mountains, cool streams, and a raised-deck swimming pool. Enjoy a total rainforest experience while still relaxing in a comfortable, eco-friendly environment.
Arrive to a frenzy at the lodge’s feeders and stroll the grounds in search of the nearly 100 species of birds that have been spotted here. Indulge in carefully prepared, local cuisine, served family-style, as the eerie call of the Common Potoo fills the open-air dining room at dinner. Feeders attract Ruby Topaz Hummingbird, Trinidad Motmot, White-tailed Sabrewing, and Barred Antshrike, just to name a few species. And be sure to be at a good viewpoint at sunset as noisy flocks of parrots, parrotlets, and noisy chachalacas return to their evening roosts.
Mt. Plaisir Estate Hotel — Trinidad
Mt. Plaisir Resort Hotel is a laid-back, small boutique beachfront hotel located in the village of Grand Riviere on Trinidad. From spacious, air-conditioned rooms with private baths, guests enjoy quiet vistas overlooking the Caribbean, with lush rainforest rising behind the hotel. This stretch of Trinidad’s coastline is rugged – more for inspiration than swimming; it has been called the Oregon Coast of the Tropics. Dine by candlelight with local cuisine prepared by a gourmet chef using locally-sourced, classic Trinidadian seafood.
Birders flock to Mt. Plaisir in search of the rare, endemic Trinidad Piping Guan, known locally as the Pawi. It is estimated that fewer than 500 Pawi remain on Earth. And they feed almost exclusively on abundant wild nutmeg trees surrounding Grande Riviere.
Grande Riviere is one of the world’s best location to see nesting Leatherback Turtles, largest of the sea turtles, an incredibly impressive sight. Between late March and early August, witness one of Earth’s most dramatic events - the mass nesting of colossal Leatherback Turtles. Or later in the season, watch a stream of baby turtles headed for the freedom of Caribbean waters. Each spring and summer, thousands of these prehistoric creatures emerge from the waves to lay their eggs on the beaches of Grande Riviere. You will intimately observe the nesting process alongside local researchers from the non-profit Turtle Village Trust.
Asa Wright Nature Centre — Trinidad (Currently Closed)
Challenges of the pandemic led to closure of this venerable pioneer ecolodge in January of 2020. We are hopeful that the estate may reopen for birding access at some time in the next few years. In the meantime, the delightful lodges listed above have stepped in to fill this gap.
Photo credits: Banner photo of Cuffie River Nature Retreat by Faraaz Abdool.