Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

My Town

Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

Renee Voisin, photographed at the Maracas Bay Jetty. Photo courtesy of Renee.

Renee Voisin (BCom’19) is an audit associate for a global accounting firm with an office based in Port of Spain. She has been living in Trinidad and Tobago for the past four years, after returning to the dual-island republic in 2020 as a recent UBC graduate.

What three words best describe Port of Spain? 

Lively. Vibrant. Bustling.

How did you come to live in Trinidad and Tobago? 

My family has been settled in Valencia, Trinidad, for the past three generations (Valencia is about an hour away from Port of Spain). In 2014, I won a scholarship from the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to attend any university of my choice. As part of the terms of the scholarship, scholars return home to commence national service that can range anywhere from 1 to 5 years. As such, after graduating from UBC, I returned to Trinidad in 2020 to serve my country in the audit and accounting field. Coming back was a no-brainer though because I love my homeland!

What do you like most about living there? 

I love the wide range of activities one can participate in at any time of year. Trinidad and Tobago is a small twin-island nation, but one with a rich culture and a diverse range of activities that can pique anyone’s interest. As a former British colony, we have many historical sites to explore. We also have beautiful beaches, rivers, and waterfalls, a wide cross-section of cultures and religions to celebrate and partake in year-round, and lots of parties, culminating in Carnival, the biggest party of the year.

Describe your favourite neighbourhood. 

Since my country is relatively small, I’ll highlight two of my favourite areas overall. (My heart is torn between the two, so that’s why I’m sharing both!) 

  1. The North Coast 
    If you love sun, sand, and sea, the North Coast of Trinidad has many popular and even hidden beaches you can visit, with Maracas Bay being the most well-known. There are also specific lookout points along the North Coast offering stunning views of the ocean. My personal favourites are the Maracas Lookout and the La Vigie Paramin Lookout.
  2. Tobago
    Our sister isle is definitely a key tourist attraction and is small enough to drive around in one day. With all its beautiful beaches though, you’ll definitely want to stay much longer (if you can’t tell by now, I love the beach!). There are many hotels and Airbnbs to choose from for your stay.
Left: Maracas Bay in Trinidad. Right: Pigeon Point in Tobago. Click on each image to learn more.

If you could change one thing about Port of Spain, what would it be? 

Most daily business is conducted in Port of Spain, which makes traffic congestion and long commutes a main area of concern for the average citizen. I hope to see decentralization of major business operations to other parts of the country to reduce the amount of time that’s spent waiting in traffic.

What might surprise a visitor about Port of Spain? 

Port of Spain has, arguably, the largest roundabout in the world (although it’s technically a L-shaped road, so there’s some controversy about this claim). It measures about 3.7 kilometres in perimeter and encircles the Queen’s Park Savannah, commonly known as the Savannah. The city’s largest open green space, the Savannah is the home of Carnival and the Grand Stand where many masqueraders cross the big stage every year in the most beautiful costumes. Around the Savannah, we have the Magnificent Seven (a collection of Victorian-style historical mansions), our beloved Emperor Valley Zoo, the National Academy of the Performing Arts (one of the most architecturally distinctive buildings in the country), and many spots for local cuisine and snacks.

What are your favourite hidden gems or activities that only locals know about? 

Taking a trip to Guayaguayare (a village in the southeast of Trinidad) to visit Dove’s Dirt Oven Delights bakery! Goods baked in a traditional dirt (or clay) oven have a very different and rich taste compared to conventional baking. Be sure to place your orders early because the bread sells out very fast! The trip to Guayaguayare from Port of Spain (about a two-and-a-half-hour drive) is also very scenic so be sure to stop enroute to dip your toes in the water and behold the beautiful coconut trees that line the east coast.

What’s the most over-rated tourist hotspot?

Nylon Pool in Tobago. It’s certainly a beautiful place: The waters here are crystal blue and locally known as the fountain of youth, and legend says that if you kiss your partner under the water, your relationship will last forever (so sorry that I can’t vouch for this personally 😊). However, there are many other hidden gems that feature stunning water views and rich history not to be missed — such as Lovers’ Bay and Pirate’s Bay, both located in northeastern Tobago.

How easy is it to meet new people? 

Trinidadians and Tobagonians (a.k.a. Trinbagonians) are a warm and welcoming people so making new friends and associates is quite easy! We love to eat and party so there are always events happening year-round that offer opportunities for socializing. Sometimes all it takes is saying “Good morning” and before you know it, you’re two hours into a conversation and a few friends richer.

What issues are particularly important to the people of Trinidad and Tobago?

The rising cost of living and state of politics are two topics that are top of mind for the average citizen. These problems are not unique to my country but discussions about them abound — from regular radio and television news coverage to conversations during the commute to and from work. Many are finding that more and more sacrifices have to be made to stay afloat, especially financially.

What is one local custom that every visitor should know about?

When you come to Trinidad and Tobago, you MUST have roti!

You can have a veggie roti or one with chicken, goat, beef, or even shrimp. Be sure to load up on the many sides available as well, including pumpkin, dasheen bush, curried mango, channa, curried potato, and much more. 

Soup is also a must. Our local diet is rich in root vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, yams, dasheens, eddoes, Irish potatoes, and cassavas, as well as plantains and green figs. Many households tend to have soup on a weekly basis, which is packed with these foods. We are taught by our elders that soup is what keeps us strong and healthy, and helps us get well when we are feeling ill. 

A warning though: please be wary of asking for pepper sauce! Trinbagonians have a very high spice tolerance. What is a walk in the park for us can be tears of pain for those with low tolerance. Sample before going all in!

From Carnival, the biggest party of the year, to stunning vistas and natural attractions, there's a lot that visitors can experience on the dual-island republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Click on each image to learn more.

Looking to connect with your UBC alumni community?

If you live outside our campus communities in the Lower Mainland and Central Okanagan, visit the Global Alumni Network page to see if there’s an alumni ambassador or social media community where you live.

Alumni volunteers also host fun My Town Meetups in locations around the world. Check out our Meetups page to see if there’s a gathering near you — or sign up to host one in your location!