Our feet hurt. Our heads hurt. We hadn't slept in days. In short, Carnival had been wonderful.
For the past four days, we'd been experiencing Trinidad's Carnival, a pulsating heartbeat of humanity that winds through the streets of Port of Spain. We'd chipped, we'd shuffled, we had lost ourselves in the pounding rhythm of the Caribbean's largest annual celebration that for many serves as an annual rebirth.
But now, frankly, we were tired. After such a strenuous awakening, there must come rest. For most travelers, that means a quiet getaway with the quick trip from frenetic Trinidad to placid Tobago, known for its natural beauty and relaxed atmosphere--an atmosphere so quiet that Trinidadians say it's for "the newly wed and the nearly dead." For us, it meant a few days at the Coco Reef Resort, a luxury hotel on the southwestern coast.
We'd visited Tobago on a previous trip, exploring its nature trails and scuba options from small inns on the north coast. But this time, we were ready to relax, kick back for a few days after our Carnival craziness and just enjoy the almost deafening peace and quiet.
Fittingly, the sun was nearly touching the placid Caribbean sea as we checked into Coco Reef's Sunset Villa. Set apart from the rest of the hotel, this charming house is constructed in true Caribbean fashion with a red tin roof, gingerbread trim, and its own private lawn overlooking the sea. Decks lead down from the porch to overlook the water; indoors, the villa revealed its true luxury, with two baths sporting gold-tone fixtures and marble floors, a full-size living room with wet bar, and a sprawling bedroom with its own patio as well.
Romance couldn't ask for a better setting.
Not that the other accommodations at the resort weren't equally tempting. Along with the villa, Coco Reef offers two suites: the Presidential Suite and The Havana Suite, complete with dining room, two lounges, and a terrace for outdoor dining. Other options, all with an elegant Caribbean decor, included suites and deluxe rooms, most with ocean views.
All rooms include satellite TV, a mini-refrigerator, direct dial telephones, hair dryer, and twice daily maid service.
The casual elegance of the rooms extends to the public areas as well, as we saw as soon as we arrived at the resort. Here, beneath the porte-cochere, we were greeted not only by a friendly bellman but also the unexpected appearance of a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud. We later learned that the 1959 classic was once owned by actor Errol Flynn; today the elegant auto is often used for transporting brides and grooms to the resort. A second Rolls Royce provides stylish airport transfers.
Throughout the resort, we saw classic Caribbean touches, ranging from Trinidadian filigree to Jamaican posts and columns. Coco Reef's champagne bar, Bobsters, is decorated with murals of the region's most famous entertainers. Nearby, The Gallery served afternoon tea as well as Caribbean cocktails amidst bamboo palms. Two dining options tempted us as well: Tamara's, an open-air dining room with international cuisine in the evenings as well as a buffet breakfast, and Bacchanals, a casual beachside eatery open for lunch and featuring Caribbean cuisine for dinner.
On our first full day at Coco Reef, we considered our options over breakfast. The list of activities was tempting. The spa offered a range of treatments from repair of sun damaged hair to deep tissue massage. Watersports ranged from windsurfing and scuba diving to sunfish sailing and snorkeling. We could arrange tours to Tobago's rainforest preserve, spend a full day on a private island excursion, golf at Mt. Irving, arrange for horseback riding on the beach, play tennis, tour Fort King George, or set up a birdwatching outing.
Or, we could do nothing at all. After all, we were here to rest up, weren't we. Hmm…
In the end, we opted to sit out on the private lawn of our villa and watch the waves lap the white sand of the two beaches which neighbored the resort. To the west, Store Bay was home to a few early risers, enjoying a beach walk with their families. To the east, Pigeon Point was a splendor, with postcard-perfect palms leaning precariously over the water.
As we sipped our morning coffee, we watched a dozen figures along the edge of Pigeon Point. Several were clad in suits and ties; one young girl wore shorts and a t-shirt. As we watched, she followed a robed man into the sea for a baptism, island style. It was another rebirth, like the revelers at Carnival or the guests at a resort where relaxation can be the best activity of all.