From curry to calypso, the dual-island Caribbean nation of Trinidad & Tobago is a spicy cultural mix of food, music and people. A rainbow nation of nationalities and a major oil and gas refining hub in the southern islands, “Trini” has for centuries been a meeting place for executives from countries all around the Atlantic Rim.
This year the International Press Institute annual congress took place at the Hyatt Regency Trinidad in Port of Spain overlooking the calm waters of the Gulf of Paria. The sleek and contemporary design provides a cosmopolitan milieu in the grand lobby, which opens outside to a waterfront terrace through the spacious lounge.
The Regency and Port of Spain ballrooms are 16,000 and 10,000 sf, located on the 2nd floor. The decor is soothing and breezy with pale green and tan glass panels hanging from the ceilings. Ultra cushioned chairs add to the comfort of the rooms, and both have full translation capabilities.
Sitting at the outdoor Waterfront Restaurant at night, it’s easy to become mesmerized by tradewinds and sounds of calypso music drifting over from the lobby bar. Try the catch of the day, such as a tender King Fish prepared with a papaya and apple curry. In town, check out Apsara for authentic Indian cuisine like masala shrimp, tandoori scallops, Goa lobster curry and palak paneer, a spinach and Indian farmer’s cheese in a creamy curry sauce. Group capacity is 50.
IPI’s opening night reception of 350 people was held at one of the many panyards around Ariapita Avenue, the nightlife scene referred to simply as “The Avenue.” Panyards are where the steel pan orchestras practice and play their vibrant, rhythmic music, which originated here. Many people know this music as steel drum although today it’s not actually a drum. A vivacious 25-piece steel orchestra welcomed the group with fast pulsating music and smiles larger than life. Set under tents, various carts served some astonishingly good Caribbean/Indian street food and specialty island drinks, while everyone was gyrating to the happy sounding beat.
After a relaxing afternoon at the Infinity Pool, where on a clear day you can see the distant mountains of Venezuela to the south, treat yourself to a massage in one of the spa’s private suites with multi-jet showers.
Most groups who come here make it over to Trini’s other half. It’s a quick 20-minute flight to the forested island of Tobago, which feels like the Caribbean 100 years ago. The pace slows, the breeze picks up and the seas are ultra crystal clear. Gemma Casimir-Redman, Hyatt Trinidad sales manager, is on hand to escort our group for the day. Winding up through lush landscaping and natural fauna, we climbed our way up to The Villas of Stonehaven. Fourteen villas, all with dazzling views of the Caribbean Sea sparkling below, are elegantly appointed with three large bedrooms and a private infinity pool. Brainstorming retreats reach a whole new level here!
Festivals abound in Tobago, and the Tobago Culinary Festival at Pigeon Point was alive with musicians and locals feasting on island specialties. Dozens of Tobago’s gourmet chefs competed to create the best gastronomical delights, combining fresh fish and shrimp with pungent garlic, cumin and other magical spices.
A perfect day for snorkeling, the twin-engine powerboat Tamara jetted up and down the dramatic coastline stopping at secluded beaches along the way. There was immense jubilation as a school of over a dozen dolphins started jumping alongside the boat—what has to be the most special moment you can have as a group in the islands.
The secluded No Man’s Land Beach was a sui generis stop, where a local named “Sugar Lips” had just caught some mahi-mahi. He fired it up on the grill for us along with fresh papaya, mango salsa and lots of lime before we boarded our boat for the ride back to the beach at Pigeon Point.