Chaguaramas National Park

Largely unknown to tourists, it has
a little bit of everything.

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Location: The northwestern-most point of Trinidad .

Everything from mountain climbing to caving to snorkeling is available in this one park which encompasses the entire Chaguaramas Peninsula, named by the Amerindians for the royal palms that flourished here.

This is one of the most arid areas in Trinidad, so be watchful of your liquid intake to prevent dehydration. This scrubby area was leased to the U.S. during World War II and some of the old buildings remain.

The presence of so many well-paid Americans inspired the calypso song "Working for the Yankee Dollar" as a complaint about the way the local girls were deserting their menfolks for greenback-loaded sailors.

Chaguaramas is home to the red howler monkey, so keep a sharp eye for him at all times. These monkeys, which usually travel in troops of 4 to 20 individuals, generally stay at the tops of taller trees. Other good places to see them on the peninsula are Tucker Valley, Govine Valley, Macqueripe, Golf Course Cabazon, Scotland Bay and Mt. Catherine.

Ocelots are another possibility, though they usually sleep during the day and hunt at night. Their marbled coats of brown, black and cream allow them to blend in with the shadows. They range from 36 to 54 inches long, including a tail that makes up about one-third of their total length.

The 6-mile long hike up Mt. Catherine (1,768 feet) begins at Carenage Bay. The track passes through dry scrub woodlands and eventually overlooks the Tucker Valley on the east. The secondary montane rain forest offers good birding: squirrel cuckoo, turquoise and blue-headed tanagers, blue dacnis and more.

From the Chaguaramas Public Golf Course you can walk to 180-meter high Edith Falls. On the way you'll pass through a tonka bean plantation and rain forest. A 2.5 km. Trail from the cove at Macqueripe to the golf course provides good views of Tucker Valley and the North Coast.

The Gasparee Caves with its striking stalactites and stalagmites are located on Gaspar Grande Island, one of 5 islands located off the Chaguaramas Peninsula.

The boat lands at Point Balaene, once a whaling station. Tours are usually confined to Blue Grotto cavern, which has a crystal clear tidal pool at the bottom. One underground section is known as the Cathedral because the formations are so similar to the inside of a Gothic cathedral, complete with organ pipes and pulpit. Tour guides, restrooms and picnic facilities are all available at this popular attraction. A 25-mintue walk across Gaspar Grande leads to World War II cannons mounted to defend the bay.

On Chacachacare Island, about 30 minutes offshore, you can hike to the Salt Pond that has the unusual campecho tree, also called the bread and cheese tree. From Perruquier Bay, you can hike to the old wooden lighthouse built in 1896, still in operation. It offers good views of Venezuela's Paria Peninsula.

Be careful of the manchineel tree on this island. Looking like an apple tree, its sap causes skin burns. Never stand under one in the rain.

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