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“Can't wait to go back”
Review of Castara Retreats

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Castara Retreats
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed March 13, 2010

People say that February is a good time of year to get away from England, but we've learnt this week that it's also an awful time of year to return!! I don't know if this is always the case, or simply because we loved Castara & Castara Retreats as much as we did (since being back I've bought three new pairs of shorts in anticipation of our next trip!).
Castara Retreats is everything the reviews say – it sits on a hill on the edge of the village with stunning views looking over & out to sea and surrounded by rainforest. The place is low-key in the best way, as is the village & hopefully it will stay that way. It took us 3 or 4 days to de-shy & wind down to the local pace – at which point we started to get a real feel for the place.
The locals could not have been sweeter, leaving us to mix in with village life as much or as little as we liked. Porridge, Jeanell, and all associated with Retreats were great and helped to make our time stress free & easy.
We swam, snorkeled, fished, walked, explored, ate, drank, danced, and generally limed around - quietly at the Retreats or with the locals in the village.
Not a place for people who can't do without mod-cons. Expect chickens, insects, birds, bats, and all that comes with simple village life - can't wait to go back.
Ally & Fleur Hummingbird 2

  • Stayed: February 2010, traveled as a couple
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Thank massivelondon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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390 - 396 of 451 reviews

Reviewed March 1, 2010

Everybody talks about Tobago’s laid back way of life, limin’ sessions, roti (good, bad and indifferent) the locals’ helpfulness, rum and beach life in general. I’d like to take a slightly different approach having had three trips there – two at Castara Retreats. The following is indicative of the latter, their ‘main man’ Porridge and Tobago in general.
Although we were booked into Castara Retreats’ Birdsong for around three weeks, when we arrived at Crown Point airport we weren't due at Castara for another four days as our friends and travelling companions, Roger & Christine had arranged for us all to try something ‘different’ (a jungle/eco retreat proper) for a few days - a belated birthday treat for Anne, my wife. Needless to say, we weren't expected by anyone from Castara Retreats, and on clearing immigration we simply wandered outside into the high 80s afternoon heat to look for Sheppy, our local hire car contact. Before we knew it, however, we were being hugged and bumped (fist to fist) while mutually exclaiming delightedly, ‘Hey mon! One love!’ Our unexpected greeter was none other than Porridge, who’d proved a good and invaluable friend during our last Tobago trip some 2½ years earlier. Although he’d been at the airport to pick up some other travellers he’d recognized and remembered us. His greeting was happy surprise and genuine; 'Welcome home my friends - it's good to see you again ‘big man’ (me, even though I’d slimmed down a bit since he’d last seen me.) It was a brilliantly warm welcome which made it really feel that we were returning 'home'. And that, for me, is Tobago in a nutshell; warm, spontaneous and genuine.
After four great days in the rainforest we eventually turned up at Castara Retreats’ Birdsong. We'd actually seen the lodge being built last time we were there; back then it was brand new and wonderfully aromatic from the insect resistant hardwoods it’s built from. Now, of course, after a couple of years the tropics had mellowed it – beautifully – and the surrounding gardens were lush and colourful. It was as we remembered it; nice and roomy with four exterior decks to lounge on outside plus the covered veranda/general living space. The latter is open on three sides, with substantial drop down shutters, if needed. Of course the well equipped kitchen, bedroom and bathroom were all separate and roofed. Our friends opted for the downstairs bedroom (en suite bathroom of course) and sun deck. Their only complaint was that it got a bit warm at night, but a fan helped keep the temperature down. Conversely, Anne and I had the other problem in that it actually edged towards cool in the wee small hours. Sometimes we had to pull a sheet over us to keep warm!
In the evenings tiny fruit bats flitted through the lodge’s open areas and around us while we sat out on the top deck, enjoying a sun-downer as the sun’s red disk sizzled into the Caribbean somewhere near Venezuela. Our visitors were attracted by the rough brown sugar in the bird feeders. We regularly filled said feeders to attract banana quits and blue (and green) tanagers, mot mots, bare eyed and yellow-legged thrushes, and the like. Our favourites, though, were a pair of loved-up barred ant shrikes; he a bold black and white while she was cute with gingery plumage and a perky little top-knot of feathers. Emerald throated humming birds were in abundance, sipping at the nectar from the banana flowers. At the other extreme, chachalacas, the small turkey-like bird, raucously reminds you of its existence in the mornings. A trip into the rain forest is essential, though, if you’re even remotely interested in birds and wild-life. Seek out the exotically named Darlington Chance, the island’s best guide. He’s a sweet Rastafarian guy with a wicked sense of humour, so be warned. You’ll also learn a new word; ‘weelies’. I’ll let you find out what they are – but they’re highly recommended. Of course Birdsong had its own family of house lizards or chit-chats. There were about half a dozen of these very useful, dun coloured creatures. They were a regular source of fascination, as they stalked their insect prey up in the eaves. Sometimes they’d lose their footing and land with a splat and slightly dazed look on the floor. It must have been a regular occurrence for them, because they quickly regained their equilibrium and scampered back up the walls into the roof space.
Re-exploring Castara we found that it had hardly changed; the school appeared a little bigger and sported a new roof, and the old ladies from the village still baked delicious bread and cakes twice a week in the big clay oven in the school's grounds. The grog shop still sold the cheapest rum and beer around and the little ground provision shop on the corner still opened erratically. Incidentally there’s a largish supermarket, which is big on shelf space but not on stock. The ultimate shopping experience, though, is Maxi’s down by the fishing co-operative’s shelter and gutting sinks. He has everything and anything you need, and if Maxi doesn’t have it – you simply don’t need it!
Down on Castara’s beach the fishermen land their catch, sometimes twice daily, gutting and preparing it for hotels further down the coast or for sale to us visitors. Tip: don’t wait to be asked what you want, the guys are far too busy gutting and filleting; take the initiative and ask what they’ve got available and remember to take your own plastic bag to carry away your supply of black-fin tuna, or whatever. If you don’t bring a bag you’ll likely be sent round to Maxi's to buy them a bottle or two of Guinness while bringing back a carrier bag. Wise folks take not one, but two or three bags and make a gift of the extras. If you’re lucky this might result in another couple fillets – gratis – of grunt, bonita or local mackerel. Tip of the day: always skin grunt before cooking – the skin’s really tough. Top tip; they’ll fillet the fish for you and with tuna just flash them in a hot pan with a little olive for about 30 seconds one side and about a minute the other and finish with a good squeeze of the lime or lemon that you’ve just picked off a tree in the Retreats’ garden: Fantastic with a fresh green mango, lime and chilli salad.
A note on driving: horn tooting in Tobago (and the Caribbean generally) is a sign of greeting and thanks and acknowledgment. It's rarely, if ever, used as a warning or expression of frustration/anger. Anyway, everyone's so relaxed they never seem to get wound up over driving.
Hiring a vehicle’s a good idea. Porridge has a good selection and a 4x4 can be very useful especially if you explore some of the unpaved tracks or ‘traces’, as they’re called locally. The drive up the North Coast Road to Charlottesville is worth it, as is finding your way the ‘wrong’ way from Mason Hall through the bush to Hillsborough Dam and the lovely Greenhills waterfalls. These places are rarely visited, but are both worth the effort. At the Dam have a respectful word with the security guards and they’ll often let you in to see the wildlife, including caymans, in and around the water catchment area.
Make a point of going over to Bateaux Bay (on the Atlantic side) and getting a glass bottomed boat over to Little Tobago or Bird of Paradise Island. The objective is to view the red billed tropic birds, on the ground and in elegant flight and hopefully see the frigate birds performing their banditry on them, forcing the tropic birds to drop their fish by catching hold of, and shaking their tails – mid-flight. Incredible! If in that part of the world ask the people at the Blue Waters Hotel to get you some lobsters and return later for a luscious lobster feast at a price that won’t break the bank. On the night we did this we stopped on the way home, high up on the bush road, and sat in the jungle dark, watching hundreds of candle flies (fire flies) perform a lovely erratic ballet around the 4x4. Beautiful!
A day trip out with Castara’s well known character, Alibaba, is recommended. Our trip was notable because apart from powering the fifteen miles down to Buccoo Bay and snorkelling on the reef, bbqing on fresh caught fish at No-Man’s Land and quietly gliding through the mangroves, we had an added bonus - animal-wise. At the end of the day the sun was setting dramatically behind us and we were settling into the leaping rise and thump of the boat as he powered us home through the swell back to Castara's beach. Suddenly he killed the engines and the boat settled quietly in the water. 'Dolphin,' he whispered unnecessarily, pointing shoreward. There, almost silhouetted, but briefly becoming golden when touched by the sun's dying rays as they breached, were around a dozen of the animals. Almost silent, except for the occasional soft whoosh of their breath, they swam around and under us while we drifted gently on the current. Then darkness fell and we had to abandon them. Resuming our journey in darkness we sat quietly gazing up at the myriad stars winking on above us. Another perfect end to another perfect day on a perfect island. Oh yeah, and take plenty of Jungle Formula minimum 50% Deet and watch for sand flies on Heavenly Bay and Pigeon Point Beaches. Well, every heaven has its little devils.

  • Stayed: November 2009, traveled with friends
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1  Thank Caribauthor
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 18, 2010

We had been looking forward to our stay at Castara Retreats for quite some time and it still managed to surpass our lofty expectations. Right from the moment we stepped off the plane and met Porridge who greeted us with a couple Caribs, we were well taken care of. Our lodge, Fisherman's, was fantastic. The views were exactly as shown on the website. You could hear and see the ocean from everywhere in the lodge. The deck space was great for enjoying a few drinks, reading, napping in the hammock, or eating a freshly cooked seafood dinner. The kitchen was well stocked with everything one could want/need for cooking. The lodge itself was very modern.

As for the staff, Porridge really does know everyone and he takes the time each day to make sure there isn't something that you need that you're not getting. Porridge always manages to stop by at the right time. He got us fish two days, cooked it for us one night. He took us on a tour of the northern part of Tobago to Charlotteville, Speyside, Little Tobago, and Argyle Falls, all of which were beautiful.

The local people are some of the friendliest we've come across in our travels. Sherwin, Marguerite, Cheno, and so many others that we met along the way made us feel at home. Staying in Castara, you really feel like you are part of the village and not stuck in a touristy area in the least bit. You're definitely experiencing the authentic Caribbean here, something that you can't do on most of the other islands which are overrun with Americanized resorts.

It's also worth noting that we walked all around Castara, many times late at night after dark, and we did not encounter any issues at all. We felt safe walking everywhere at all times.

The food is basic, but very good. Our favorite restaurants were:

Coffee House (Cheno's) for breakfast with the superb coconut bake along with fish or bacon, eggs, and fruit.

Marguerite's, where Sherwin and Marguerite team to do some ridiculously good cooking. The pizzas, which you must order in advance, are outstanding. Also, the goat was best here.

But, buying some fish from the co-op or from Porridge and Sherwin and cooking it at your place is one of the best things about staying here. You don't feel guilty eating in because the lodges are located up on the hill with the ocean just below.

Going to Englishman's Bay, a decent hike or short ride north of Castara, is well worth it.

Book a stay here and head to Tobago knowing you've made a great decision.

  • Stayed: February 2010, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank YadiDadi
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 25, 2010

We had 10 out of the world nights in Castara Retreats. From our apartment the view on the bay was breathtaking and the atmosphere so relaxing that we always fell asleep every night while seating on the balcony.
Few steps down from the hill and you are on the beach...

  • Stayed: January 2010, traveled as a couple
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Thank paiarulo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 14, 2010

Castara Retreats is an excellent place to stay in Tobago, with a fantastic level of service. The accommodation is perfect and in an incredible setting overlooking the bay. We ate breakfast every morning on the viewing deck, surrounded by humming birds, before strolling down to the beach. Castara village is small with some excellent places to eat. Wildlife, including bats and ants come into the room as soon as the sun sets, so be prepared.

  • Stayed: January 2010, traveled as a couple
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Thank BuffaloM
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 3, 2010

Beautiful rooms, where nature and the hotel live harmoniously together. hotel is on a small hill, surrounded by lush foliage. You feel like you're outside, even from your room.

  • Stayed: November 2008, traveled as a couple
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Thank AggieR4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 1, 2009

We went to Castara looking for a complete break from our crazily busy lives, and chose it because of the comments on here, the privacy and the amazing looking views. Every box ticked, we had the most relaxing week of our lives. The apartment was gorgeous, we stayed in Hummingbird 1 which was spacious, simple, beautiful craftsmanship with carved wooden shutters that opened out onto a long verandah, which became our home for the next 7 days. Us, two comfy chairs, candles, rum and cokes plus fruit to feed the birds and bats and we were in paradise.

We left our sanctuary occasionally - we went on a fantastic boat trip organised by Porridge where we snorkelled, fished for dorado and BBQd on the beach. We also went to a food festival at nearby Bloody Bay, where we made complete fools of ourselves dancing to the local soca bands and stopped off at a rum store on the way home to find a dance party in full swing by the side of the road! We spent a perfect afternoon singing in Chino's coffee shop, they made up a calypso about us and in return we sang Bob Marley badly while they passed round the rum...again!

The people were great, Castara is stunning in an unspoilt, rustic, slightly tumbledown kind of way - and the beauty of the Retreats meant we came home from the beach and our very occasional trips out to somewhere that immediately had felt like home. It was hard to drag ourselves away so mainly we cooked fish we'd bought from the guys on the beach, asked one of the local ladies (Veronica) to cook for us (pumpkin soup, coconut curried fish, plaintain - all delicious) and we spent hours watching the bats swoop in and the stars pop out of the sky and having time to talk.

Practical points - there's an ATM in the village, the restaurants are all good if basic, don't expect menus, they just serve fish, shrimp or chicken cooked however they feel like it, and many are unlicensed. Buy your beers, water, anything heavy from the supermarket on the way from the airport, the hill up from the village and beach is a killer in the heat! Have a mango smoothie from the juice bar on the beach, and make sure you book to have Veronica come and cook for you. She'll buy your ingredients too - this is a good idea as it's hard to find specific items in the village (there's plenty to buy but don't go with a shopping list, just buy what you see!)Take lots of strong insect repellant and don't get caught out in the evenings without it - it's too easy to stay in the Boat House drinking Caribs while the sun sets and they'll eat you alive if you do! And don't scratch your bites - that's a tip from my other half who is still paying the price a week later! Porridge knows everyone and everything so if there's anything you need just ask him, he's also hilarious and you should ask him about his Tobagan stag party.

If this sounds good to you, then book it in and go - it was the perfect antidote to modern life and while we usually make a rule to always look for somewhere new, Castara has seriously challenged that and we'd love to go back.

  • Stayed: October 2009, traveled as a couple
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Thank sammyk
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Castara Retreats

Address: Northside Road | Castara, Castara, Tobago
Phone Number:
Location: Caribbean > Trinidad and Tobago > Tobago > Castara
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beach Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Kitchenette Restaurant Room Service Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 10 Specialty Lodging in Castara
Price Range: $127 - $264 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Hotel Class:3.5 star — Castara Retreats 3.5*
Number of rooms: 15
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Castara Retreats is a small Tobago eco resort superbly located overlooking the Bay of Castara, with stunning views of the Caribbean and mountains. For those seeking holidays in Tobago the seven tropical hardwood accommodations are built to the highest standards and are set right above Castara beach in lush tropical gardens. Backed by the deep green of the oldest protected rainforest in the Western Hemisphere and framed by mango trees and bamboo, Castara Retreats offers Caribbean vacations in a lush tropical paradise where guests can relax and live in the landscape around them. The lodge accommodation offers 15 separately available areas, each with wonderful privacy and exclusive terraces, which can be rented individually by couples, or together for larger groups and families. The accommodation is specially designed to create open, spacious living areas that allow uninterrupted views of the beach and rainforest, cool sea breezes and the natural sights and sounds of the ocean, rainforest and village. Each lodge or apartment is constructed of red cedar, a local hardwood, and is from sustainable sources. The bedrooms, each with en suite showers and either queen size or twin beds all have full size mosquito nets on suspended wooden frames. The spacious living areas have panoramic views of the two beaches looking north-west and also to the coastline looking south-west, and stunning sunsets over the Caribbean. Each accommodation has the advantage of free Wi-Fi internet access. There is comfortable and stylish seating with both indoor and outdoor dining and all three areas are equipped to a very high standard for self-catering. We have recently completed open-decked Pavilion Bar and Restaurant - already receiving excellent ratings - perfect for a romantic dinner for two or for family groups and events. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
Castara Retreats Hotel Tobago
Castara Retreats Tobago

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