Long stretches of pristine beach span the entire North Coast of Trinidad, broken up only by the occasional rocky headland.
Popular ones like Maracas Beach fit the typical image of a Caribbean beach; a sandy expanse where the ocean meets the land, lined with deck chairs and filled with tourists tanning or taking some shade under a coconut tree.
Other beaches are known only to locals; Secret beaches that can’t even be accessed by road, instead they require hiking for hours through the thick, tropical rain forest of the Northern Range to get there.
Paria Beach is the most popular of these, and it’s a popular weekend getaway for many Trinidadians.
Getting to Paria Beach involves the already long drive to the end of the North Coast Road, then going on a two hour hike through the jungle.
Paria Beach is well off the beaten path, but stepping off the beaten path is always worth it; Hikers to Paria Beach are rewarded with a pristine stretch of sand that spans over a mile with a series of stacks rising up through blue water that makes for amazing photographs.
The beach is also a short walk away from the Paria Waterfall, a powerful cascade with a deep plunge pool that’s as much of a destination as the beach.
The trail to Paria Beach starts as a wide dirt track that slowly becomes narrow as it winds into the rain forest.
The steepest sections of the trail come first, but they’re rewarded by spectacular views of the Caribbean Sea.
For a long time, the trail hugs the edges of tall cliffs, and waves can be heard thrashing at their base.
One of the first highlights of the hike is Turtle Rock; a small, rocky peninsula that resembles the head of a turtle when viewed from the main trail.
Sea turtles can sometimes be seen swimming in the foamy waves below, and a small detour takes you directly onto the rocky peninsula where you can get a better view of any turtles in the water.
The path continues along the cliffs of the Northern Range with more views of the Caribbean Sea until it makes a sharp inland turn, at this point the trail rises steadily uphill and it’s the steepest sections of the entire hike.
After the most strenuous part of the trail is the most scenic; although there were some beaches earlier in the hike, a large portion of the trail is actually a stroll across sandy beachfront.
A gigantic arch marks the beginning of Paria Bay and the popular Paria Beach that spans over a mile. The Paria Arch is one of the most recognizable natural landmarks in Trinidad and a popular spot for photos.
As a popular get-away spot, Paria Beach is usually littered with tents around Easter time. For the rest of the year it’s just a stretch of abandoned sand; essentially your own private beach.
Most campers on Paria Beach get their supplies transported there from the small fishing village of Blanchisseuse, but it’s possible to hike with most of what you need and then find everything else on the beach.
There is enough driftwood and dried coconut branches on the shore that it’s easy to get a campfire going in a few minutes. Catching some small fish by throwing a line from a rocky headlands before the beach is also possible but not recommended.
Paria Beach is isolated and surrounded by nature on all sides;
Behind you is the dark, dense and dangerous jungle of the Northern Range.
Ahead of you is the vast Atlantic Ocean, touching the shores of five continents and countless other islands.
In the sky above is the vastness of space, littered with billions of stars, and each of those stars it burning hot enough to easily evaporate every drop of water in the Atlantic in a split-second.
Spending a night on the beach definitely opens your mind to the sheer size of the universe and how minuscule you are on the cosmic scale.
There’s a part of the Alan Garland novel The Beach where the protaganist says that “in the eternity of space, there’s probably a planet out there just like this one where another you is photographing back down towards us”.
Beaches on the North Coast of Trinidad are all near to waterfalls. The proximity of this beach to Paria Waterfall is just another one of the reasons that it might be one of the top Caribbean beaches.
Paria Falls is just a short walk away from the beach. This extremely powerful torrent can be heard from a distance away, and the intense rumbling grows louder as you approach.
The plunge pool is deep and clear, Perfect for jumping off the steep rocks that encircle the waterfall and gliding through the emerald water. As long as you visit Paria Waterfall on a weekend, you’re going to have to share it with other hikers.
For more privacy, you could head even further Eastward to Grand Tacaribe, an unknown gem on the North Coast where you can spend the night and watch sea turtles either laying eggs on the beach or babies hatching depending on the time of the year.
These amazing reptiles return to the the exact same spot that they were born to mate and lay eggs.
This is why protecting laying sites is so important, it affects ecotourism in the future.
Days on the North Coast of Trinidad are best spent sipping on rum and coconut water from fresh picked coconuts while fishing for the night’s dinner but knowing that it’s most likely going to come from a can. Far from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
After idyllic days by the seashore, the thought of hiking for a few hours to leave Paria Beach doesn’t sound too appealing, luckily there’s the option of taking a boat back to Blanchisseuse.
Hiking back is definitely worth it though, being able to see Paria Beach, Paria Waterfall, and Turtle Rock for one last time while also experiencing the serenity of being in nature for a little longer.
Leatherback turtle photo via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Region