Maracas is the most popular beach in Trinidad. Ask any local to tell you their favorite seaside spot, and while personal favorites might include Las Cuevas or Paria Bay; Maracas Beach always finds itself on every list of the top beaches in Trinidad. It is easy to see why. The bay is sheltered from rough seas by headlands on both sides that also lend a picturesque quality to the beach. The water may not be as blue and clear as the beaches of Barbados, but it is beautiful nonetheless.
Getting to Maracas Beach is also an experience. Various routes all converge on the North Coast Road, a roadway built on the edges of cliffs some almost a thousand feet high with stunning views of sheltered bays and forested valleys. A popular spot along the way is the Maracas Lookout Point, a promontory with views of a small island that serves as a pelican sanctuary known as Saut D’eau, and expansive views of the Caribbean Sea.
This area is home to several vendors selling local snacks. On the savory side, this includes lightly pickled pineapples, green mangoes, while on the sweet side, there are hand-made confections like coconut fudge, and sugar cake. Near here are some trailheads to a few lesser known North Coast beaches like Maraquete Bay or Cyril Bay. The majority of travelers however, only stop here briefly before continuing to Maracas Bay which is now very close.
The road soon descends gently, and in the air is both the unmistakable salty aroma of the ocean and the sound of roaring waves. The experience of arriving at the beach after such a long drive is always rejuvenating. On a perfect day, Maracas Beach can probably rival some of the best beaches in the Caribbean, but for many visitors, taking a swim is secondary. Their highlight of a trip to Maracas Beach is a freshly prepared bake and shark; a simple sandwich made with deep fried shark meat and a fried bake.
Fried bake refers to a flatbread that is typically enjoyed at breakfast in several parts of the English speaking Caribbean, including Dominica, Guyana, and Saint Lucia. In Maracas, the bake is freshly fried, sliced open and stuffed with deep fried pieces of shark meat that were sliced thin and allowed to marinate in a blend of local herbs and spices. The fried bake is fried to a golden perfection with a fluffy interior that has a hint of sweetness to it. The shark meat is crispy on the outside while the inside manages to remain tender.
On the Trinidad episode of the travel show Bizarre Foods. Host Andrew Zimmern bit into a bake and shark and promptly proclaimed that; “this is the best sandwich I have ever eaten”. He went on to say that this simple seafood sandwich had earned a place among his top ten favorite foods of all time.
What makes bake and shark an exceptional sandwich is the selection of local sauces available to be slathered on. There is Trini garlic sauce; an aoili infused with the sharp flavor of freshly grated garlic. Tamarind sauce, a sweet and tangy chutney that is almost like a cross between barbeque sauce and General Tso’s sauce is also popular. Another popular option is chadon beni; a pesto-like sauce made with the pureed leaves of the culantro plant. Chadon beni is one of the most popular ingredients in Trinbagonian cuisine and is common as both a sauce and a marinade for a broad range of dishes. It is earthy, herbal, and pungent allowing it to play well with other spices. Adventurous diners can opt for some hot sauce, but be warned that Trinbagonian pepper sauce is often made with scorching hot local peppers like Seven Pot Pepper or the Moruga Scorpion. To balance the heat, there is also creamy thousand island sauce as well as honey mustard to bring some additional sweetness.
Several fresh vegetables, including tomatoes, onions and pineapples also bring a crunch to the bake and shark. Every Trinidadian has their favorite combination of condiments, but the key is always to use them to create some balance between the heat, the sweetness, and the tanginess.
There is adequate seating near the many bake and shark vendors, but the ideal place to enjoy a bake and shark is seated on the sand close to the sea. Maracas Beach is a great place to spend the day, and a bake and shark sandwich is an important part of any visit to this beach; but there is more to the north coast of Trinidad than Maracas. Get back in the car and continue along the North Coast Road, explore Blanchisseuse beach, Avocat Waterfall, or if you’re adventurous make the scenic trek to Paria Beach.