Chaguanas is a city in western Trinidad, split almost halfway between the country's two other major cities Port of Spain and San Fernando. Chaguanas is a drawcard for Indo-Trinidadian culture, with the city sparking into life during various festivals throughout the year.
Spanish explorers voyaging along Trinidad's western coast named the area Chaguanas after the Chaguanes Amerindian tribe living in the region. Spanish attempts to settle and colonise Chaguanas as with the rest of Trinidad were unsuccessful and the island was surrender to the British in 1797. During the colonial period, Chaguanas grew into a sugar refining town in proximity to several sugar and cocoa estates.
During World War II, United States Army Air Forces constructed the Carlsen Air Force Base, on what is now at the southern side of Chaguanas. The facility was decommissioned in 1950, and has since been converted into farmland, with almost no trace of its presence.
In the latter half of the 20th century Chaguanas rapidly grew into a market town. The Princess Margaret Highway, now called the Uriah Butler Highway, was completed in 1958, connecting Chaguanas with the northwestern commercial hubs of Trinidad. The oldest planned residential estate in the city, Lange Park was founded in 1963, which attracted a burgeoning middle class into the area.
Since the 1970s, Chaguanas reaped dividends from the oil boom in the 1970s, being close to the oil fields in the country's southwest. While the community is still mainly Indo-Trinidian, the presence of Afro-Trinidadians in Chaguanas has been growing over time as the city has morphed into the de facto capital of Trinidad's central region.
- A House for Mr Biswas (1961), V.S. Naipaul. It was Naipaul's first acclaimed novel that put the village of Chaguanas on the global limelight. Naipaul was born here.
The climate of Chaguanas is typical for the Caribbean, having a wet season that starts from June to November and a dry season for the remaining months. Chaguanas is not elevated like Port of Spain, making its dry season much hotter and harder to bear.
Chaguanas is well connected to all of Trinidad's cities and towns. It is a 20 and 25 minute drive by car on the Uriah Butler Highway from Curepe and Port of Spain respectively. The trip from San Fernando takes slightly longer at 30 miuntes. A variety of public transport options are available from the towns, including buses, private taxis and maxi-taxis (mini-buses). The fare from Port of Spain to Chaguanas on the PTSC is $4.
One of the best ways to get around is on the "maxi taxi", which is actually a small bus holding between 12 to 24 passengers. Private taxis and rideshare services such as Uber are easily available. The busy shopping areas of the city are best explored by foot.
- 1 Caroni Swamp. Mangrove wetland just northwest of town. A good place for birdwatching, in particular the scarlet ibis, Trinidad and Tobago's national bird.
- The Lion House (Anand Bhavan). The ancestral home of the Capildeo family (the maternal relatives of V.S. Naipaul). The majestic building stands as a memorial to the indentured Indo-Trinidadian servants who came to the island nation from the mid 1800s to work on the sugarcane plantations. Note that there is restricted access to go inside for tourists.
- Divali Nagar, Uriah Butler Highway, Endeavour, ☏ . An annual exposition Indo-Trinidadian culture in the period leading up Diwali around October or November. The village of Felicity, on the western end of Chaguanas, is famous for its elaborate Diwali celebrations.
- 1 Spa Paradis, 49 Main Road (in Plaza de Montrose), ☏ , , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. A clean and relaxing spa. They provide a complimentary cheesecake and tea/coffee at the end of your session.
With its bazaar feel, Chaguanas attracts locals and visitors to its large open markets. These markets give you the opportunity to haggle and sample local produce. Shopping plazas have emerged around the Main Road and Uriah Butler Highway. The city has earned a reputation for its specialty jewellery and fashion stores.
- Passage to Asia, 7 St. Yves St (next to Presentation College), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Daily 11AM-10PM. The restaurant lives up to its name as it serves a variety of Indian, Chinese and Thai food.
- Medford's Grill Xpress, 6 Rodney Rd, ☏ . Informal and casual setting. International grilled cuisine.
- Buffet King (in Centre Point Mall), ☏ . Provides the biggest buffet in the country. Over 50 self-serve dishes available. Very casual environment.
- Peche Patisserie, 74B Caroni Savannah Rd, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Stylish, upmarket French bakery. Has a rustic, modern interior. The pastries and bread are freshly baked daily.
- Eagle's Chinese Restaurant & Bar, 44 Eleanor St (See the big eagle on the top of a 3-storey building), ☏ . Steamed and fried dumplings, spicy seafood, ribs and pork buns.
- Giro Pizza, 94 Ramsaran Street, ☏ . You can have wood-fired pizzas, lasagnas, and desserts such as tiramisu and panna cotta. The restaurant is owned and the food is made by an actual Italian.
- Kaizan Sushi, Shop 11a Price Plaza, ☏ . Efficient Japanese restaurant. Good customer service. Try the lava roll and sake.
- 1 Liberty Hotel and Convention Centre (across the Caparo River). Fully air-conditioned with Wi-Fi access.