The simple fact that the Magdalena Grand Beach Resort is the first full-service resort to open on Tobago in 12 years tells you a lot about Trinidad’s shy little sister. This island at the southern end of the Caribbean is not exactly the capital of big resorts. Instead, it’s a land of big trees, orange-winged parrots, coral reefs that glow like neon and locals who haven’t been jaded by mass tourism. Ah, but will the Magdalena Grand—a large facility with the amenities of a four-star family- and group-friendly resort—ruin this latter-day Eden? Not at all. Tobago’s pristine attractions are too numerous to be disturbed by one new hotel. What the Magdalena Grand does do is turn an island that might have been a mere niche interest for nature lovers, into a viable destination for people whose typical interests are more conventional—a place where they can comfortably try new adventures and get acquainted with Eden. As the resort’s sales and marketing director, Ilyse Prokocimer-Karwoski, puts it, “This is the real Caribbean.”
In contrast to most of the other hostelries on Tobago—which include a lot of small inns and hotels that offer limited services—the Magdalena Grand Beach Resort is a self-contained hideaway that will please travelers who want new facilities, golf, a spa, on-premises restaurants and bars, and other familiar touchstones. At the same time, it opens up new worlds through hiking, birding, and snorkeling and diving trips.
Tobago resembles a 26-mile-long stogie pointing southwest to northeast, with the Magdalena Grand Beach Resort occupying a long, sandy beach on the Atlantic side where the Hilton used to be. It lies south of the hurricane belt, so this is one of those few Caribbean resorts a travel agent can book for August or September without getting into hot—or wind-blown—water.
You approach the Magdalena Grand Beach Resort—which had its official grand opening party last month—by driving through Tobago Plantations Estate, a gated community with a PGA championship golf course. This being Tobago, the course has signs near ponds warning golfers of, uh, caimans. You may pass a duffer who has shanked a shot into the water and is standing at the edge of the water, asking himself, “Do I really want to retrieve that ball?”
Two long, yellow, three-story wings flank the peaked-roof entrance of the Magdalena Grand Beach Resort. Although these wings contain 200 guestrooms and suites, making this the largest hotel on Tobago, every one of the rooms features a balcony or patio with sweeping views—not just a peek—of the ocean. Each room also has free WiFi, a shower that does not stint on water pressure, cable TV, a safe, and an alarm clock/radio with more bells and whistles than an Audi. Evening entertainment options in the suites include private outdoor hot tubs.
caribbean fusion gourmet
First, though, perhaps some dinner? Pemboise, in the main building, offers buffet and informal a la carte options; Kali’na, the Caribbean fusion gourmet restaurant, serves dishes like pan-seared sea bass fillet with a rich bell pepper sauce. “Back in the Hilton days Pemboise was open-air,” says general manager Vince Angelo. “Now guests can choose between air-conditioned and outdoor environments.” Guests can also eat poolside at the Salaka Beach Grill. Or have a liquid lunch at the Li’l Nylon swim-up bar at the free-form pool.
The nightclub? Sorry, wrong island. But the Magdalena Grand does have three bars/lounges: a sports lounge, a piano bar, and the Li’l Nylon. Near the south end of the resort is a second swimming pool for adults only, while the north wing offers a children’s club and a pool for families. Bear that in mind when choosing rooms for couples or families.
“The Magdalena Grand Beach Resort is the best product on the island—not just because it’s newly renovated, but because everything you need is here, from beautiful landscaping to golf, tennis, spa, beach and pools, yoga classes, kids’ club, bonded baby sitters, the dive shop, and fine restaurants and bars,” says Angelo.
nurturing guests’ inner explorers
Not surprisingly, some guests check in to the Magdalena Grand and never leave the place except maybe to take the shuttle to Pigeon Point Beach. There they bathe in the calmer waters of the Caribbean side of the island or just sink their ankles into exquisitely fine sand. They can rent Hobie-Cats, kayaks, kite-sails. But as seductive as all this may be, it would be a shame to miss the non-stop nature show that is Tobago—the forests and hiking trails, the colorful fish and birds—so the folks at Magdalena Grand Beach Resort encourage guests’ inner explorers.
The highest ranked dive shop on Tobago, the PADI five-star World of Watersports, has its base on the hotel’s premises, where it maintains the only dedicated learn-to-dive pool on Tobago. Between 41 and 55 (depends on who’s counting) established dive sites hug the island, and because much of Tobago is undeveloped, the coral and fish are far more abundant than they are in many other parts of the Caribbean.