Isla de Margarita the Venezuela Tropical Isle

The South American country of Venezuela is not one that you automatically think of when planning a tropical island retreat, but the country does have a long Caribbean coastline and a group of islands that are as good as anything you’ll find anywhere in that region.

Chief among them is Isla de Margarita, which is one of the largest islands off the Venezuelan coast.

Known as the Pearl of the Caribbean, it is Venezuela’s most popular tourist destination.

Its epithet Pearl of the Caribbean is no misnomer, as the island was an important pearl centre during the Spanish rule, which began in 1498 when Christopher Columbus visited the island. At one stage, pearls from around Isla de Margarita accounted for one third of the riches which arrived in Spain from the New World, and the island was attacked by pirates wanting to plunder the precious jewels so fortifications were built, some of which remain t this day.

These days the island is more likely to be invaded by tourists anticipating a good time and lovely beaches; and these modern day adventurers are made more than welcome on the island.
Given that Americans are somewhat put off by the antics of the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Isla de Margarita is not as developed as some of the other Caribbean hotspots, and therein lies much of its charm.

Margarita is really two islands joined in the middle by an 18 kilometre long stretch of sand, mangrove, and marsh that make up La Restinga National Park. Most of the island’s 420,000 residents live in the more developed eastern part, especially in the city of Porlamar and adjoining city of Pampatar. Others are found in the much smaller city of La Asunción, the capital of the region or Juan Griego.

One of the drawbacks in recent times has been an upsurge in crime against tourists, and there have been some deaths as a result of these crimes, for which a couple of police officers have been blamed. Apart from Venezuelans it is mainly Europeans who visit the island these days.

Margarita does have some gorgeous beaches though, and quite a good climate. It is the sort of place you would visit if you like to get off the beaten track, but don’t mind staying in good accommodation when you arrive, but it does pay to be cautious as some of those pirate traditions from the past seem to have become a feature of the present.

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