I spent the summer of 1999 living on Margarita Island in the Southern Caribbean. It was one of the best times of my life and I am much better off for my experiences. I learned to speak Spanish fluently, met a lot of great friends and just had a great time on this amazingly diverse and stunningly beautiful island. A lot of people are scared to go to Venezuela now because of the political situation but I was there when the current President came to power and I can assure you that most Venezuelans don’t care about politics and they will treat you as one of their own, regardless of your nationality.
La Isla Margarita, known as the “Pearl of the Caribbean”, is situated 38 km north east of the mainland of Venezuela and far from the track of Atlantic tropical storms. Its location as an island in the Caribbean Sea offers lots of beaches to explore, most of them virgin. Margarita Island is divided into two sections tenuously linked by a 24 km sand spit which separates the sea from the fascinating Restinga Lagoon National Park. At its largest, Margarita Island measures 67 km from east to west and 32.4 kms from north to south – 167 km of shoreline liberally endowed with inviting beaches. The average temperature is 85 degrees and the annual rainfall averages 27 inches resulting in mostly arid landscapes with some wooded areas and fertile valleys. Over 300,000 people live on Margarita Island most of whom live in the eastern part where the capital of Asuncion and the shoppers paradise of Porlamar are located. The western part of Margarita island is called the Macanao Peninsula. It is sparsely populated and has seen little tourist development due to the limited availability of water. Wild deer, goats and hares roam the mountainous interior and the sandy beaches are only visited by the local fishermen.
I lived on the beach in Porlamar which is basically the mecca of the island. Most of the restaurants and bars are located here because it is the center of industry for the island. Duty free shopping dominates the stores where mainlanders and tourists alike flood the island trying to get cheap deals on good imported stuff. When I wasn’t working I spent most of my time on the beaches, especially Playa El Agua.
It doesn’t get much better than Playa El Agua, the serene gorgeous beach lined with palm trees and good cheap restaurants serving great meat and frozen drinks. At night the discos and bars light up the sand and the parties on Margarita go all night. During Semana Santa, the beach turns into party central and thousands of revellers pack the sands and party all through the night.
Recently, I have heard that some of the golf courses have been completed and a few more hotels have gone up. They are trying to really ramp up the island for foreign tourists and foreign dollars. When I was there, most buildings weren’t completed and just a few hotels were any good. There were plenty of restaurants and bars though for such a small place. The Venezuelans love to dance and they love to eat. They also love the beach and there’s plenty of all of them on Margarita Island.