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Caribbean Venezuela

Maracaibo to Paria

Venezuela's Caribbean Coast arcs and meanders for 1,750 miles, punctuated by alluring beaches, sparkling peninsulas, exotic forests and historic towns. Christopher Columbus, on his third voyage, was the first European to reach South America when he landed on this coast in 1498. As he continued west to the vast Orinoco and Amacuro deltas, he realized that they carried the accumulated waters of a new continent.

In the west, the Gulf of Venezuela links South America's largest lake, the brackish Maracaibo, to the sea. Upon encountering the native population's lakeside homes here in 1499, the Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda jokingly called the place Venezuela, or Little Venice. Today, the Maracaibo Basin generates most of Venezuela's petroleum wealth.

The Paraguarå Peninsula, which forms the eastern limit of the Gulf of Venezuela, is a coastal desert ringed by golden dunes and beaches. Reminiscent of Brazil's Jericoacoara, the peninsula is favored destination for kite and windsurfers. The charming town of Coro, located at the peninsula's base, was founded in 1527. UNESCO added the town to the World Heritage list in 1993, honoring Coro's colonial architecture and gorgeous coastal desert scenery. Visitors to Coro can enjoy dune surfing, hiking, horseback riding and fossil tours.

The town of Chichiriviche, roughly 130 miles southeast of Coro, is the gateway to Morrocoy National Park. The park encompasses 123 square miles of mountain habitat, coastal mangroves, coral reefs and white sand cays. The park is especially popular with birdwatchers (more than 220 recorded species), divers and snorkelers.

Henri Pittier National Park, located midway between Morrocoy and Caracas, was Venezuela's first national park. The park protects an enchanting stretch of more than a dozen palm shaded beaches backed by the steep Coastal Cordillera. Covered in lush forests, these mountains are home to howler monkeys, sloths, tapirs and more than 600 species of birds. Coveted criollo cocoa, used to produce some of the world's finest chocolate, is cultivated outside the park's interior towns. Most visitors reach the park via Maracay, 55 miles west of Caracas.

In the east, the city of Cumana marks the entrance to the Gulf of Cariaco. Founded by the Spanish in 1521, Cumana is the oldest continuously-occupied European city in South America. Highlights include the hilltop fortress of San Antonio de la Eminencia, the church of Santa Ines, and a collection of small museums. AtMochima National Park, 35 minutes west of Cumana, you can snorkel, hike, and sunbathe in 367 square miles of beaches, reefs and islets.

Adventurous travelers can explore some of the continent's best beaches on the Paria Peninsula, accessible via the eastern city of Carupano. A verdant spine of coastal mountains forms the scenic backdrop for a chain of charming fishing villages, crescent beaches, and tranquil coves. Here you can hike mountain rainforest trails, fish with the locals, or sink your toes in golden sands.

The Caribbean Coast is pleasant year round, although the December and Easter holiday seasons can be crowded. Many of the coastal cities receive daily flights from the capital. Flight times from Caracas are as follows: Maracaibo, one hour; Coro, 55 minutes; Cumana, 45 minutes; and Carupano, one hour.

Mosaico Travel Services arranges personalized travel across Venezuela and throughout South America. We organize luxury accommodation, private transportation, and tours with expert guides. Speak with a Mosaico travel planner today at 801.582.2100. We’ll take care of the details.

"The further man is from civilization, the more he enjoys astonishing people while recounting the marvels of his country."

Alexander von Humboldt