Venezuela has more Caribbean coastline than any other country…so much that you could spend weeks discovering it. Some is reachable only by boat…
More than that, though, Venezuela’s Caribbean-fronted sandy shores are primo, arguably among the best beaches in the world.
“I’ve never been able to figure out the voting process,” admits Venezuela correspondent Don Ellers, “but there seems to be an unofficial contest going on in this country. In any conversation, whoever turns the others on to the best beach spot is the winner. It’s a local sport that’s taken very seriously.”
Here’s Don’s contest entry, his personal Best Beach In Venezuela recommendation:
“Higuerote, Venezuela’s most popular balneario (beach town), is about an-hour-and-a-half east of Caracas. It’s a fine beach…but, no, that’s not my recommendation.
“From Higuerote, head west, then follow up and around the hills for five to 10 minutes. You’ll pull in at an extremely unremarkable beach, Puerto Frances. It’s a typical locals’ beach, with a hot dog stand, an ice cream kiosk, and a trailer that sells water toys. The sand isn’t great, and neither is the water. Don’t worry…again, this isn’t the spot.
“Cast your gaze to the right. You’ll see a row of brightly-painted wooden boats. Engage the driver of one of them to ferry you around the jetty to Playa Caracolito. This is your destination.
“You’ll pay $5 to $10 for the boat ride, depending on the day of the week and the season. This should cover your round-trip…just make sure you arrange a pick-up time before your captain takes off. Ask him to return to collect you in four or five hours, say.
“The beach of Caracolito (the little snail) is beautiful white powder. The way the surf and the tides bring water to this side of the jetty makes it one of the most crystal clear natural pools I’ve seen in this part of the country. The sea makes only ripples as it laps the shore, so it’s the perfect place both for relaxing with a tropical cocktail…and for hanging out with the kids. I did both.
“The beach is narrow but long, and, even on the busiest days, there’s never a crowd. There are only so many little boats making the trip in and out…and they can haul only so many passengers each day.
“Under a palapa at one end of the beach is little seafood restaurant. Looking at it, you mightn’t expect much…but you’d be underestimating the place. The seafood on the menu is caught fresh each morning off the beach where you sit when you enjoy it that afternoon. Fish, ceviche, shrimp, oysters…
“We rented, from a local gentleman with a kiosk, an umbrella tarp, beach chairs, and snorkeling gear (for a few dollars apiece), then took off to explore the reef just offshore. As we made our way down to the water’s edge, some young boys approached us. They were maybe 12 or 13 years old, holding up wire baskets, smiling and pointing.
“I poked through the seaweed…and saw that the buckets were full of oysters.
“I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I’m a big fan of fresh raw clams and oysters. These boys had been out in the water while we were renting our snorkel gear. Ten minutes later, they were back with three 1-liter baskets full of the sweetest oysters I’ve ever feasted on. They’d brought their own lime and even offered to open the shells for us. One ran to the palapa for Tabasco!
“We were obligated to try a few on the house before they’d let us pay for one. It was shellfish-lover’s heaven. When the three baskets were empty, the kids went back out into the sea to find more while we snorkeled.
“All this fun, entertainment, and gourmet seafood for a couple of coins per oyster.
“The reef was beautiful. Not big but big enough to support schools of fish of every shape and color. You swim among them. Sometimes, a school crisscrosses in front of you. You can move along with a school or even inside it, part of it, and the fish don’t miss a beat.
“Swim out to join the children digging up the oysters. It’s worth it for the education. Over a few baskets of raw ones, they showed me the finer points of harvesting oysters with your feet or with a rake. By the time the boat returned to take us back to the real world, I felt I’d put in a good day’s effort with my new friends. I assured them, though, that I’d be back soon for a refresher course.”