Secret Beach II

Secret Beach II

“If it’s beachfront you’re in the market for,” writes Venezuela correspondent Don Ellers, “this is the place to shop.”

Venezuela boasts more Caribbean coastline than any other country…long, sandy, undiscovered stretches of it.

So much of it that you could spend years exploring it, by land and by sea, in search of the very best.

Or you could ask the locals. Don, a part-time local, explains:

“I haven’t been able to figure out the voting process, but there’s an ongoing competition in this country. In any conversation, the one who turns the others on to the best beach spot wins. It’s a local sport that’s taken very seriously.

“Many of this country’s beat beaches are out of the way and reachable only by boat from another beach. That’s the case with Playa Miami

“From Rio Chico, where we have our condo, you follow the signs to ‘Laguna de Tacarigua,’ traveling a new asphalted road, one lane in each direction. Infrastructure is a big concern for the Chavez government, and I can see the improvements in this country each time I return.

“A new coastal highway now extends to Higuerote, for example, the most popular of the beach towns on the country’s eastern coast, from the airport, cutting my drive time to Rio Chico in half.  The plan is to extend this highway all the way to Puerto La Cruz (which, right now, without this new highway, is another 2 1/2 hours east of Higuerote), where you catch the ferry across to Margarita Island.

“The new black-topped road from Rio Chico snakes around for 20 or 30 minutes before depositing you at the Laguna de Tacarigua national park. Park here.

“When we last made this day trip to Playa Miami, we brought guests along. Kathleen Peddicord and Lief Simon were visiting the country with their two children. Also with us were my wife and son and a couple of other American friends, Keith and Kim. With a group this size, we needed two boats to take us across the laguna. But at US$7 a head, not a big deal.

“We paid our fare at the Laguna de Tacarigua dock and loaded our coolers, swim gear, and other supplies into the boats.  It was a 30- or 40-minute trip across the wide lagoon to the dock on the other side. Along the way, you’re treated to a great show of wildlife…flora and fauna, birds and animals all around, including Caymans, a smaller version of a crocodile. This area of the country is one of the Cayman’s prime habitats.

“Early in the day, you see flocks of tropical birds—sea eagles, flamingos, and many species I’ve never seen anyplace else—traveling above you from one side of the lagoon to the other. Later on, on the way back, you can see them flying back in the opposite direction. Sometimes there are so many of them they block out the sun.

“On our trip that day with Kathleen and her family, we saw a croc that must have been 15 to 18 feet long. He swam parallel to our boat and not more than 20 yards away at least halfway across the lagoon with us. Not safe for swimming, but great for photo opps.

“We made it across and passed through a narrow slit in the mangroves and trees. As little of the mangroves has been disturbed as possible providing access to Playa Miami. Preservation of the country’s mangroves is managed by the Venezuelan National Parks Service, the authority of which Chavez has expanded greatly.

“We arrived to see a new dock and boardwalk under construction on the opposite side of the lagoon. From the boardwalk, you hike from the lagoon side to the Caribbean beach side through the sand, carrying all your gear. We all were huffing and puffing by the time we made it, finally, to Playa Miami.

“It’s worth the hike in, though. Playa Miami is expansive, both deep and wide. And it’s family-friendly, with waves good for swimming and seashells everywhere for collecting. The kids built sand castles then covered them completely with the shells.

“Playa Miami also boasts a restaurant, complete with the obligatory thatched roof, nautical decor, and the largest whale jawbone I’ve ever seen mounted against one wall by the bar. All the seafood on the menu is caught fresh daily directly off this beach.

“You can rent tents, umbrellas, and beach chairs for a few U.S. dollars apiece, and you can arrange for the restaurant to serve your lunch and your cocktails at your seats on the beach.

“You can even spend the night or maybe a weekend. Playa Miami offers cabanas, simple and basic and with salt-water showers. So, if you intend to stay the night, bring some five-gallon jugs of water for rinsing off!

“Here’s another word of advice: Schedule an exact time for pickup for your return trip with the driver of your boat. The water taxis don’t run after dark, so be clear on the rendez-vous time. You don’t want to risk missing your boat, not being able to catch another one (because darkness falls)…and facing an unexpected overnight. I can’t think of many places where I’d rather be left behind, but if the cabanas are all taken, you could find yourself sleeping on the beach.”

Kathleen Peddicord

P.S. This is Don’s second Venezuela beach pick. Read his first here: Secret Beach I.

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