Caracas to Puerto La Cruz

Very much a holiday coastline, the first part takes its name from the sweeping Barlovento bay in Miranda state. Onshore trade winds give the seaboard a lusher aspect than the more arid landscape elsewhere.

It is five hours from Caracas to Barcelona through Caucagua, from which there is a 58 km road northeast to
Higuerote
. A coastal road from Los Caracas to Higuerote has many beaches and beautiful views.

Parque Nacional Laguna de Tacarigua

At 14 km before Higuerote on the road from Caucagua is Tacarigua de Mamporal, where you can turn off to the
Parque Nacional Laguna de Tacarigua
. The 18,400 ha national park enclosing the lagoon is an important ecological reserve, with mangroves, good fishing and many water birds, including flamingos. Boats leave from
Muelle Ciudad Tablita
; also from Inparques
muelle
(overcharging is common). Agencies have offices in Sector Belén in the fishing village of
Tacarigua de la Laguna
. Boats can be hired to anywhere in the Park and to Club Miami
beach resor
t, o
n the Caribbean side of the eastern sandspit. Good fish dishes are served at
Bar-Restaurant Poleo Lebranche Asado
. The beaches beyond here are unspoilt and relaxing, but mosquitoes are a problem after sunset.

Barcelona

Barcelona, founded in 1671, straddles the Río Neveri, 5 km from the sea. Its colonial streets and old buildings are pleasant if a little run down, and a more peaceful alternative to neighbouring Puerto La Cruz, 12 km away by 4-lane highway (Avenida Intercomunal), which has surpassed it touristically and commercially. Between the two towns is the resort of
Lechería
, the place for clubbing.

On
Plaza Boyacá
are the Palacio de Gobierno and the San Cristóbal
Cathedral
 (started 1748, rebuilt 1773), which contains the embalmed remains of the Italian martyr, San Celestino. Several blocks north on Avenida 5 de Julio are the twin
plazas of Bolívar
(with statue) and
Miranda
. Facing Plaza Bolívar are the ruins of the
Casa Fuerte
, a national monument, where 1600 of Bolívar's followers were massacred in 1817. Details of this and other historic epics can be found next door in the
public library
.
Museo de la Tradición
, in a 1671 building once the centre of the slave trade, houses a wide collection of indigenous and Spanish religious art.

Puerto La Cruz and around

Originally a fishing village, Puerto La Cruz is now a major oil refining town and busy, modern holiday resort. (Tourist facilities are above average, if expensive, and the sea is polluted.) The seafront avenue, Paseo Colón, extends to the eastern extremity of a broad bay. To the west the bay ends at the prominent El Morro headland. Most hotels, restaurants, bars and clubs are along Paseo Colón, with excellent views of Bahía de Pozuelas and the islands of the Parque Nacional Mochima . Vendors of paintings, jewellery, leather and hammocks are on Paseo Colón in the evening. The
Santa Cruz
festival is on 3 May, while 8 September is the
Virgen del Valle
, when boats cruise the harbour clad in palms and balloons; afternoon party at El Faro, Chimana, lots of salsa and beer. The main attractions of Puerto La Cruz lie offshore on the many islands of the beautiful Parque Nacional Mochima and in the surrounding waters. The tourist office is
Coranztur
. French, English, Italian and Dutch spoken, very helpful and friendly.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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