Isla Margarita Feature
Exploring Macanao, the western portion of Margarita, is a great way to spend a day off from the beach. Hire a driver through your hotel or, even better, rent a car: this arid, mysterious area is great fun to explore with your own four wheels.
Parque Nacional Laguna de la Restinga. The mangrove forests of Parque Nacional Laguna de la Restinga cover the 20-km (12-mi) thread of sand that makes up the tenuous link between the main part of the island and the Península de Macanao. (Laguna de la Restinga means "sandbar lagoon" in Spanish.) Here you'll find a variety of colorful birds, such as the scarlet ibis. The park has an unspoiled beach where you can rent lounge chairs, and there are several fishermen's huts where you can buy the catch of the day. Dozens of small, traditional wooden boat operators can take visitors on short trips through the mangrove forests. Boca del Rio, Isla Margarita, 6304.
From Parque Nacional Restinga, loop around the peninsula, where you'll pass by Punta Arenas, a touristy little spot that is worth a stop just to see the "playa salvaje," or savage beach: wind-swept, sun-bleached, and utterly desolate in comparison to the glizty beaches on the other side of the island.
Museo Marino de Margarita. On the southern side of the peninsula, in Boca del Río, 50 km (30 mi) west of Porlamar, stands the Museo Marino de Margarita, a museum whose eight exhibit halls serve as a repository for Venezuela's astounding variety of marine life. The museum is home to a small collection of marine life, including sharks, turtles, and fish. The best part of the complex, though, are the exhibits, vintage photographs, and bilingual explanations focusing on the history of sea exploration in northern South America. There are even detailed exhibits of nautical knot tying and painstakingly assembled model boats. Be sure to check out the two-headed shark on the frst floor. It's this fun, eclectic mixture of information and the tangible local pride that goes into this museum that make it a must-see. Boca del Rio, Isla Margarita, 6304. 0295/291–3231. www.museomarino.comww. Bs.F75. Daily 9–4:30.
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