Sometimes referred to as La Ruta del Sol (the Route of the Sun), the 563-km (350-mi) stretch of highway along the Caribbean Coast from Caracas to Puerto La Cruz and, farther east, to Cumaná, is at once gloriously picturesque and treacherous. Seldom far from the water's edge, most of the Autopista del Oriente (Eastern Highway) follows the myriad loops and twists of the natural shoreline, past unspoiled bays and isolated hamlets. Roadside vendors sell cocos fríos (cold coconuts) and cachapas (a delicious corn pancake folded around cheese), while gas stations blast salsa and merengue and offer up good coffee, a quick rest, and, of course, dirt-cheap gasoline.
Much of the coastline is protected from development, but small posadas are occasionally nestled among the palm trees along the shore. Sprawling resorts line the broad beaches near both Puerto La Cruz and Cumaná.