While living in Trinidad, I took a 20 minute flight over to Venezuela, and felt like I had arrived in a totally different world. This is a recap of my travels.
by Jodeci527 on March 4, 2013
If you're interested in staying at a low budget accommodation 'Posada', I advise you to book in advance. The cheaper rooms tend to sell out beforehand, probably due to the small number of budget rooms on the island. Margarita Island is a popular tourist destination, and is mostly dominated by large scale resorts.I recommend visitors to not only print out the directions to their hotel, but also the telephone number for the establishment. Our taxi driver wasn't too aware of the location of our hotel, and after arriving in the general vicinity, he had to call the owner to get better directions. Thankfully, I had called the owner the day before, so the number was still stored in my recent call log! If you're arriving by means of air, you have the option of renting a car or hiring a taxi to get to your hotel. When hiring a taxi, I actually recommend using the local drivers who wait for visitors in the airport arrival hall. These drivers will not only offer you a decent price, but will also act as good currency exhangers. They changed my US dollars into Bolivares at the 'Black Market' rate which is 8 Bs for 1 USD, as opposed to the official rate of 4 Bs for 1 USD.In the event that you didn't bring enough foreign cash with you, and you need to make a withdrawal from the ATM, there are two things to know. The first is that you're going to be charged the official local rate of 4 BS for 1 USD by default. Secondly, most of the bank ATMs on the island don't accept foreign cards. Only Banco Bicentenario accepted my Visa card, but when asked for a 'code' my hotel owner advised me to enter four zeros (0000) and it worked!If you're staying outside of the Captial of Porlamar, getting a taxi is not as easy as walking into the hotel's parking lot and hiring the first one who calls you. In Juan Griego, we had to ask our hotel owner how to locate a cab. Taxi stands are usually located in the communities, so don't be afraid to ask the locals to point you in the right direction. Also, many taxi drivers cruise around looking for patrons, so you could also just wait outside your hotel's gate until you see a car with a 'Taxi' sign, then flag it down.It is easy to become carefree when on the island, because of the relaxing atmosphere, but never drop your guard. Two of my friends were scammed when a guy on the street offered to change their USD for local currency. They ended up losing about $50 USD, and never saw it coming. The scammers and pickpockets that you read about in the warnings are real, so always use caution.
On arriving on Margarita Island, the most awaited part of my planned vacation was the trip to Diverland. Diverland gets its name from a mix of Spanish and English words: 'Diver' from Diversion (fun in Spanish) and 'Land' in English which basically translates to Funland. I found the name to be fitting, as my friends and I had a marvellous time at the amusement park.Getting there as tourists was a bit on the expensive side, as we had to hire a cab to and from the park. The taxi charged 100 Bolivares each way, but the since the ride was at least 40 minutes, travelling in airconditioned comfort made the price easier to swallow. It is possible to travel to the park by means of public transportation, but we weren't comfortable with that option seeing that it was after 7pm and we were in a country that isn't known for being exceptionally safe.After the 40 minute ride, we arrived at Diverland and our driver dropped us off at the ticket booth, ensuring us that we'd be able to get another taxi by simply waiting at the drop off point. The entrance fee was 160 Bolivares, and after having our bands placed on our wrists, we were allowed to pass through the gate. Complimentary park maps were handed out, and we took a few minutes to gather our bearings. The number of rides which we saw on the sheet surpassed the quantity which we had expected given the fact that this wasn't a major amusement park. After a small discussion, we agreed to try two of the smaller rollercoasters first, to get our blood pumping and our adrenaline flowing.The rollercoaster rides appeared to be well maintained, and the staff members were quick and efficient as they helped guests to debark the ride, and assisted the new passengers in being seated and buckled in. The first ride we tried was the 'Killer Loop' and it was somewhat deceiving. We chose this for our entry ride seeing that it was smaller in size, but what it lacked in presence, it definitely made up for in speed! Our carts shot forward as fast as a bullet with hair raising turns and upside down loops which left us gasping for breath! After having fun on the roller coasters, we went to the concession stands to grab a few soft drinks since our throats were parched from screaming at the top of our lungs. We found the prices to be a bit on the higher side, in comparison to shops in the community of Juan Griego, but we understood that this is to be expected at amusement parks so we didn't complain. The options were rather limited, with mostly locally made sodas and beverages, so we grabbed bottles of Sprite (the only drinks we recognized) and water. Expect to pay 12 Bolivares for a cold and refreshing drink.Since we just had something to drink, we decided to take a slower ride, and the ferris wheel seemed to be a good candidate. The 'Overview Wheel' engaged us in a smooth and relaxing ride, as we slowly spun our way to the top of the wheel. The view from above was stunning, with many dazzling city lights spanning as far as the eye could see. We could see the entire park from our birds eye view, and that's where we spotted our next conquest! The zip line!This zipline allowed guests to 'fly' over a large manmade lake situated on the park grounds. We climbed up to a platform on one side of the lake, stepped up on a high box, where we were then outfitted with helments and gloves. After the staff members checked to make sure our gear was securely fastened, we were told to jump! The feeling of gliding across the night sky, swooping to mere inches above the lake before climbing upwards to the second platform was nothing short of magical. It was definitely worth doing.Seeing as it was Halloween time, there was a very good haunted house set up. Inside of the house was pitch black and the only lights inside were those illuminating the path which we were to walk. The decorations were really cool, and not tacky in the slightest. This was the best haunted house that I've ever experienced, complete with the creepy soundtrack. Ghouls and other scary creatures jumped out of dark corners, skeletons reached out to grab us as we passed and creepy crawlies were hanging from the rafters. Everyone was screaming throughout the haunted house, and we were all too relieved to finally see the exit!Other attractions worth mentioning included the Go Karts, the bumper cars and bumper boats. The bumper cars were lots of fun, and I did it twice! However, we left to best ride for last. The biggest rollercoaster in the entire park ended our trip with a bang, as we sped through the yellow and blue tracks at high speeds. The evening spent at Diverland was unforgettable. The park had a good sized crowd present, but lines weren't long, and it didn't hamper our experience. Diverland may not be the cheapest activity on Margarita Island, but it's definitely worth your time and money!
by Jodeci527 on February 23, 2013
Juan Griego is a small harbour side city on the Northern side of Margarita Island. During my short stay there, it was very easy to fall in love with the old world charm which encompasses the entire neighbourhood. It's one of those places on this planet where you'd swear simply morphed out of a history book into our present day and age.The most noticeable feature of Juan Griego is the harbour itself. The small cove is home to countless small wooden fishing boats, docked while awaiting their return to the Caribbean Sea. The water in the harbour is very clear and of a light blue colour, due to being sheltered by a mountain range to the West and cliffs to the East. The subsequent absence of waves make this a prime feeding ground for hundreds of brown pelicans who make this harbour their home. They dive into the water from great heights at rapid rates and it's a real sight to see. When the pelicans aren't fishing for a meal, they simply hang out on the roofs and hulls of the fishing boats, which seem to suffice as their nesting spots.Further inland, is the quiet but formidable town where most of the locals shop, eat, work or simply pass the time away. The numbers of old school vehicles which drive on the streets are staggering, from small VW beetles to rusted trucks. Apparently, mechanics on the island must make a pretty good living!The culinary side of the town focuses on seafood, seeing as the fishing industry is quite large. The prices are very affordable, and meals are prepared with local seasonings and herbs which provide a dinstinct yet pleasant flavour. For breakfast, my friends and I ordered as much arepas as we could possibly eat. This spanish staple consists of a flat corn flour bun with different types of meat in the center and grated cheese. I tried the fish, chicken and beef arepas and each was extremely tasty! The cost was approximately $1 USD, and two would provide a filling meal.Another specialty of Margarita Island which became very obvious to us during our first day there, was the abundance of freshly made fruit juices. The bartenders and shopkeepers actually throw the fruits into the blender right in front of the customers, and within seconds, you're being poured a tall class of watermelon, canteloupe, orange or peach drink. This is what the locals mainly drink, and it took a considerable amount of effort to find a can of soda in Juan Griego!Further down the street has several stores, shops and vendors selling trinkets such as magnets, keyrings and wooden jewelry. I bought a few, but found the prices weren't as good a bargain as I was hoping for. I guess we had finally arrived in the tourist district! Anything from clothes, electronics and tools can be bought downtown, and bargaining is allowed.A few churches and old buildings are scattered throughout the community, and they are kept in great condition. The European influence is apparent in the number of small town squares which have stone statues, trees and several benches for relaxation. I had a glass of coconut crush with milk and sugar while staring out at the harbour from one of the benches. The entire area is really laid back, and before I knew it, the morning was over.Juan Griego really grew on me, and I absolutely enjoyed my stay there. I spoke enough Spanish to engage in a few conversations, and every local I spoke to was not only helpful, but very friendly and welcoming. Venezuela may have a bad reputation in the travel industry, but Juan Griego is another world all on its own!
by Jodeci527 on February 22, 2013
Overlooking the picturesque harbour along the coastline of Juan Greigo, is a small Spanish fort nestled on a hill. Fortin de la Galera, or Galley's Fort as it's known in English, is a historic site which was built in 1811 and stood the test of the Matasiete battle. It attracts thousands of visitors each year, both locals and tourists alike. Since I was staying at an inn nearby, I decided to take the walk up the hill to the fort, as opposed to hiring a taxi. The sun was warm but the soft coastal breeze tempered the heat as I slowly made my way up the ever increasing incline. The surrounding area was well taken care of, and many flowers proudly showed off their blossoms, tempting me to take several photographs with the Juan Greigo Harbour in the background. The road was paved and smooth, and the lack of vehicular traffic made my ascent a notably safe journey.As I neared the fort, I had to turn off the main road to climb up some stone stairs, alerting me that I had now arrived on the fort grounds. I then started to see other people strolling around nearby and others climbing the stairs ahead of me. The higher I climbed, the greater the view seemed to become. After a short hike, I arrived at the base of the fort. Looking up from below, the great stone walls seemed imposing, and its Venezuelan flag waved proudly from the top. Several other hikers were apparently tired from the walk as they sat on the walls of the fort, stretched their legs and admired the view from above.After I hauled myself to the summit, I understood firsthand as to why so many people were simply staring at the sky from the fort. The sun was just setting, and the resultant panorama was stunning as the sun dipped below the horizon. The golden sky seemed to clash with the blue sea , the green hills and brown cliffsides of the coast.From my perch, I could see all the small fishing boats in the harbour, and the fishermen hard at work as they prepared their vessels for their early morning trip the following day. I sat near to one of the many cannons which lined the walls of the fort and absorbed the beauty of the landscape below, happy to be treated to such an experience. As we all know, sunsets don't last long, so I continued to explore the fort before the remaining light faded.The grounds of the fort were very appealing. A designer had created a small mini golf area in the middle of the property, with artistically broken clay jars and faux streams and lakes. Small shrubs and palm trees added a touch of greenery and water from a nearby pipe simulated a flowing stream. On the other side of the fort, the view didn't have the pretty sunset, but the manmade lake that spanned a large area behind the fort was almost as captivating. The water was framed by small spits of land with dark green foliage and beyond the lake was a rolling mountain range. There was no question as to the natural charm of Margarita Island!Fortin de la Galera was a captivating and immaculately kept historical site, and I hope that it stays that way for future generations.
by Jodeci527 on February 11, 2013
Hotel Patrick is a marvelous small scale inn on the Caribbean coastline of the Venezeulan island of Margarita. I booked this place mainly due to the large number of positive reviews that were reported all over the internet, so I already had a good idea of what to expect before I arrived. The booking price was very decent at $27 US for a double room. After getting a taxi from the airport, my friends and I gave the address to the driver and we were on our way. The drive from the airport to the inn took approximately 40 minutes, but we unable to enjoy the scenery since it was after dark. When we arrived, the first thing that grabbed my attention was the crashing sound of waves on a nearby shoreline. This automatically put me in a great mood and I happily collected my bags and walked through the front gate to the reception desk.The owner Michael, was waiting for us. He greeted us with a genuine smile and checked us in. While he handled the paper work, we ordered a few drinks and sat at the bar gazing around our new surroundings. The common room was very laid back, and I immediately felt at home. This 'posada' as inns are called in Venezeula was also the place of residence of Michael and his family, and this was apparent. The place had a 'much loved' feel to it, and it wasn't long before I was crouching on the floor meeting the animals that lived there. His cocker spaniel had recently given birth to five pups, and they were happily playing, running and falling all over the common room. They were beyond adorable and friendly, and the mother allowed us to pick them up for a cuddle! The other items of interest in the front room included three colourful hammocks hanging from the rafters, dining tables and chairs, a public computer and a large pool table. Many interesting photos and portraits hung from various walls and soft spanish music played from a stereo set somewhere nearby. Breakfast was to be served at the dining room tables for a small additional price, and lots of local options would be available along with freshly squeezed tropical juices such as pineapple and orange. The bar at which we were seated had lots of local beer, liquour, soft drinks and fruits which they used to make smoothies. Michael allowed us to keep a bar tab which we would clear upon checking out of the posada. That was really thoughtful of him, and his generosity and trust spoke volumes. After we were finished checking in, we were shown to our various rooms. The rooms were very clean, simple but exactly what we were expecting. The airconditioning unit was already on, and we were supplied with all of the necessary furniture (including a vanity table and a pair of bedside tables) and ammenities we could possibly need. We unpacked and returned to the common room to hang out for a bit before hitting the sack early due to jetlag.Michael was an exceptional host, and gave us several tips concerning how to stay safe and listed different places nearby where we could grab a decent and affordable bite to eat. If this is the treatment which all his guests receive, it is no surprise as to why his establishment is so highly rated online. I had a blast at Hotel Patrick and I highly recommend to any potential visitors to book a stay there.
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