Bridging east and west, La Restinga National Park occupies a narrow isthmus (a restinga is a sandbar) between what once were islands. Its attractions are broad: 10,700 hectares of sea, shore, lagoons, channels and tangled mangroves. A boat trip through the channels to the beach is well worthwhile. The park entrance is 36.5km from downtown Porlamar, where a por puesta line runs until 8pm. Linea La Restinga starts near the waterfront, Calle Marino between La Marina and Maneiro. Avoid going on a Sunday if possible as return transportation is scarce in the afternoon.
The embarkation pier, Embarcadero El Indio, is 350m from the road. At the pier’s entrance, you pay a park fee of $1. Scores of lanchas wait their turn here; note the name and number of yours. Each boat takes five or six passengers to the beach, via a longer or shorter tour through fascinating mangrove channels, some so narrow you can touch the trees on either side and see oysters clinging to tangled roots; the price per boat, ½ to 1 hour, is $14-$20, paid on return. At the far dock by the balneario, you set a time for the same boat to pick you up, or have the boatman wait an hour. There are clean restrooms; ask the waiter for the key. Souvenir stands sell crafts and open-sided restaurants sell food and shade, so that’s where most people go. Check prices, as the closest restaurants are reported to charge more.
Sweeping in a long crescent to either side of La Guardia Bay, the bar enclosing the lagoons forms an oceanic beach 10km long; the swimming is good. A layer of shells covers the beach and in calm season people scoop bucketfuls of guacucos at the water’s edge: good for seafood broth, as well as eating fresh oysters.
As the return trip goes straight to the Embarcadero, you might negotiate a price with your boat captain to see more mangrove channels or go out to sea via Boca de Rio (where most of the lancheros live).