The Island or Margarita, or better, Margarita Island, is the largest of the New Sparta State Islands, one of Venezuela’s 23 states, which also includes the islands of Coche and Cubagua. It’s a Caribbean island, just northwest of the Venezuelan coast.
Porlamar is largest city on the island, and tourism is the main industry on Margarita, with a dry and mild year-round climate, and many enchanting beaches, some perfect for wind surfing and kite surfing.
Discover Margarita Island
Margarita is about 48 miles long and 12 miles wide, with about 394 square miles of land. That’s just a little bigger than the city of Indianapolis. Temperatures on the island are almost perfect, ranging from 75 degrees up to about 99 in the summer.
Margarita is divided into two parts – to the west, the Macanao Peninsula, a dry and little-populated desert landscape. To the east, you’ll find a more tropical and luxuriant Margarita, full of life, where most of the population of 420K lives. Both parts of the island are mountainous, with some peaks over 3,000 feet tall, and are connected by a narrow, low isthmus called La Restinga, with a beautiful lagoon.
Macanao, the western portion of the island, has one taller central mountain, Macanao peak, at about 2,500 feet in altitude. A range of smaller peaks marches from north to south, with deep valleys in-between, reminiscent of the NaPali coast in Kauai. The biggest of these valleys is called “San Francisco”, on the northern side of the island. How perfect is that?
Paraguachoa, the eastern part of the island, is formed by a mountain range that stretches from Porlamar to Cabo Negro. Its highest peaks include Cerro Grande (at just over 3,000 feet and El Copey (2,919 feet). This part of Margarita is more developed, especially the city of Porlamar, and the second-largest city, Pampatar. Other smaller towns on the island include La Asunci?n, the regional capital, and Juan Griego.
Porlamar is known for its commercial center. Here you will find many boutique ships and great restaurants. About 85,000 people live in the city during the off-season, and its population swells to about 125,000 during the tourist season.
The city has two beaches and a cruise ship port, as well as a number of shopping malls: Sambil Margarita, Rattan Depot, Centro Comercial AB (Avenida Bolivar), and La Redoma.
Pampatar has about 50,000 residents. and has a long, beautiful city beach and many restaurants. It is also the location of the San Carlos Borromeo castle, built between 1664 and 1684. While it was once a sleepy fishing village, Pampatar has grown into one of the main nightlife centers on the island.
At Margarita’s beaches, you can sample many local dishes, made with both fresh fish form the Caribbean and local meats. You can also enjoy a refreshing “coco frio” (fresh coconut), which the locals will open for you with a machete!
To reach Margarita, you can take a direct flight from Caracas or other cities on mainland Venezuela. There are also scheduled and charter flights available from many North American and European cities, as well as ferries from the coastal cities of Puerto La Cruz, Cuman?, and La Guaira.
The History of Margarita Island
The island has a rich history, including several Spanish Forts, part of the area’s heritage.
In 1498, Christopher Columbus first “discovered” Margarita. The locals, called the Guaiqueries, met their conquerers with open arms, not knowing they would later be converted into slaves by their own riches – pearls would come to represent at least a third of all the tributes sent to the Spanish Crown from the New World.
With pirate ships roaming the Caribbean, it was necessary to fortify the island against attack, and many of these Spanish forts still remain.
In 1561, the island was sacked by Lope de Aguirre, a ruthless conquistador who held the islanders in terror until returning to the mainland to try to steal Panama from the Spanish Crown.
Later, in 1814, the islanders won independence from Spain, and became a part of the free territory of Venezuela. It was here on Margarita that Sim?n Bol?var, later called Libertador, was confirmed as Commander in Chief of the new republic, La Grande Colombia. From here, he began to liberate Venezuela, Colombia, Per?, Ecuador and Bolivia from Spanish dominion.
The Gay Life
There’s not a big gay scene yet on Margarita Island, but gay travelers are starting to take an interest in this undiscovered corner of the Caribbean – over the last two years, the number of LGBT tourists coming to the island has almost doubled.
There are now some gay friendly (and even primarily gay “straight friendly” inns on the island)
One such pace is Carapacho’s Paradise . It’s a straight-friendly inn with a mostly gay clientele, in the heart of Margarita Island, just minutes from Porlamar – close to one of the most tranquil and beautiful beaches of the island. The Pousada is surrounded by green space, private and quiet.
Margarita even has a gay friendly dance bar where many of the shows are exclusively gay.
There’s also a large and growing LGBT community on the island, though it’s still pretty low key. The island culture is fairly gay friendly.
There are many things for gay and lesbian tourists to do on the island, and there’s even talk of opening an LGBT cultural center here, to promote the local gay community and encourage more gay tourism.
Margarita is a great, less-traveled alternative to the busier Caribbean Islands – you can find whatever kind of lodging you want here, from economy to luxury, in the middle of a beautiful tropical island destination.
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Source – Gayapolis