The Macanao Peninsula, Margarita Island: Route #6, an Amazing drive around it.

The Macanao Peninsula is located in the western part of Margarita Island in the state of Nueva Esparta. In this edition of Routes through Venezuela, XploreVenezuela.com will take you on a tour around the entire peninsula, trying to follow the coastline.

We will enjoy charming beaches and incredible views of this region, which is very little known by the tourists who visit the island every year from all over the world. It has a territorial extension of 329 km², with an arid-warm climate, and its main economic activity is artisanal fishing. The peninsula has one parish, San Francisco de Macanao, whose capital is Boca de Pozo. This is why the peninsula is popularly divided into Macanao and Boca de Río, the capital of the municipality.

According to history, the peninsula was not geographically connected to the eastern edge of Margarita. Sedimentation processes created the isthmus that naturally connects the peninsula with Eastern Margarita, as it is called. However, the peninsula became fully connected to Eastern Margarita on February 17, 1963, when the concrete bridge over the Restinga Lagoon was inaugurated, a creation decreed on September 4, 1961.

The municipality is composed of small towns: Boca de Río, Guayacancito, El Horcón, El Manglillo, Curichicual, Párate Bueno, Punta Arenas, Boca de Pozo, Robledal, El Tunal, San Francisco de Macanao, Manzanillo, Arenas, El Maguey, and El Saco. Most of the names of the towns come from trees or natural features. For example, La Pared is named after the longitudinal cut of the hill, which from the outside resembles a wall; Guayacancito gets its name from the Guayacán, an emblematic tree of the peninsula, but in diminutive form; El Tunal is named for the abundance of tunas (xerophilous vegetation, a type of cactus) in the area.

There have been several proposals to classify the Macanao Peninsula as a wildlife reserve, as it has significant biodiversity within Margarita Island. This includes 20 species of mammals, 60 species of birds, 36 species of reptiles, two species of amphibians, and 145 species of vertebrates.

I really don’t remember the first time I visited the peninsula, probably because I was not more than 5 years old. Since then, I have visited the area more than 100 times, getting to know every corner of it, touring the entire coast and interior of the peninsula, and even traveling the entire coastal strip between the sea and the Restinga Lagoon until reaching the town of Zabala, leaving the peninsula and then connecting with the city of Juan Griego.

I can say that in 30 years I have extensively explored the area, enjoying its charming beaches, many of them virgin and unknown to most visitors at that time. Tasting dishes made with freshly caught seafood and fish so fresh they are still moving. Come with me to enjoy this charming journey around the Macanao Peninsula.

Remember to bring plenty of water and snacks for the route as the heat is pretty strong and be sure you have enough gas in your vehicle for the day. Also, I will recommend you to do the route on a 4X4 vehicle, it is not necessary, but it will help you to reach the most beautiful and desert areas and the ride will be more comfortable. If you don’t feel secure about your driving techniques on sand and using the 4WD on your vehicle, please stick with the asphalt route, which will take you around the peninsula in a less adventurous route.

How to Get There:

his time, we started our journey from the city of Porlamar, where we spent the night after arriving on the island a few days earlier by ferry from Puerto La Cruz, our hub in the eastern part of the country. You can find information about the ferries connecting the island on our forum.

We got up very early to begin our journey, not without first stopping at the Conejeros Market for a delicious breakfast that includes a great variety of empanadas and arepas. The stars, of course, are the cazón empanadas and the wide variety of freshly made natural juices, where my favorite has always been the melon shake, a refreshing drink made with milk, sugar, and melons from the island.

Before embarking on our journey, we took a walk around the market, which, although not at its peak like it was 20 years ago, still has many people walking through its aisles full of goods from all over the world at very good prices. I still remember coming here looking for those great deals on Levis jeans, my favorite brand of perfume and of course, those Quicksilver shorts to enjoy the beach.

After leaving the market, we headed to Juan Bautista Arismendi Avenue towards Punta de Piedras, where we continued until reaching the Los Narvales interchange, where we turned north on the road to Boca Del Rio. We arrived at the town of Chacachacare, well known for its craftsmen who are experts in building boats for artisanal fishing and the last settlement before crossing the bridge to the Macanao Peninsula to begin our adventure.

Here, on your right, you will find the port where you can take boats to La Restinga Beach, making an incredible journey through the lagoon and the channels of La Restinga National Park, which we will talk more about in our national parks series.

macanao peninsula

The Route

Once we crossed the bridge to the peninsula, we began our tour of the area. At the fork in the main road, turning left will take you to Boca del Rio and continue around the peninsula until it loops back. Turning right will take you toward San Francisco and then back to Boca del Rio. It is a circular route that loops around the peninsula, which we will take several times during this journey.

We continued to the right for a few kilometers on a road with little traffic. After passing the small village of Comejenes, we saw a turn onto an unpaved road with a small sign welcoming us to La Restinga National Park. We took that path, which led us to the coast, where you can see almost the entire beach of La Restinga. To the right, you can continue between the beach and the lagoon, observing the small mounds of shells collected by fishermen. This beach is very popular for gathering guacuco and chipi chipi, small mollusks used to prepare a variety of the island’s traditional dishes that you must try before leaving.

Continuing along this route, you will end up where the boats arrive with tourists to enjoy a day at the beach after touring the lagoon. If you keep following this path, where vehicle traffic is minimal and with a bit of adventure and experience driving on sand, you can leave the peninsula and reach Zabala.

Since we aim to circle the peninsula, we won’t go to La Restinga’s main beach this time. We’ll take the left turn upon reaching the shore and start a small ascent along a path that will take us along the coast to El Tunal. Following the coast, we will pass small fishing villages like El Saco, Arenitas, and El Maguey. The views are incredible as you travel the path between the coastal cliffs and the peninsula’s mountains. Throughout the journey, different varieties of cactus dominate, with very few trees providing shade, so remember to bring plenty of water to drink due to the area’s aridity – you will need it.

Between El Maguey and Arenas, the path becomes challenging. If you are not prepared for this type of adventure and don’t have a 4×4 vehicle suitable for these conditions, it is best to return and take the main road again to Arenas and Manzanillo. From there, you can continue along the coast to some of the island’s most beautiful beaches, including the popular Punta Arenas beach, which fills up with locals and tourists on weekends enjoying the water and the many beachfront restaurants.

macanao peninsula

Continuing along the main road, we will pass several towns such as Boca Chica, El Manglillo, El Horcon, and Guayacancito. Our last stop to complete the loop around the peninsula will be the town of Boca Del Rio, located just before reaching the bridge that will take us back to the eastern part of the island, returning to Porlamar.

Undoubtedly, it is a route worth taking, and you can do it in a day or, if you prefer, over several days, spending the night camping by the sea and listening to the waves crashing against the white sand, I strongly recommend spending at least one night camping along one of the beautiful beaches of the peninsula, you won’t regret it.

Macanao Peninsula!!

The Macanao Peninsula, situated on the western end of Margarita Island in Venezuela, is a captivating blend of rugged landscapes and rich biodiversity. This relatively secluded area spans approximately 330 square kilometers and is characterized by its arid climate, with sparse vegetation that includes cacti, thorny bushes, and dry forests. The peninsula’s topography is defined by rolling hills and dramatic cliffs that descend into pristine, turquoise waters, creating a stark contrast to the lush greenery found elsewhere on the island.

One of Macanao’s highlights is the Cerro Macanao, the highest peak on the peninsula, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding seas and lands. This region is also a sanctuary for diverse wildlife, including the Margaritan goat, rabbits, and various bird species, making it a haven for nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers.

Cultural richness complements Macanao’s natural beauty. The small fishing villages, like Boca de Río and Robledal, provide a glimpse into the traditional way of life, where locals are engaged in artisanal fishing and crafts. Visitors can explore these communities, enjoy fresh seafood, and experience the warm hospitality of the inhabitants.

The peninsula’s remote and tranquil environment makes it an ideal destination for eco-tourism, hiking, and outdoor activities, providing a serene escape from the more tourist-centric areas of Margarita Island.

By Manu

In 1993, Manu, a bold explorer from Venezuela, embarked on a journey initially for academic pursuits. Fueled by an unquenchable thirst for adventure, he traversed an array of landscapes, diving deep into diverse cultures across the Americas, Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and Europe. His vibrant mosaic of experiences ranges from the dynamic cities of the USA to the vivid tapestries of Africa, uncovering hidden treasures in Europe and Asia, and savoring the distinct essences of the Caribbean. Throughout his remarkable journey, Manu's curiosity and open-mindedness served as his guiding star through the intricacies and wonders of the world. His voyage serves as a testament to the profound enrichment found in exploration and embracing cross-cultural understanding. Presently, he spends his days working for the world's largest entertainment company located in Central Florida, dedicating his free time to further exploration through 4X4, motorbike, and bicycle adventures.

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