Venezuela

Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela

A- Overview:
Puerto la Cruz is a dynamic and expanding resort city which features a 10 block long waterfront boulevard lined with hotels, nightspots, and restaurants. It is the gateway to the Isla de Margarita and the beautiful Mochima National Park.

In addition to its attraction to tourists, Puerto la Cruz is a major center of commerce for Eastern Venezuela. It is the hub of the thriving oil industry and the port where oil from the interior is refined and from which it is exported. As a result of this commercial activity, a thriving service sector has emerged with four and five star hotel and resort accommodations, restaurants and shops.

Puerto la Cruz is located in the northeastern region of Venezuela known as El Oriente.

It is an area rich in historic sites and a primary site for ecotourism. Fed by many rivers, and receiving steady, moisture- carrying trade winds, this is one of the few areas along Venezuela’s coast that is lush and green all year long. The region is home to an enormous variety of animals and plants, and is one of the most biodiverse in the world.

The northeast is a place of outdoor activity. This is the region for diving, sailing, walking, and exploring. Puerto la Cruz is Venezuela’s major water sports center and is lined with marinas and yacht clubs, sailing and diving schools, Near Puerto la Cruz is the Mochima National Park which contains beaches for swimming and contains coral reefs for scuba diving and snorkeling.

Venezuela has a variety of traditional dishes which are found in nearly all local restaurants. Most are served with fried maize or wheat flour -based pancakes or breads. The most popular dishes are fried and grilled fish and meats usually served with rice. The wide variety of fish includes trout, red snapper, dorado, parrot fish, catfish and the baby shark (cazon). Oysters, clams and other shellfish are also widely enjoyed.

Coffee is domestically produced in Venezuela and is the usual hot beverage. It is always offered to visitors as a welcome drink.

An interesting orientation to the city is to take a half-day walking and bus tour beginning with the mile long main street called Paseo Colón. This street passes along the beach where at outdoor stalls jewelry, leather goods and craft items are displayed. Turning south, walk along Calle Sucre to the lovely square known as Plaza Bolívar. Take the Avenida Intercommunal bus and get off at the Avenida Principal de Lecherías. There you will see five 20 story residential towers. Adjoining them is El Morro, a large, modern residential/tourist complex on the waterfront with shops and restaurants. The area is criss crossed by a group of canals, on the banks of which residences and vacation cottages are being built, most with direct access to the waterfront with their own piers and slipways.

From Puerto la Cruz it is a short boat ride to the incomparable beaches where swimming, diving, shelling, and deep sea fishing are superb. From Mochima National Park and the beaches, travelers can take a tour along the “Route of the Sun” to South America’s oldest city, Cumaná. This is one of the most scenic roads in Venezuela. The steep, winding highway is cut into the sides and base of steep mountains that seem to plunge into the sea. The rugged coast is pounded by waves, and the beaches are ringed by palm trees. The full length of the route is dotted with sweeps of white sand and breathtaking views of mountains and valleys.

Near Cumaná is the much visited and fascinating Cueva del Guácharo, an enormous cave named for the fruit eating, nocturnal birds that inhabit it. Swimming areas with hot springs and a colonial fort are other featured attractions. The ferry can be taken from Cumaná for a visit to the sun-kissed Island of Margarita. On the island is the lively and sophisticated city of Porlamar, which has grown from a fishing village to its present population of 150,000 residents. A ferry ride will return visitors to Puerta la Cruz.

For active water sports, a vibrant nightlife, unforgettable sunrises and sunsets, ample opportunities for island exploration, bird watching, or pure relaxation, there is no vacation destination offering more variety or more natural beauty than Puerto la Cruz.

B- City Information:
Full country name: República Bolivariana de Venezuela

Population of Puerto la Cruz: 220,000

Language:
Spanish is the official language, but Amerindian languages still survive, predominantly belonging to the Arawak, Cariban and Chibcha ethnolinguistic categories. Spanish is the main language of Venezuela. Venezuelans call their language castellano.

Average Temperatures (In Fahrenheit):
High Low
January – March 79 56
April – June 81 60
July – September 80 61
October – December 79 58

Climate:
Venezuela is located entirely in the tropics. The temperature varies very little during the year and most parts of the country maintain an average of over 77°F. Its capital, Caracas, has an average annual temperature of 72°F and varies by only 8°F through the year. Like all tropical countries, Venezuela only has two seasons, the dry season, known as verano, and the rainy season, known as invierno, which are marked by the difference in rainfall rather than temperature. Generally, the dry season is from December to April/May, and the rainy season lasts for the rest of the year. Rainfall, however, can occur during the dry season, and the rainy season often has dry months.

Visas:
US citizens do not require a visa if they fly directly to Venezuela. Otherwise a visa is required.

Health Concerns: Visitors should not drink or brush their teeth with tap water in Venezuela. Use bottled water. Do not use ice cubes.

Time:
GMT/UTC minus 4 hours (minus 5 hours in summer). When it is noon in New York City , it is also noon in Puerto la Cruz.

Electricity:
110V, 60 Hz

Weights & measures:
Metric

Useful measurements
Equivalent Weights And Measures
1 cm 0.39 inches
1 meter 3.28 feet / 1.09 yards
1 km 0.62 miles
1 liter 0.26 gallons
1 inch 2.54 cm
1 foot 0.39 meters
1 yard 0.91 meters
1 mile 1.60 km
1 gallon 3.78 liters

Public Holidays
1st January – New Year’s Day
Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday – Carnival
Monday, Thursday and Good Friday – Easter
19th April – Declaration of Independence
1st May – Labor Day
24th June – Battle of Carabobo
5th July – Independence Day
24th July – Bolívar’s Birthday
12th October – Discovery of America
25th December – Christmas Day

Currency:
The Venezuelan currency is the Bolívar (Bs), sometimes called the ‘Bolo’. It can be exported and imported in unlimited quantities. You can buy Bolívares before coming to Venezuela, but it can take time for them to be ordered and you will get a better exchange rate in Venezuela. The US dollar is the most commonly accepted foreign currency in Venezuela, so it is recommended to carry cash and traveler’s checks in US dollar.

Banks:
Most major banks are within a few blocks south of Plaza Colón. Credit cards are widely accepted, but a surcharge of up to 10% is often applied. Most commonly accepted are MasterCard/Eurocard, American Express and Visa. You can also use a credit card to withdraw money from automatic cash machines, which usually dispense up to 100,000 Bs per day. If you require more, you will have to make a transaction over the counter. Venezuelan banks can get very crowded so allow at least 2 hours for this.

Telephone
The international code for Venezuela is 58. For international calls from Venezuela, dial 00+country code.

City Code:
Puerto La Cruz 0281
CANTV is Venezuela´s national telephone company and it has a modern, efficient telephone network. Making international phone calls is not a problem, but is very expensive.
There are many public telephones in Venezuela, even in the more remote places, all of which accept CANTV cards only (tarjeta CANTV). Credit cards are not accepted. Telephone cards are available for 2000 and 5000Bs and can be purchased from CANTV offices and most supermarkets and souvenir shops. CANTV has an information system that can be accessed by the number 103. Some of the operators speak English.
The Internet
There are internet cafés or agencies that offer internet services. However, prices are still quite high.
Café with internet access: North American Connection (Puerto La Cruz)
Transportation
Air José Antonio Anzoátegui airport is between Barcelona, the capital (though a much smaller city), and Puerto la Cruz. Flights arrive and depart for Caracas to Barcelona several times a day. There are buses to all tourist attractions outside of town, as well as tours. Travel to or from the airport takes about 20 minutes.
Bus Buses travel from Caracas to Puerto la Cruz via Barcelona and return. The travel time is 5 hours. Puerto La Cruz is also served by city buses.
Tours There are many organized tours from Puerto La Cruz to places such as Parque Nacional Mochima, (Mochima National Park), and to various sporting activities such as snorkeling, fishing, scuba diving, water sports, etc.

Boat Puerto La Cruz is the major departure point for Isla de Margarita. Ferries are operated to the island four times a day. The trip takes 4 1/2 hours. The boat, Margarita Express cuts the travel time to 2 hours. The scenery is spectacular.

Cuisine:
Some traditional Venezuelan dishes:

Arepa: A plain fried corn pancake. They are filled with almost anything, including eggs and tomato for breakfast, beef, chicken, ham, sausage, shrimp, cheese, salad and even baby shark.

Empanada: Deep-fried cornmeal turnover filled with chicken, ham, cheese, fish or meat.

Cachito: Hot croissant filled with chopped ham and or cheese.

Cachapa: Thick, slightly sweet pancake made with maize and served with mozzarella-type cheese (queso guayanesa).

Hallaca: Traditional Christmas dish made from chopped beef, pork and chicken with green peppers, onion, garlic, tomatoes, raisins, olives and various herbs and spices all mixed into maize dough. It is then wrapped in banana leaves and steamed.

Pabellón Criollo: Venezuela’s national dish, consisting of shredded beef, black beans (caraotas negras) and cheese, served with fried plantain (cooking banana) and rice.

There is an abundance of fruits in Venezuela. Mango, papaya (lechosa), avocado (aguacate) oranges (naranja), banana (cambur) coconut (coco), passionfruit (parchita), melon (melón), pineapple (piña), guava (guayaba) and soursap (guanábana) are just a few.

C- Attractions/Things To Do:
Barcelona:

This is the capital of the state of Anzoátegui in which Puerto la Cruz is located. It is the site of the airport for the two towns. The following are the principal attractions in Barcelona:

Casa Fuerte
located within the town of Barcelona, the ruins of the Convent of San Francisco was outfitted with cannons and used by republican troops during the War of Independence in 1718. It has been preserved as a memorial.

Museo de Anzoátegui
Open daily 8-noon and 3-6. (December: 8-4) Free admission.
the oldest existing house in the city (1671). Handsomely restored; now used as a
museum.

El Morro tourist project
Between Puerto la Cruz and Barcelona, a turn off leads to the enormous El Morro complex and its beaches. The centerpiece is the Centro Comercial Plaza Mayor, designed with colorful architecture to resemble the Carribean resort city of Willemsted, Curaçao.

The entire Avenue Principal of Lecherías is lined with small shopping centers and many restaurants. The complex contains numerous single family homes, condos and hotels constructed on a series of canals which provide each living unit with docking facilities and boat access to the sea. A five star resort and golf course is part of the community.

Puerto la Cruz:

Paseo Colón
A new, modern waterfront boulevard filled with hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, and shops on one side and a beach bordered by a wide walkway on the other. Seafood restaurants, cafés, and local crafts people line the walkways. the beach is beautiful and yields many interesting shells, but it is not safe for swimming. A multitude of swimming beaches are nearby.

Parque Nacional Mochima
Reached by boat, the beaches are superb. Shuttle boats carry visitors to swimming, diving, and fishing locations all day. The park stretches from Puerto la Cruz to Cumaná. It contains many islands as well as a strip of hilly coast noted for its deep bays and white sand beaches. Some of the islands are surrounded by coral reefs and offer good snorkeling. The waters are calm and warm and filled with marine life.

Cumaná (South America’s oldest city, population 270,000)

Museo del Mar
Located opposite the University de Oriente campus
Open daily from 8:30-11:00 and 2:30-5:30.
Small entry fee
Displays range from boats used by indigenous settlers to old time diving equipment, shells, fossils, and a small aquarium.

Castillo de San Antonio de la Eminencia
overlooks the city
open daily 9-noon and 3-5.
Admission free
Site of the first area fort (1660). Subsequent replacements were destroyed by earthquakes. The present fort was restored after a 1929 earthquake.

Castillo de Santa Maria de la Cabeza
Enter through Iglesia de Santa Inés
Like the Castillo de San Antonio this fortress has been destroyed and rebuilt 5 times between 1637 and 1929.

Museo Gran Marisical de Ayacucho
Tues.-Fri. 8-noon and 2-4; Sat. 8-noon.
Admission free.
Historical exhibits and artifacts.

Market
Near the fishing port on Avenida Los Manglares
5-noon
Fresh produce; handicrafts; tasty food.

Marine Terminal
Near the market.
Catch the ferry to Punta Piedras for a visit to Margarita Island and from there back to Puerto la Cruz.

Excursion from Puerto la Cruz to Margarita Island and Caripe

A representative three day tour of the area originating from and returning to Margarita Island:

(Take the ferry or boat to Margarita Island from Puerto la Cruz)

Margarita – Orinoco Delta
An early morning flight goes to Maturin, capital of the Monagas state. From there, a boat takes visitors through dense tropical forest all the way to a camp in the middle of the Orinoco Delta. After lunch there is a walk across the swampy ground of the delta forest to enjoy and learn more about the tropical vegetation. Piraña fishing on the Manamo river near the camp follows .At the end of the day there is always a one-of-a-kind sunset to watch .

2nd Day: Orinoco Delta – Caripe
In the morning after breakfast , visitors enjoy a a boat ride to San Jose de Buja. and from there a drive to Caripe and the Hacienda Campo Claro, one of the oldest coffee farms in Caripe. Following the tour of the coffee farm, there is a visit to Guacharo’s cave, one of the largest caves in south America, once examined by Alexander Von Humboldt a German scientist who spent 16 months exploring Venezuela. In the first section of the cave are huge stalactites and stalagmites, some growing together as though building images of enormous sandcastles.

Outside, there is a shrieking noise of the hundreds of unseen oil birds (guacharos). At the Hall of Silence in the center of the cave everything changes. The cave suddenly is dark, quiet, and humid, and it is necessary to light the way with the kerosene lamp carried by the guide.

Emerging from the cave, there is the amazing sight of La Paila a charming waterfall in the middle of the mountain! In the evening the nocturnal guacharos leave the cave with loud shrieks as they go on their nightly flight.

3rd Day: Caripe – Buffalo Farm – Margarita Island
After breakfast, tour participants ride to “Hacienda Agua Sana” (thermal waters) in the Sucre state, where they are invited to bathe and swim in the hot springs. After lunch there is a visit to hacienda “Rio de Agua”, a real buffalo farm. At the farm, visitors watch cheese being made and learn a little about eco-farming.

(Take the ferry or boat back to Puerto la Cruz.)

D- Family Fun Attractions:
Barcelona:

This is the capital of the state of Anzoátegui in which Puerto la Cruz is located. It is the site of the airport for the two towns. The following are the principal attractions in Barcelona:

Casa Fuerte
located within the town of Barcelona, the ruins of the Convent of San Francisco was outfitted with cannons and used by republican troops during the War of Independence in 1718. It has been preserved as a memorial.

Museo de Anzoátegui
Open daily 8-noon and 3-6. (December: 8-4) Free admission.
the oldest existing house in the city (1671). Handsomely restored; now used as a
museum.

El Morro tourist project
Between Puerto la Cruz and Barcelona, a turn off leads to the enormous El Morro complex and its beaches. The centerpiece is the Centro Comercial Plaza Mayor, designed with colorful architecture to resemble the Carribean resort city of Willemsted, Curaçao.

The entire Avenue Principal of Lecherías is lined with small shopping centers and many restaurants. The complex contains numerous single family homes, condos and hotels constructed on a series of canals which provide each living unit with docking facilities and boat access to the sea. A five star resort and golf course is part of the community.

Puerto la Cruz:

Paseo Colón
A new, modern waterfront boulevard filled with hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, and shops on one side and a beach bordered by a wide walkway on the other. Seafood restaurants, cafés, and local crafts people line the walkways. the beach is beautiful and yields many interesting shells, but it is not safe for swimming. A multitude of swimming beaches are nearby.

Parque Nacional Mochima
Reached by boat, the beaches are superb. Shuttle boats carry visitors to swimming, diving, and fishing locations all day. The park stretches from Puerto la Cruz to Cumaná. It contains many islands as well as a strip of hilly coast noted for its deep bays and white sand beaches. Some of the islands are surrounded by coral reefs and offer good snorkeling. The waters are calm and warm and filled with marine life.

Cumaná (South America’s oldest city, population 270,000)

Museo del Mar
Located opposite the University de Oriente campus
Open daily from 8:30-11:00 and 2:30-5:30.
Small entry fee
Displays range from boats used by indigenous settlers to old time diving equipment, shells, fossils, and a small aquarium.

Castillo de San Antonio de la Eminencia
overlooks the city
open daily 9-noon and 3-5.
Admission free
Site of the first area fort (1660). Subsequent replacements were destroyed by earthquakes. The present fort was restored after a 1929 earthquake.

Castillo de Santa Maria de la Cabeza
Enter through Iglesia de Santa Inés
Like the Castillo de San Antonio this fortress has been destroyed and rebuilt 5 times between 1637 and 1929.

Museo Gran Marisical de Ayacucho
Tues.-Fri. 8-noon and 2-4; Sat. 8-noon.
Admission free.
Historical exhibits and artifacts.

Market
Near the fishing port on Avenida Los Manglares
5-noon
Fresh produce; handicrafts; tasty food.

Marine Terminal
Near the market.
Catch the ferry to Punta Piedras for a visit to Margarita Island and from there back to Puerto la Cruz.

Excursion from Puerto la Cruz to Margarita Island and Caripe

A representative three day tour of the area originating from and returning to Margarita Island:

(Take the ferry or boat to Margarita Island from Puerto la Cruz)

Margarita – Orinoco Delta
An early morning flight goes to Maturin, capital of the Monagas state. From there, a boat takes visitors through dense tropical forest all the way to a camp in the middle of the Orinoco Delta. After lunch there is a walk across the swampy ground of the delta forest to enjoy and learn more about the tropical vegetation. Piraña fishing on the Manamo river near the camp follows .At the end of the day there is always a one-of-a-kind sunset to watch .

2nd Day: Orinoco Delta – Caripe
In the morning after breakfast , visitors enjoy a a boat ride to San Jose de Buja. and from there a drive to Caripe and the Hacienda Campo Claro, one of the oldest coffee farms in Caripe. Following the tour of the coffee farm, there is a visit to Guacharo’s cave, one of the largest caves in south America, once examined by Alexander Von Humboldt a German scientist who spent 16 months exploring Venezuela. In the first section of the cave are huge stalactites and stalagmites, some growing together as though building images of enormous sandcastles.

Outside, there is a shrieking noise of the hundreds of unseen oil birds (guacharos). At the Hall of Silence in the center of the cave everything changes. The cave suddenly is dark, quiet, and humid, and it is necessary to light the way with the kerosene lamp carried by the guide.

Emerging from the cave, there is the amazing sight of La Paila a charming waterfall in the middle of the mountain! In the evening the nocturnal guacharos leave the cave with loud shrieks as they go on their nightly flight.

3rd Day: Caripe – Buffalo Farm – Margarita Island
After breakfast, tour participants ride to “Hacienda Agua Sana” (thermal waters) in the Sucre state, where they are invited to bathe and swim in the hot springs. After lunch there is a visit to hacienda “Rio de Agua”, a real buffalo farm. At the farm, visitors watch cheese being made and learn a little about eco-farming.

(Take the ferry or boat back to Puerto la Cruz.)