7 (Moderately Dangerous) Caracas Day Trips
So we bought a car:
insured it against…everything:
and set about exploring what we could of Venezuela within driving distance of our home in Caracas.
Is it easy to road trip in Venezuela? Mmm, let’s just say that preparation, enthusiasm for the unexpected, and no small amount of optimism are required. Your reward is escaping the bustle of Caracas and seeing the Venezuela news outlets don’t report on. Here are my favorite day and weekend destinations.
A theoretical 2 hour drive from Caracas, this large, gated compound / posada is secluded and on a huge, beautiful, and clean swath of oceanfront property (seven total beaches) that you can stroll safely day and night. If you’ve never been someplace truly dangerous, you can’t imagine what a relief this is.
Sietemares is often completely booked months in advance, and for good reason. Living in Caracas, there are precious few places that you can go take a nap and let the teens take off unprotected – this is one of them. There are also movie nights on the lawn, beach bonfires…and enough space between the townhouse style lodgings that couples and families alike get peace and quiet. The long hilly walk down the gravel oceanview road is littered with sculptures, and there will be frozen pina coladas at the little outdoor tiki bar when you return.
There is no better place to feel a million miles away from Caracas.
- All inclusive – just turn up for mealtimes at the open-air, ocean-view restaurant, no wallet needed
- Kid / family friendly but romantic enough for couples
- Excellent outdoor massages and foofy tropical cocktails in the pool
About 4 hours of mostly highway driving means that you have to leave Caracas by 2pm or so if you want to reach your posada in Moroccoy National Park by nightfall. Which, of course, you really really do.
La Ardilena is luxurious, but you won’t be going for long strolls on the small property. What you will do is hop on a little water taxi right at the posada’s pier to visit islands in the national park, which range from party boat flotilla wonderlands to secluded natural sanctuaries. There is outstanding snorkeling close to shore in the clear, protected waters – and dive outfits if you’re SCUBA certified.
- Lovely packed lunches provided for island hopping days
- Hammocks and twinkly lights, outdoor living rooms, and starry nights.
El Hatillo is only a half hour’s drive just to the south east of Caracas, so is perfect for lunch or dinner and a stroll on a Saturday. Though there is a large mall that you’ll probably end up parking in, walk outside and head right for Bolivar Square in the central of the colonial village just a few blocks away. There are frequent festivals, art galleries and live music – and some of the best souvenir shopping in Venezuela.
- El Cine – outstanding tapas in a swanky but family friendly multi-level restaurant.
- Hatillo Burger – decent burgers and cheap beer with a view over the square.
- Feria Artesenal de Haansi – local handcrafted souvenirs, cigars, chocolates, and coffee.
Founded in the mid 1800’s by German immigrants, Colonia Tovar is a German village in the rainforest of Venezuela. And yes, it’s as incongruous as it sounds.
68km and an hour and a half drive from Caracas, driving to Tovar is a winding and steep route where you’ll alternately feel stunned and worried about being lost. This is not a day trip, for you don’t want to drive home after dark. Rather, stay a night in a faux-timbered posada, drink in a beer garden, and eat some schnitzel. And be thankful you’re in the cool mountain air and not in Caracas. The fresh fruit preserves sold by ladies on the street are a specialty worth buying!
Warning, there are routes to and from Colonia Tovar that will take you through barrios. Be aware and avoid after dark.
Google puts this drive at just over 3 hours, but really it is more like 5...so consider it for a long holiday weekend. The route takes you through Parque Nacional Henri Pittier, and hours of one-lane hairpin turns and steep dropoffs. It’s gorgeous, but isolated and a bit terrifying. Towards the end of the drive there are rural villages and just about anything on the road can cause a traffic backup. Bring water, food, basic Spanish at a minimum, and don’t plan on having phone service.
Once you get to Choroni, there is a multicolored colonial town, beautiful all-inclusive posadas, world-class restaurants, and a serious (and seriously crowded) beach scene.
- Cacaoni Lodge – A modern, riverfront eco-posada where every room has an outdoor shower and hot tub – and all meals are included. Note: impossible to find. Get on the phone with reception as soon as you are in town and have them talk you in.
- Madera Fina Restaurant – Open air fine dining restaurant on the coast. Everything here is good and the service is excellent.
- Playa Grande – There is no describing the Venezuelan beach experience, really. It’s a bit intense if what you’re looking for is peace and quiet. Families from all walks of life rent chairs, buy food from the strolling vendors (and beer), and bob about in the water all day long. It can be a madhouse, but it’s lots of fun.
The compound is multi-level, open air, and a charming haven from the city where you can go to dine, or to spend the weekend. We knew of couples who essentially lived here on the weekends, rather than stay in Caracas. Your days will be spent strolling the hillside, eating meals cooked in the outdoor kitchen, and swinging in the hammocks with a cocktail in hand. Highly, highly, recommended.
Oh, and howler monkeys!
While living in Caracas was challenging, every one of these places was relatively safe, unbelievably beautiful, and very Venezuelan.
While we had no major problems on our trips, I urge you to take very serious precautions if attempting to visit while the country is suffering and in turmoil. Also, Google’s drive times are not accurate for mountain drives or Sunday afternoon/evening returns to the city.
- If you’re in a Caracas traffic jam, snacks will be available for purchase from strolling vendors.
- Gas is almost free.
- You’ll probably get there just fine.
Less good stuff:
- Rifle toting soldiers patrolling…
- Un-maintained roads through…
- Barrios powered by networks of extension cords
- and traffic jams so bad that you need to buy snacks from the strolling vendors.