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166km (103 miles) N of Caracas

Few island getaways are as remote, romantic, intimate, or idyllic as Los Roques. Hundreds of deserted little islands of soft white sand surrounded by crystal-clear turquoise waters and lively tropical reefs make Los Roques one of the prime vacation destinations in Venezuela. About 42 named islands -- only a couple of which are inhabited -- and 200-plus sand spits, mangrove islands, and tiny cays surround a 400-sq.-km (156-sq.-mile) central lagoon. The most popular activity here is getting dropped off on an isolated little island in the morning with a beach umbrella, some chaise longues, and a cooler full of food and drink, and getting picked up again in the late afternoon. You spend your day beachcombing, sunbathing, swimming, and snorkeling. Depending on your point of view, you can imagine yourself shipwrecked on a deserted island or the ruler of some new territory.

Declared a national park in 1972, Los Roques protects vast areas of sea-grass beds, mangroves, and coral reef. The park is an important sea-turtle nesting ground. Of the 92 recorded bird species here, you are likely to see brown- and red-footed boobies, as well as scores of pelicans, gulls, terns, and other assorted shorebirds. There's even a small flock of pink flamingos on one of the isolated cays. The barrier reefs that protect the archipelago's perimeter make this one of the premier dive spots in the country. Near-constant trade winds from the northeast also make this a great place to sail and windsurf.

Los Roques is not particularly geared toward independent travelers. Almost all visitors come as part of an organized tour or an all-inclusive stay at one of the posadas on Gran Roque. Given the isolation and limited number of hotel rooms, you should make firm reservations before arriving, particularly on weekends and during the high season.

Independent travelers can purchase, a la carte, all the typical tours and activities offered on the islands. Inquire at your hotel or at one of the small information/tour desks beside the airstrip.