15 South American Island Escapes
- Choose Your Adventure
A fan-shaped island built of limestone and sand, 186-sq.-km (72-sq.-mile) La Blanquilla is a dream destination for wannabe castaways. With milky-white beaches and glassy tide pools, it's a favorite anchorage for certain discriminating Caribbean cruisers. Yet this "white island" -- so named for its shimmering alabaster beaches -- is one of Venezuela's most unspoiled federal dependencies (offshore islands) in the western Caribbean Sea. Other than those occasional tour groups on desert-island adventures, no one comes here but the Guardia Costera (Coast Guard) and day-tripping fishermen.
La Blanquilla offers wonderful snorkeling and diving opportunities: The undersea "wall" is only 20m (66 ft.) offshore, and because of the island's remoteness, marine life is abundant and healthy. The reefs around the island are known for their wealth of rare black coral. You can also spot blueheads, French angelfish, porcupine fish, balloon fish, red-lipped blenny, queen and princess parrotfish, and flying fish. On land, keep an eye peeled for colorful parrots, owls, iguanas, lizards, hermit crabs, and wild donkeys.
The best way to see La Blanquilla is by chartered boat. You'll see the odd sailboat or two bobbing in the coves north of Americano Bay (located north of Playa El Yaque), which has a spectacular and secluded white-sand beach of sparkling blue waters. But note that in Venezuelan waters you have to embark aboard a crewed boat licensed by the authorities and with a Venezuelan crew. Explore Yacht Tours (tel. 58/212-635-2166; www.explore-yachts.com) is a Caracas, Venezuela-based company that charters full--service crewed powerboats and sailboats in Venezuela's southern Caribbean seas; it also offers dive, fishing, and cruising packages.
Lost World Adventures (tel. 800/999-0558 in the U.S. and Canada; www.lostworldadventures.com) can offer a customized trip to La Blanquilla by air from Porlamar on Isla Margarita or on an all-inclusive chartered sailboat departing from Los Roques or Juan Griego on Isla Margarita.
If you plan to explore the island beyond its white-sand beaches, be sure to wear shoes (even socks) -- prickly-pear cactus is everywhere, and the barbs can be tenacious. Just follow the donkey paths, and you'll avoid most of it. If you come by boat, you can enjoy secluded anchorages north of Americano Bay. Though there are only a handful of palm trees, shade is at hand in caves along the shore. And it's never a bad idea to bring along a few small bottles of cheap rum to barter for fish fresh from the Caribbean, from tuna to red snapper to spiny lobster. -- Alexis Lipsitz Flippin
Information: Venezuela Tuya (www.venezuelatuya.com).
Nearest Airport: Puerto La Cruz (mainland, 172km/107 miles); Porlamar (Isla Margarita, 81km/50 miles); Los Roques (161km/100 miles).
Local Transport: Los Roques; Juan Griego (97km/60 miles); Puerto La Cruz (mainland); Porlamar (Isla Margarita, 113km/70 miles).
Where to Stay: LagunaMar, Porlamar, Isla Margarita (tel. 58/295/400-4035; www.lagunamar.com.ve).