Home page

Next Page

Margarita is the largest of Venezuela's offshore islands.  From north to south, it is 33 kilometers (20.6 miles).  From west to east, it is 64 kilometers (40 miles).  Margarita is divided into two parts, eastern and western, and is connected by Playa La Restinga, a narrow beach 22 kilometers long (13.75 miles).  Margarita and its two small neighboring islands, Cubagua and Coche, make up the state of Nueva Esparta, one of twenty-four states in Venezuela.  Cubagua was chosen for the first European settlement because of its rich pearl beds but, after an earthquake and tidal wave destroyed all its buildings in 1541, the inhabitants moved to the larger island of Margarita where there was better protection from the elements and pirates.

Margarita is one of the oldest parts of the world.  Unlike the newer Caribbean islands which emerged from the sea by volcanic eruption, Margarita has granite and quartz rocks with veins of minerals deep in the earth and sedimentation.  There is one mountain that looks like a volcano but was actually created by movement of the earth's plates.  There is no volcanic lava on the island.

Margarita's flag has three equal horizontal stripes, yellow for the sun, green for the countryside, and blue for the water.  Three white stars represent the three islands comprising the state and a white setting sun, perhaps, represents the spectacular sunsets viewed from Juan Griego on the northwest coast.

Most of the information about Margarita was provided by Bernardo Meyer during two tours, one of the eastern and a second of the western parts of the island.  Bernardo narrated the history of the island by fact and folklore.  From the 1500's through the 1800's, most information was handed down verbally rather than in writing.  People heard stories repeated many times, memorized them, then passed the oral history down from generation to generation.  It was a while before the stories were reduced to writing so there are often different versions of the same event.  The versions may conflict, be embellished or not mesh well chronologically with others but they are all historically based.

An example of this is the origin of the name of the island. 
Margarita may have come from Christopher Columbus who was said to be in love with Princess Margaret of Austria.  But a more likely explanation is that the name came from the Greek word margarita meaning pearl since pearls were one of the island's early valuable assets. 

Bernardo has a comfortable Mercedes van for tours and transportation. Note that there is no license tag on the van.  In
Margarita, license tags are expensive.  In lieu of a tag, you can get a special permit, renewable each month.  If you forget a month or two, they don't make you catch up when you do renew.

The oil industry on mainland Venezuela attracted many of the island's men and it was said that only fishermen, smugglers, and lazy ones remained.  Margarita was a very sleepy place until the 1960's when the government declared it a free port and lifted all taxes and duties, putting smugglers out of business.  Paved roads and modern resorts drew both national and international tourists to vacation and shop.  Margarita is a popular destination for cruisers who enjoy the island, get extremely reasonable health care, and shop, especially for beef and beverages.  The climate is hot and dry but quite comfortable in the shade with a breeze.

Catholicism is the primary religion of the country.  Everywhere you see religious shrines, in professional offices, hospitals, businesses, reception rooms, marinas, etc.  We visited a haul-out facility at Chacachacare where outside the marina office was a shrine with flowers.

Next Page