Nueva Esparta is one of the 23 states of Venezuela, granted free-port status in 1973 and located in the Caribbean Sea, just a short distance off the northeastern coast of Venezuela.
Nueva Esparta comprises the larger Margarita Island with around 420,000 residents, the nearby smaller island of Coche with around 10,000 residents, and the even smaller Cubagua which is only very lightly inhabited.
The state is made up of the following regions, or local municipalities:
Nueva Esparta is situated in the Caribbean Sea, off the northeastern coast of the mainland and located to the Northeast of the country's capital Caracas. It is about a 35 minute flight to Caracas, if your flight is on time or a few hours by sea using the ferry from Puerto La Cruz. The state is the smallest in area within Venezuela and is located off the northeast Caribbean coast of Venezuela.
Margarita Island is the largest in the island group with a total area of 934 km² and is also the site of Porlamar, the largest city in the state and La Asunción, the capital of the Federal State of Nueva Esparta
Nueva Esparta is outside the "hurricane belt", situated in the Caribbean Sea, off the northeastern coast of the mainland and has never been hit by a hurricane. The tropical weather is about the same all year, hot. Seasons tend to come and go with such gradual change one hardly notices. It tends to rain more in the winter then anytime else. It is not unusual for the rain to be nightly, leaving many sun filled days. It is said that the state gets on average over 320 sun filled days per year. The state has more than 60 beaches along 145 miles of coastline.
The language is Spanish, although in many of the tourist areas they may speak and understand English as well as other languages. Keep in mind that even if someone says they do not speak English, many understand it although some are to embarrassed to speak it.
Del Caribe-Santiago Mariño Caribbean International Airport (Spanish: Aeropuerto Internacional del Caribe "Santiago Mariño") (IATA: PMV, ICAO) is located 20-25 km southwest of the city center of Polamar and is serviced by several airlines providing flights to Europe, Canada, South America and the Caribbean. The Airport has two terminals divided for international and domestic flights. The two terminals are separated by only a few minutes walk. Primary domestic routes are to Caracas, Maturín and Ciudad Bolivar.
Via ferry from mainland Venezuela at Puerto La Cruz with Conferry . Passenger/vehicular ferries operate the route providing access to the state for motorbikes, cars, buses and trucks.The Carmen Ernestina or any express ferry is preferable.
Once on Margarita, Coche can be reached by private boat service out of Playa El Yaque or the ferry from La Isleta and Punta de Piedras. On Coche the most popular means of transportation is by bicycle and walking. There are private vehicle services available, as well as ATV rentals.
The only access to Cubagua is by private tour.
When traveling on Margarita Island ensure that you carry sufficient local currency in smaller denominations so that you can make purchases without running into problems. Smaller local traders and transport operators may not be able to give you sufficient change for larger bills and will most likely be reluctant to accept foreign currency as it will be difficult and troublesome for then to exchange it later.
Taxi hire is subject to negotiation with the driver. Taxis can often be chartered for a day. Most of the taxi have fix rates and should be inexpensively priced.
The taxi painted in white with yellow license plate are often considered to be the most reliable. It must be understood that only taxi with the official government issued yellow plates are licensed to operate as a taxi service. Care and common sense should be used to ensure the taxi and driver are legitimate and licensed, especially late at night. Before commencing the trip try to ensure that you have sufficient local currency in smaller denominations to pay the driver as they may otherwise not be able to give correct change when you arrive at the destination.
Por puesto service most of the island. These are a little like a shared taxi having much more flexibility than a conventional bus service. Many locals use the Por Puesto services which normally travel a fixed route offering a cheap and safe alternative to a taxi. The journey can sometimes be a little slow however, as they often stop to pick up and discharge passengers at frustratingly short intervals and this may draw a trip out considerably.
Buses run to the most destinations in daytime only. Typical service hours are daily from 6 am to 8 pm with reasonably priced fares. Flag the bus down if you are on the side of the road and want it to stop. Check the rate to your destination with the driver as you board the bus and pay when you arrive. The local buses may be a little too rustic for some visitors used to more modern transportation systems but they are a good inexpensive way to get about and to meet the local people.
Buseta (mini-buses) offer an opportunity to travel cheaply and to get in touch with the locals. Trip times will depend on distance and traffic conditions. Knowing a little Spanish is always helpful to get through, but some locals will be pleased to practice their English with you. Fares are inexpensive and depend on the length of your travel. Before boarding a mini-bus, ask the driver how much the fare is to your specific destination to ensure there are no misunderstandings.
Rental cars are available from major chains such as Avis, Budget and Hertz, as well as local operators. Look for established operators with an identifiable operating base. Outlets are to be found in the main city of Porlamar, at Playa El Yaque, and there are several offices and kiosks at the islands airport. Always use common sense when renting and make sure to check for any hidden costs and levies that may appear when you return the car. To rent a car you will need a current driver’s license and a passport. Make sure you have adequate insurance to cover any loss/damage or purchase a Collision Damage Waiver and do not leave your passport, drivers licence, or any other important documentation with the rental company as a security deposit. Since in most cases the contract will be in Spanish, make sure you understand what you are signing. Do not take the rental agents word in translating it, you are signing a legally binding contract. Thoroughly check over the vehicle including the glass and all panels for any damage and have the salesperson initial a damage record. If in doubt at all photograph the vehicle from all sides prior to taking delivery. Make sure that the vehicle is registered with the municipality as a rental car, there will be a sticker on the drivers side windshield. Check the vehicle over thoroughly before you leave the depot to ensure everything is functioning on the vehicle and that it is roadworthy. Fuel is cheap so most companies do not require the car be returned full.
The climate is warm and pleasant with vacationers visiting all year long. It becomes extremely busy in the summer months and Christmas holiday season as Venezuelans bring their family for holiday. During those times it is wise to pre-plan all aspects of your holiday. Many visitors enjoy the state's duty-free shopping. In the evening, a active nightlife awaits you, full of beach bars, discos, salsa clubs and fine restaurants. The Caribbean's largest indoor shopping mall, Sambil, with over 250 stores, is located in Pampatar.
Exploring the mangroves of La Restinga National Park, visiting Spanish Colonial historical sites, swimming with dolphins, horseback riding, exquisite spa treatment, a shopping trip to buy a hammock made in the state, a visit to the maritime museum, fishing or sailing, Wind and kite surfing are the major tourist activities on Coche and in Playa El Yaque.
Alcoholic beverages abound throughout the state. Both import and domestic alcohol are available, the beer tends to be mostly domestic production. A popular brand is Polar, it comes in both bottles and cans. There is a light, a regular and a dark. Sunday has recently become a dry day and the purchase of alcoholic beverages has been restricted. So make sure you stock up on Saturday. It is popular to pack a cooler with ice, beer, your favorite spirits, spending the day on the beach getting sloshed.
There are many popular tropical drinks in Nueva Esparta. Just ask at the club, hotel, bar or restaurant you are visiting and the local bartender will no doubt be pleased to get things moving. Watch out, some of these drinks can be a little potent.