is one of Venezuela’s hidden gems—a lush green landscape of
small hills, farms and isolated hamlets that gives way to luxuriant cloud
forests as the peninsula grows more mountainous and reaches out like a
finger towards the island of Trinidad a few miles off the coast.
Palm forested hills come down to the sea and
create a succession of idyllic beaches on Paria’s northern coast.
Sheltered by headlands, the best beaches are long bays of warm yellow
sand, backed by groves of coconut palm. The sea is calm and warm, and most
beaches attract just enough sunworshippers to support a little beach bar
or two but not much besides.
Christopher Columbus first landed on the
American continent here, and it could be said that not much has happened
in Paria since then. The pace of life is relaxed and friendly, everyone
has time to stop and chat, and there is a profound sense of harmony and
well-being. Tropical fruits abound and the area's small farms produce
cacao for the finest chocolate in the world.
One of Geodyssey’s favourite guides, Billy
Esser, has converted and extended an old cacao hacienda in the hills
behind the best beaches. Named after the bukare tree, which shades the
finest cacao plants, Hacienda Bukare offers very comfortable accommodation
in a relaxed traditional style. There are currently few good places to
stay elsewhere on Paria.
A typical day at Bukare might start with a
breakfast of fresh mango, papaya and melon with fresh-brewed local coffee,
then a 20-30 minute drive down country lanes to swim and relax at one of
the local beaches. Lunch on the beach might be fish grilled on a barbecue,
or a picnic of salads and fruits, followed by a siesta in hammocks slung
between the palms. As the afternoon draws to a close, the jeep returns to
the cool of the hacienda. One can walk in the grounds, or relax on the
verandah, before an ice-cold daiquiri at sunset and a dinner of
thoughtfully-prepared traditional style dishes.
Some guests may feel sufficiently energised to
tackle a short day trek, up into the cloud forests. Billy is an expert
trekking guide (he introduced us to Mt Roraima), and he knows this area
well. There are other trips too, a drive to a wildlife ranch, perhaps, or
by boat to distant fishing villages, or to the small towns of RÝo Caribe
and Car˙pano for a little shopping