I had the idea of writing this Trip Advisor article because when I was planning my Carnival trip to Los Roques with my wife we didn’t found all the information we needed in the same place. We found it in many topics, travel blogs or other sites, but all spread.
HOW TO GET TO CARACAS?
>> Departing from São Paulo (GRU) you have two flight options: with TAM (JJ 8050) and Gol (G3 7624). TAM flight departs every day at 02:25PM and arrives in Caracas (CCS) at 05:55PM meanwhile Gol flight departs every day at 11:00AM and arrives in Caracas (CCS) at 03:30PM. If you want to use mileages, it will cost you at least 30.000 miles round trip + taxes through TAM Fidelidade and 20.000 miles round trip + taxes through Smiles programs. Unfortunately, there is no safe flight option that allows you to go to Los Roques at the same day.
>> Bolivar is not a strong money and due to governmental control, the exchange rate in the formal market is unreal. The solution, unfortunately, is change money in the informal market… As soon as you disembark in Caracas Airport, many guys will approach you offering exchange. We didn’t feel safe to do so, but I saw some people doing it. I’ve read that sometimes those guy try to deceive you in many ways such as changing an USD 100 bill for a USD 10 one saying to you that the USD 10 is the one that you gave him. Well, it’s up to you!
>> Another option is change it somewhere else. We did it in the hotel we stayed in Caracas, as we felt a little bit safer there. The rate was USD 1 = 7 Bolivares, which was less than the airport guys offered (1 USD = 8 Bolivares) but far from the USD 1 = 4,3 Bolivares official rate. In Los Roques we also exchanged money, at the pharmacy (!), after asking the hotel staff where to go.
WHERE TO STAY IN CARACAS?
>> As you will need a room just for one night, your first idea may be stay in a simple and cheap hotel. That was our idea when we chose Hotel Catimar. And after the trip, we changed our mind! Hotel Catimar (http://www.hotelcatimar.com/) is a simple hotel with honest and kind of clean rooms, with air conditioner and hot water. It’s located very close to the airport (around 10 minutes) and includes in and out transfers in the rate. So far so good! But the neighborhood is something that scares… There are many strange people around, a horrible beach in front and no decent restaurants nearby. Because of this weird scenario around you, it’s almost impossible to not feel unsafe there. We didn’t feel comfortable neither to walk in the streets nor to eat at the hotel restaurant. In summary, we stayed 16 hours locked in the room eating Pringles and Snickers with Coke (or any other industrialized product). But on the other hand, it costs only around USD 60 per night, for two people (in cash, of course – US dollars or Bolívares).
>> I’ve read some reviews about another hotel called Eurobuilding (http://www.eurobuilding.com.ve/) It seems to be close to the airport and also includes in and out transfers. But the price is a little high, around USD 100 according to the website. Another option is to go to Caracas. But honestly I don’t think it worth mainly because of the time you will lose in the transfers due to traffic. Just remember that the airport is located in Maiquetía, around 25km far from Caracas. Some trip colleagues that we met in Los Roques stayed at Marriot (http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/ccsjw-jw-marriott-hotel-caracas/) They said the neighborhood was also strange but at least the room had all the 4 star hotel facilities and a decent (but not great at all) restaurant.
HOW TO GO TO LOS ROQUES?
>> There are basically two companies that flights from Caracas (CCS) to Los Roques (LRQ): LTA (Linea Turística Aerotuy) and Chap Air. The first one is a little bigger and was our choice; the second one operates 8 seats airplanes that, unfortunately, I didn’t have (yet) the opportunity to flight in. And maybe most people don’t feel comfortable to do so. Our flight departed from Caracas (CCS) at 6AM. Yes, quite early, but this is the idea so you can enjoy the hole first day in Los Roques! The check in was ok, with a not so friendly staff. Don’t forget that the luggage limit is 10kg per person and that it can be combined. They try to take it seriously but the problem is that if you exceed it, they will charge 4,5 Bolívares each kilogram (or USD 1 at official money exchange rate). The airport is big, well structured and offers you free Wi-Fi Internet. Nice, isn’t it? Our airplane was a DASH-7 with 48 seats, including strangers, at least for me, 4 seats backwards. Amazing! The airplane condition doesn’t inspire confidence, but the 35 minutes flight was quiet and calm. There are no confirmed seats so a tip is to seat in the left side of the airplane so you will be able to see Los Roques from above, especially if the weather is sunny. The tickets are not cheap considering the flight time; we paid around USD 250 round trip each.
WHERE TO STAY IN LOS ROQUES?
>> As you might already know, Gran Roque is the main island of the archipelago of Los Roques. And it where is located all the hostels (there is no hotels or resorts), restaurants (few) and little stores. The infrastructure is very simple, most part of the island has no paved sidewalks or streets and you will walk on the sands most of the time. As well as the island itself, the hostels structures are also simple! There are different grades of simplicity, of course!
>> After read a little about the hostel options we have picked up Bequevé. It seemed to be a little bit more sophisticated than the other ones and offered an “all inclusive” rate that seemed attractive to us. And it didn’t disappoint! The room was clean and big enough for two people, despite you can find a second (single) bed. It has both air conditioner and fan but it has no hot water... I know that for some people it may be something that could destroy the trip. But for most of them, including us, it’s not that horrible! In the second day you are already used to it, I guarantee. Outside the rooms you can find the “restaurant”, where you can get both breakfast and dinner, the kitchen, where they prepare the food and a small corner with an old computer and an instable Internet wireless sign.
>> The “all inclusive” rate includes breakfast, food and beverages at the beach and dinner. Maybe it seems obvious but it’s good to make it clear that you will not find a menu or a buffet plenty of different options of food from all over the world. The food is simple but delicious! Dueña Carmen is the friendly chef in charge of the kitchen and cooks very well. During the breakfast we could find bread, butter, jelly, egg, one or two kind of fruit, juices and something different such as the “arepas” we proved in the last day. Don’t worry, it’s good and enough food! At the beach, the hostel staff prepares some coolers with water, soda, beer, rum and ice. And also a portion of food, usually something light such as sandwiches or pies. The dinner is served everyday at 7:30PM and is always an appetizer (“ceviche”, for example – delicious), a main dish (normally fish but also meat, pork or pasta), salad and dessert. Some people complained about the lack of options, but the food was always so good that we had no problem at all. Dueña Carmen also prepared vegetarian dishes to my wife!
>> In the “all inclusive” rate is also included the boat trips to the islands. It’s now good to clarify that don’t, they don’t have a formal schedule. But, obviously, they chose a different beach every day. But also obviously, they don’t go the far beaches! So if you want to go to a specific island, maybe you will need to buy the trip with some other guys. The boat guide will be happy to help you with this arrangement. But anyway, don’t worry with that. ALL the beaches are amazing and worth the trip!
WHICH BEACHES SHOULD I GO?
>> Maybe you should be a little worried about what beaches your hostel will take you, right? But don’t be! I can guarantee that you will love any beach they might take you to! During our 3,5 days in Los Roques we’ve been to Madrisquí, Sascrí, Cayo de Agua and Francisquí. Every one of them has its differential but all are amazingly beautiful! The one we liked less was Francisquí; I’m not sure if it’s because it was the last one we visited or because it’s too close to the main island or because it had “more people” than the other ones. With “more people” I’m talking about 50-60 people!
>> The hostel boat took us to Madrisquí, Sascrí and Francisquí. Another group also went to Noronsquí. But for Cayo de Agua we needed to pick up another boat to go, as the hostel does not go to the far islands. Our boat guide arranged this tour for us and it cost 160 Bolivares (around USD 20). It takes like an hour to get there but the trip is calm. In the middle of the way we stopped in another beach called Careneros, which is surreal... And there you can also practice kite surf or stand up paddle if you want. We leave some guys there and went all the way to Cayo de Agua. Coming back, they stop on a marine turtle’s sanctuary, where an NGO takes care of abandoned animals. It’s not a big project and the facilities are quite simple. If you don’t want to stop there, maybe you can convince your boat guide and your group to stay a little longer in Cayo de Agua!
>> And I’d like to say sorry to my dive colleagues because as I don’t practice it, I can’t give them much information about it. The only thing I know is if you’re going on high season maybe it’s better to make reservations before going. We heard people saying that the dive tours were all full during the whole Carnival week…
>> In summary: Francisquí, Madrisquí, Noronsquí and Sascrí are close to the main island and you certainly go (if you have enough time) with the hostel boat. Cayo de Agua is a must see, save one day for that! And if you still have time, consider one day at Careneros.
I really hope this small guide can help you with your trip to Los Roques! And feel free to get in touch if you think I can help you with something else, ok?