Choroní: Cloud forest, bluegreen beaches, rivers and drums
by Antonio Benítez Padrón
Friday, May 18, 2018
Choroní is a town located in the coastal area of the Aragua State. However, in Venezuela the mention of its name usually encompasses, among other places, Puerto Colombia – with its colonial houses, the Malecón (pier) and the beautiful Playa Grande – and Chuao, another town for which it is currently only possible to reach by boat or on foot through the so-called “Ruta del Cacao” (Cocoa’s Route). Thus, Choroni is synonymous with beautiful green beaches, mountains, rivers, cocoa, fresh fish, friendly people, drums and “guarapita”, a drink based on clear cane, which is very typical of the Venezuelan coasts.
How to get to Choroní
Although you can make the journey by sea, most people do it on the Maracay-Choroní Highway, making their ascent by Henri Pittier National Park’s mountain and then descend to the town, which is on the coastal part of the park itself.
They go in private cars or buses, and yes: regardless of the means of transport chosen, all passengers cling to their seats well when listening to the persistent bugle of buses that come at full speed in the opposite direction, but then laugh at the see of how these veteran drivers manage to make their machines pass by one side, sometimes even a few centimeters from the adjacent vehicle, without causing any damage.
Choroní and Puerto Colombia
That’s where the adventure begins: this narrow and steep road winds its way up the mountain with its cloud forest, rivers and waterfalls, as well as its picturesque houses and inns on the way. As the descent begins, the vegetation and climate begin to change, and then the expectation rises.
Choroní Town and nearby beaches
First you pass through Choroní itself, a small town with colonial houses and that gets its name thanks to the indigenous people who populated that area during the colonization period, but most of the tourists make their destination to stay overnight an inn or hotel in Puerto Colombia, because that way they are closer to Playa Grande and the Malecón, from where they can embark to other beaches of the park Henri Pittier as Valle Seco, Chuao, Cepe, Uricao, and Tuja.
Also, from there they can go to beaches that are more distant but the journey is well worth it: La Ciénaga, in Ocumare de la Costa, and Puerto Maya in the Municipality Tovar; but before doing a boat ride to any of these wonderful beaches, you must first visit Choroní’s and Puerto Colombia’s own attractions.
Hotels in Choroní and Puerto Colombia
The tour of the Henri Pittier will leave you enchanted – and perhaps a little dizzy because it has so many curves -, so it’s time to get to a hotel or inn to leave your luggage and perhaps rest a bit. In Choroní and Puerto Colombia there are a variety of hotels and inns, ranging from the simplest, with only the essentials to spend the night, and the most luxurious including, among other things, gourmet breakfast in bed, Zen gardens, Outdoor showers, boat rides, swimming pools and open bars. Among the latter, Cacaoni Lodge, La Bokaina, Posada Arakemo and Hostal Casa Grande deserve special mention.
Where to go in Choroní and Puerto Colombia
Now, even if you are tired, the emotion will make you want to go out and get to know Choroní’s places of interest. If you arrive in the morning or not very late in the afternoon you can go to buy clothes, crafts or cacao in the town (although the ideal place for the latter is Chuao) or go to Playa Grande, a place that can be reached by walking in case of that the chosen hotel is not too far from it, as is the case of Hostal Casa Grande.
Playa Grande is at the end of a street that starts at a junction bathed by Las Mercedes River, which can be crossed by a footbridge or walk on it, which is perfect to remove the sand from your feet when returning from the beach, since at that point the river is not very deep. In fact, many people bathe in this beautiful and clean natural river.
Along the street that follows the river and on the left side of the entrance to Playa Grande you’ll find restaurants offering empanadas and arepas in the morning, and fish and seafood dishes after noon. On the opposite side, there is a small parking lot that is often insufficient for the number of cars that visit the place in high season, so they enable land for this purpose. Right next to the parking lot there is a camping area; its use is discouraged during low season for security reasons.
Then, there is the bay area, which is simply beautiful: it has a greenish sea with strong surf-suitable waves, white sand and dozens of coconut trees, as well as awning service. Usually, the person in charge of the awnings is associated with a restaurant, so they offer to take food and drinks to the tourists to the place where the latter are located.
There are also selling street vendors that wander around Playa Grande. They offer seafood such as “Vuelve a la vida” (which means “come back to life”) and oysters, beach collars and coconut sweets. Surfboards are also rented there and sometimes also Banana Boat rides. Finally, for greater safety, it is recommended to be in Playa Grande until 5:00 p.m.
Where to eat in Choroní and Puerto Colombia
Later in the afternoon, people often walk around the area to look for food places, including the Madera Fina Restaurant in Puerto Colombia, and Nyhamn Bar & Café, which is located in Choroní, has live music, serve great good drinks and exquisite burgers. Also, along the boardwalk area, there are fast food stands that have delicious food at cheap prices.
Puerto Colombia’s Malecón (pier)
Last but not least, Puerto Colombia’s Malecón is the obligatory meeting point not only for tourists but also for the natives of the area. During the day, it is frequented mainly by people who go there to take a boat to other beaches or who want to buy clothes, handicrafts or supplies in nearby convenience stores. At night, on the other hand, people sit on the Malecón’s wall to chat, eat and drink while they listen to music and watch the ocean.
Speaking of music, Choroní is one of Venezuela’s coastal towns with a tradition of drums dating from the era of slavery. These drums are handmade and played by natives either during the day at Playa Grande or at night in the Malecón area. Around the drummers is usually formed a wheel of people in which natives and tourists are integrated to dance to the sensual rhythm of the tunes, in the midst of sweat, rum, and hullabaloo, as seen on this video. Special mention in this regard deserve the festivities of San Juan, which are held on June 24 in Choroní and other coasts of the Aragua State.