Maracay is the capital of Aragua state in Venezuela. Famous for being called the Garden City, for its large amount of vegetation. It has several tourist attractions such as the famous Choroní town, monuments, museums, and parks like the Henri Pittier National Park.
Maracay doesn't have its own commercial airport (although it has two air military bases), but the visitor can approach it by plane using the Maiquetía's Simón Bolívar Airport and the nearer Valencia's International Airport Arturo Michelena. From both airports the traveler can take a licensed taxi to Maracay (the most expensive although the safest option), or make his way through the unorganized Venezuelan public transport system to the main buses terminals in Caracas or Valencia (La Bandera and The Big Low Center, respectively), and then take a bus to Maracay (the cheapest option). Be advised to take official authorized taxis, there are some reports of tourists that have been robbed at gun-point by unlicensed taxi drivers, that usually charge less than their official counterparts.
From Caracas to Maracay you should drive 108 km west on the ARC highway (Autopista Regional del Centro), this trip usually may take you about 60 to 80 minutes, but at rush-hour (5-8PM) you can take that long just trying to exit Caracas. Usually after passing the Charallave-Santa Teresa exit (Caracas' suburbs at 32 km distance) the traffic tends to go easier. Try to avoid driving in the Caracas-Maracay direction on Friday afternoon, because this is the period where the highway tends to be more crowded by people trying to leave Caracas for the weekends.
From Valencia to Maracay you should drive about 40 km east on the same ARC highway. This trip usually may take you about 30 to 40 minutes, but at rush-hour (5-8PM) it make take you two hours to reach Maracay. Usually after passing the Guacara toll post the traffic tends to go easier.
To enter Maracay from the ARC highway you should take one of the three exits: La Encrucijada (which takes you to the Maracay's suburbs: Cagua, Turmero, Villa de Cura, etc.), Palo Negro (Maracay east) and Tapa Tapa (Maracay west). If you're coming from Caracas, you will find La Encrucija exit first, and the Tapa Tapa exit last; if you're coming from Valencia, the order is inverse.
One or two hours from Maracay you can find several beautiful tropical beaches, including Cata, Choroni, Cuyagua, El Playon, etc. The roads to these beaches wind through the dense mountainous cloudforest of the Henri Pittier National Park. The roads, especially to Choroni, are very narrow and windy and extreme caution should be taken if driving your own vehicle. Public transportation is easily available although can be nerve-racking: buses leave from Maracay's bus terminal and taxis can also be hired. The beaches are generally very busy on weekends.
- Plaza Bolivar shady trees in the middle of town
- Plaza Girardot, honouring the US volunteers who were killed by the Spaniards in 1806
- Museo Aeronautico, near Plaza Bolivar, one of the best aeronautic museums in South America. Particular interesting is its collection of vintage helicopters.
Usually the tourists don't spend much time in Maracay, using it as point to buy supplies before traveling north to the attractive beaches of Cata, Choroní, Cuyagua, etc. (collectively called the Aragua beaches). You can travel to these beaches taking a bus in the terminal located at Ave. Constitucion with Ave. Fuerza Aereas. Try to avoid traveling during the Venezuelan high seasons: Carnival, the Holy Week and the Christmas season (from December 23rd to January 2nd), as you may find hard to find a bus or a hotel. During workdays these beaches tend to be empty.
There are some great shopping centers if you love shopping:
- Parque Aragua at Avenida Fuerzas Aéreas with Avenida Bolivar (There is also a Calle Bolivar near C.C Hiper Jumbo) in Urbanizacion Parque Aragua
- C.C Hiper Jumbo at Avenida Fuerzas Aéreas with Avenida Jose Casanova Godoy. This is my personal favorite.
- C.C Global at Avenida Bolivar with Calle 12 in Barrio Independencia
- Las Americas at Avenida Las Delicias with Calle Soublette/ Avenida Andres Bello
- Centro Comercial Maracay on Avenida Miranda 200 m from Calle Mariño. Avenida Miranda is one way.
Many good restaurants can be found along the Las Delicias avenue. Some cheap eats are found in the area of the market near Plaza Bicentenario.
- Hotel Sao Vicente, Avenida Bolivar (near Plaza Bicentenario).
- Hotel Mara, Calle Mariño, singles from 65 Bs.F.
- Hotel Florida, Calle Soublette.
- Hotel Las Americas, Calle Lopez Aveleda.
- Hotel Guayana, Ave Bolivar, near Plaza Bicentenario.
- Princesa Plaza, ☎ . A good mid-range hotel in the city centre, close to Plaza Bolivar. Single room US$41); double US$51.
- Hotel Pipo Internacional, ☎ . Av Principal El Castano, via Choroni. A plush, high rise hotel on the outskirts of Maracay, overlooking the spectacular Henri Pitter National Park.
- Eurobuilding Express, ☎ . A five-star business hotel.
- Italo, ☎ . Mid-range.