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CLOCKWISE, FROM T0P LEFT A brown petican winging over Los Roques; relaxing on Cayo Muerto; the dining room at Posada Acuarela;

iust-caught lobster for lunch; a free-form restaurant menu;
lobsters, barracuda, yellowtail, parrot

a

healthy breakfast at Posada La Gotera used for leather dye.) Island life changed
,]950s

fish, tiger fish, sar'vfish, ange1fish, butterfly fish, starfish, and bonefish-to name a few. The schools of minnows are so dense they look like swaying bushes of sea grass.

the sandy pathu'ays. Freshly painted buildir-rgs in bright yellows, purples, and blues turround a plaza wlrere puppies yap at the pedaling feet ofkids on bikes.

when the introductior-r of ice helped n.rake fishing a more viable livelihood, and a lew prominent Venezu-

in the

At

Hungry jumping jacks, pelicans, and sea gulls cause a commotion on the water's
surface as they compete for secor-rd and

tl-re cantinas and two pizza parlors, locals and visitors mingle over cold beer. El Gran Roque isn't even a hvo-horse

elan families built vacation homes, whicl-r they accessed via yachts and private planes. It u'asn't until Italians arrived in

third helpings. Frigate birds, witl-r the
sharp-angled wings of stealth bombers, survey the scene from overhead. Empty

conch shells and piles ofcoral blanket the beach. Boobies, ibis, herons, and sandpipers scurry after crabs and lizards on sand that feels as creany underfoot
as

town: It has neither horses nor cars. A pair of miniature trucks one to deliver water and the other to collect garbage are sometimes spotted, as is a golf cart driven by the mayor. Or-r a rocky hill,
a

the 1990s-first

as

curious adventurers,

then as enterprising posada orvners-that Los Roques became a full-fledged tourist destinatior-r. But even since then, not

much has changed. "lt's ljustl like it was
20 years ago,"
says

white cross that's illuninated at night

Angelo Belvedere, the

and a coral-and-limestone lighthouse stand like sentries over the torvn.
Los Roques has alrvays been isolated.

Sicilian owner of Posada Acr-rarela. "l still
sleep under the stars, smelling the sea air. We are guardiar.rs, fighting every day to eliminate fanything] that rnay damage the

flufly cheesecake.
E1

Gran Roque's seaside airstrip is the

The lowJyir-rg,

near11' treeless islands

size of a Band-Aid. A tail-waggir-rg mutt

often greets arrivals as they disembark, and a sea grape tree offers shade to those waiting to depart. In town, less than a minute's stroll away, about 60 small inns (posadas), each with two to l2 roons, line

never appealed to pirates as hideouts, ar-rd colonists found no use for then. For a time, Dutch traders pillaged the atoll for iinestone, salt, bird droppings (to make fertilizer), and nangroves. (The wood was burned for steamship fuel and its residue

natural equilibrium." In the rnornings, the harbor is a flurry of activity, with fishermen returning from work and beach bums heading out to go bonefishing ancl scuba diving. Posada managers can arrange day trips lor guests

Spring I Summer 20ll ShermansTravel,com/SmartLuxury

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