The island of Coche is the kind of spot you almost donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to tell anyone about. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s so remote and low key very few people know about the beauty and kiting potential. Every year when the PKRA stops by to host an event, the word spreads a little more about this flat water kiting paradise. Coche is becoming a world class kite spot and the word is spreading fast!
The tranquil island of Coche is located 24 miles off the coast of Venezuela and just a short 20 minute ferry ride across from the larger island of Margarita. (See Map)
With direct flights to Margarita from Europe now, traveling with overstuffed gear bags is becoming easier. Most major airlines will fly into Caracas, Venezuela. From there a short 30 minute flight will take you to Porlamar. These quick flights leave every two or three hours and cost around $60-80US each way. Kites and board bags are usually allowed at no extra charge. From the Porlamar airport, hop a taxi to El Yaque for 25,000 Bolivars ($12US) then head to the Yaque Paradise Hotel to check the ferry schedule and buy a ticket for the next boat to Coche. The ferry from El Yaque Paradise Hotel services Coche island almost every 2 hours of the day from sunrise to sunset. The cost each way is 15,000 Bolivars ($8US).
The dependable South Eastern trade wind blows constantly and is much stronger in the daytime when accompanied by the thermal winds which start around 2.00pm. In peak season the average is around 18 knots and winds regularly exceeds 25 knots in the afternoon. The peak season for wind is December through June. On the "average" day you can expect to be flying a 12 meter kite.
UK pro rider Christian Valentine owns and operates a cabana right in front of the launch called Coche Kite Sports. (DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t let his warm personality and outgoing island spirit fool you Ã¢â‚¬â€œ on a kite, he rips!) ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a beach oasis stocked with bean bag chairs, lounge tables and a back-ache saving air compressor. Serving up snacks, cold beers and smooth music, this truly is the center of the Coche kite scene. (Pic Below)
Winds donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t usually kick up until the mid afternoon allowing local riders to sleep off their late hangovers. 12-16 meter kites fill the sky for much of the mornings and then around 2pm you realize why Coche is a world class draw. The thermals kick up and the fun begins. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a given that there are usually a couple pros riding around for added inspiration. Pro riders Cesar Portas, Leo Estredo and Bertrand Fleury put on a clinic right in front of me, going huge and making it look effortless. Afterwards, they can be found chilling at the kite shack recharging while waiting for another epic session.
The buttery flat water combined with a reliable offshore wind attracts professional riders from all over the world. During my 2 week stay I meet five pro riders and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m sure there were more that I never noticed. How many people can make that claim at their local spot? Even the local kids from El Yaque that are barely 16 years of age are boosting ultra smooth 20 foot spins and board offs. Even the women were ripping. Bertrand is building a slider park on the far end of the bay in Punta Playa for the PKRA event in the end of April. The sliders and kickers will remain out in the bay until the event culminates the first of May. (Pending coast guard intervention.)
After enduring too many windless months in California I decided on Coche as the best place to break into this sport. There a few choices for kiteboard lessons on the island. I chose Sky Riders (http://www.myskyriders.com
) located on the beach right next to Coche Paradise Hotel. Three quick sessions with a young energetic girl named Celia and I was up riding both ways. A quick 30 minute session pushed me a few hundred meters offshore. Luckily, local fishing boats trail riders in the outer waters and fish out newbies that canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t yet stay upwind. For a $5 fee they bring you back to the launch saving you an impossible swim. Offshore winds make learning a tough task and unlike the local mantra, Coche is not an ideal place for beginners. To take advantage of the flat waters Coche is renowned for, you must stay upwind near the shore. However, seasoned riders with upwind ability will be spoiled like no other. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s basically a kiteboard wet dream come to life.
At this stage you have some decisions to make. Do you want convenience or luxury. Lodging in Margarita offers numerous high end all inclusive hotels, while Coche offers convenience and localized tranquility. Decide accordingly. I chose a spot one mile up the beach from the launch in the town of San Pedro. Alex Battistini runs a kite hostel for travelers and kiters looking for the rustic Coche experience. $20 a night will get you a home cooked breakfast, dinner, and all the cold beer you can guzzle. In addition to running the hostel with his wife Maria, Alex is a tour guide and knows nearly everyone on the island. If you have questions about the area, he has the answers.
http://www.planetwindsurf.com/destinati ... hotels.asp
The vibe on Coche is laid back and mellow. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the perfect place for either a ride-every-day-until-your-arms-fall-off session, or just to bring the wife or girl friend and enjoy a few mellow days while you share quality time. If you arrive with the right attitude, ready to absorb all the local flavors, your visit will be unforgettable.
Local Knowledge / Tips
- Store all of your kite gear in a locker at the Coche Kite Center cabana right on kite beach. Lockers rent for 10,000 Bolivars per day ($5) but will save you the hassle of lugging your gear to and from the beach, especially if you stay in El Yaque.
- The only internet access on Coche island is atop the hill at the police office. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s free to use for 30 minutes.
- Bring your own waterproof sunblock and mosquito repellent.
- No need to bring Booties or foot protection. Unlike neighboring Caribbean islands, there are no coral reefs in Coche. The ocean floor is soft squishy sand.
- Learn some basic Spanish phrases and words before you leave. The locals are very friends yet many donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t speak any English.
- Bring enough money for your entire trip. Getting to the bank in Porlamar from Coche will cost you around $50. The cash machines in the airport and in the city will most likely be empty or out of order. If you need cash, you need to go to a bank. Bring cash and travelers checks (preferably in US dollars). Currency can be exchanged in nearly all the hotels in El Yaque and at the Coche Paradise Hotel.