Margarita Island, which sits about 39 kilometers (25 miles) off the coast of Venezuela at the southern end of the Caribbean, is one of the most popular vacation spots in the country. Porlamar, the largest city, is accessible from the mainland by ferry, while cruise ships arrive at El Guamache, near the town of Punta de Piedras. Most visitors make a beeline for one of the many white-sand beaches—there are an estimated 50 in all—that ring the island, such as Playa El Agua and Playa Parguito. However, Margarita also has an interesting history, and traces of it can be found everywhere: Pearls were long plentiful, making the island coveted by both the Spanish and pirates. The wildlife-rich wetlands of Laguna de La Restinga National Park are worth exploring, especially if you have an interest in bird-watching. Porlamar may be the biggest city on the island, but the capital is much-smaller La Asunción, located in the mountains just outside Porlamar. Both cities have centuries-old fortresses and other buildings, including the 17th-century San Carlos de Borromeo Fortress in Porlamar, which defended residents from pirates, and La Asunción's Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, the oldest church in the country.