Food & Cuisine in Canaima National Park
Ever thought about what you'll eat on your trip to Canaima? The local Pemón Indians simply consume whatever's at hand, which could turn out to be a little too exotic for outsiders, like bugs, for instance. While gingerly tasting a meat dish, you might not be particularly thrilled to know that the spicy sauce contains termites and ants crushed and ground with chillies. Not to worry! The Lost World (so called after a 1912 novel by Arthur Conan Doyle about an expedition to Venezuela) is blessed with a wealth of fish, thanks to its gushing rivers. A popular item is tuma, a spicy fish stew consumed with manioc wafers. Favoured meats are deer and agouti, a cousin to the guinea pig. Dumplings (unfortunately rather high on fat content) and coffee are common breakfast items. For alcohol, the Pemón Indians like to consume kachiri, a manioc root liqueur. Increasingly, the Pemón are taking to cultivating food crops, rather than relying on food grown in the wild.
Prepare to dine in restaurants with stunning views over Canaima Lagoon and the surrounding waterfalls.
A more realistic idea of what to expect of Canaima food and cuisine can be found below. More information on the country's food can be found at our Venezuela restaurant guide. Our guide for local products and other souvenir items is to be found at our Canaima shopping page.
Food & Cuisine in Canaima National Park
Today, Venezuela food and cuisine reflects African and European influences that have seeped in over the centuries and blended with native Indian food. It is also possible to discern Caribbean flavours, cooking methods and ingredients. Generally speaking, Venezuelan food is highly flavoured without being overly spicy. Ingredients like garlic, onions, sweet peppers and coriander are used to bring out the flavours. The staple cereal is corn, usually prepared as several types of pancakes, with wheat coming in a close second.
You'll find several species of fish - trout, red snapper, cazon or baby shark and shellfish varieties like oysters, prawn and clams - being served fried or grilled. Chicken and beef dishes are widely consumed on a daily basis. In some regions, goat meat is preferred, while pork is traditionally reserved for Christmas celebrations.
Lunch is the big meal of the day, between 12 noon and 3 pm. A light supper is taken in the evening at about 8 pm, sometimes a little later.
Caracas has a fairly wide range of restaurants, possibly more than any other South American city. Since the local population consists of several ethnic groups, the hotels and eateries here serve up a variety of cuisines from around the world. Caraqueños enjoy dining out and there's something for everyone's taste, from French, Spanish and Arab cuisines to Chinese and of course, locally popular dishes like Arepas, Pabellón, Cachapa and the mixed grill known as Parrillada Mixta.
Don't go looking for too much variety in the food and cuisine in Canaima National Park's camps. Typically, menus here will feature a limited variety of South American dishes and plenty of fresh fruits. However, the fabulous views the Canaima restaurants boast over Canaima Lagoon and its surrounding waterfalls more than make up for these culinary limitations. The service is friendly, particularly at the Angel Falls restaurant. Since most visitors travel to Canaima on package tours, food is included in the tariff. More dining options are available in Ciudad Bolivar.
Some local dishes are likely to be featured in virtually all Canaima National Park restaurants or elsewhere in Venezuela. Pabellón is the national dish, a shredded meat stew served with rice, black beans and banana. Arepas is a type of bread made of corn flour, water and salt. This ubiquitous, biscuit-like preparation can be found even in the small restaurants of Margarita. Eat it with toppings of virtually anything, from cheese, chicken and ham to jam. Hallaca is an elaborate, traditional Christmas preparation of meat and boiled eggs mixed with cornmeal, wrapped with banana leaves and cooked. Cachapa is a sweet tasting corn pancake served with cheese. Fish, though slightly more expensive, is not to be missed. Fried or grilled, it's wonderfully fresh, tasty and highly recommended.
In general, food is fairly inexpensive in Venezuela, more so in the islands and villages, so enjoy eating out in Canaima. A portion of high-quality, jumbo-sized shrimp costs about $10, while a dozen oysters will set you back by a mere $1! Other fish and shellfish varieties are relatively more expensive. Drinks like beer and local wine are also cheap, at around $3 per bottle.