Curacao, Netherlands Antilles is a small island 40 miles off the northern coast of Venezuela. It’s a part of an island chain known as the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao)
When I was looking for a winter getaway, I Googled safe, warm, Caribbean destinations. Curacao was the first place that came up in my search, and the more I read about it, the more I knew it would be perfect for us.
Curacao (pronounced Korso by the locals), is the least known of the ABC islands. It’s out of the hurricane belt, so the weather is predictable year round. The trade winds blow continually, so even with its close proximity to the equator, the heat isn’t stifling or overwhelming.
The main languages are English, Dutch and Papiamentu (the local Creole language which is a combination of Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, English, French, with Arawak Indian and African influences)
The local currency is the Dutch Guelder, but the US Dollar is widely accepted, and often preferred.
We booked a 2-week vacation at the Marriott Beach Resort, just a 10-minute drive from Willemstad, the capital city of the island. The hotel was stunning, with open air lobbies and corridors, impeccably-maintained grounds, an infinity pool, 2 hot-tubs, and the private beach just steps away from the lobby. There was also a dive shop on the property and snorkeling opportunities right off one of the piers.
This smaller resort had the feel of a boutique hotel. The staff were friendly and accommodating, and our room overlooked the azure Caribbean Sea. This hotel is currently undergoing a major renovation – to the tune of an 18 month closure. We snooped around other resorts and hotels while we we were there, and decided that when we returned, we’d once again book at the Marriott. It’ll be exciting to see what the renovation adds to the hotel and property.
Our mornings were spent enjoying coffee and a light breakfast on our balcony, and then beaching and swimming until noon. In the afternoons, we headed in to Willemstad via either hotel shuttle or taxi, to explore the city by walking, or to do some tours. We felt completely safe strolling on the streets and even in the alleys of Willemstad. When we went to the city, we often stayed late into the evenings, to dine at one of the array of great restaurants, to try our luck at one of the many casinos, or to enjoy drinks and entertainment at the Rif Fort. Because we stayed later than the shuttle, we always taxied back to the resort. We also booked a couple of tours through our hotel desk, and those tour buses picked us up at the hotel lobby entrance.
Curacao is rich in history and culture. We enjoyed a day at the Kura Hulanda museum, another at the Sea Aquarium where we experienced Substation Curacao (covered in another blog post), an East-West Island tour with many great stops, and visited the numerous art galleries, shops, and open-air markets Willemstad had to offer.
The Kura Hulanda museum was one of the most well-presented museums I’ve ever visited. Despite the fact that it chronicles Curacao’s dark history in the slave trade, it was both disturbing and interesting at the same time, and we learned many truths that we were never taught in school.
Here was a local parade we lucked upon one afternoon.
The Queen Emma floating pontoon bridge separates Willemstad into 2 districts, Punda and Otrobanda. The cover photo for this post is the Otrobanda side. With it’s Dutch Colonial architecture, it has a European feel and several buildings are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
This is me on the Queen Emma bridge, with the Punda side in the background. An alarm sounds to let pedestrians know that the bridge is about to swing open to allow an ocean vessel to pass through. Because it’s a walking bridge, you can see people running for the bridge to catch it before it swings open.
We spent an afternoon at the Gallery Alma Blou (Papiementu for Gallery of the Blue Soul). This is the oldest and largest art Gallery on the Island with offerings from local and other Caribbean artists, both indoors and out.
We enjoyed many wonderful meals – many with fresh caught sea-food, (truly the best fish I’ve ever tasted), as well as some steak dinners with Argentinian beef (almost as good as Canadian beef, but then I’m a bit biased). We asked where the best place was for local food, as that’s always a great part of a travel experience for us, and we were directed to the Plasa Bieu. Here, local dishes are cooked on big grills and in stew pots by local women. Iguana stew anyone?
We spent another afternoon at Shete Boca National Park, where the volcanic origins of the island were apparent in the rugged turf of the park.
We toured Senior and Co. This is the place where Curacao Liquor is made and bottled for shipment all over the world. There were samples available of the various flavors, and, of course, you could purchase your favorites.
My photos and experiences are too numerous to mention here. Suffice it to say that even in 2 weeks, we didn’t see everything this amazing little island has to offer. We know we’ll return and would recommend it to anyone wishing to experience a unique Caribbean getaway that can be as busy or as laid-back as you like.
Bon Bini means “Welcome!” in Papiementu and welcome is exactly how we felt no matter where we went on this gem of an Island Paradise!
There’s definitely healing properties to being in proximity to the ocean and that breeze. There’s something about that Caribbean climate and humidity. Johnny Depp