Some would say that this is one of the Caribbean’s best kept secrets. I may not confirm such statement, but I can say it is a colourful, modern one where you feel safe at any time and that offers plenty to do for all kinds of travellers.
I was lured by this island by simply seeing some photos of its UNESCO-recognized old Willemstad some years ago. But the island has much more to offer than some nice colonial Dutch houses.
To get there try KLM if you are coming from Europe or Delta from US. For flights between islands, if you want to experience more (as I did J) – InselAir is the airline to use.
When I say Curaçao some words pop out: peace, paradise, divine food, nightlife, vibrant, cocktails (of course, the famous blue curacao), children friendly, diving.
Main reasons for going there still remain the sun and beaches. The island is outside the hurricane belt so sunny weather all year long with averages of 25-30 degrees.
And what beaches you can find – the island has approx. 30 white sand beaches, without considering the private ones of the grand resorts.
Really, I cannot put in words how wonderful I felt when I had my first sunrise there… the tranquility… the freedom of mind. Imagine just agitated waves, gentle wind and birds trill (no traffic, no people talking, no deadlines) – what could you wish more? and clearly I have no words for the sunset.
My favorite beaches are Cas Abao and Mambo. For both of them you have to pay entrance but they offer all facilities. I have to admit that I also loved the private beach Curacao Marriott Beach Resort & Emerald Casino offers. They are the typical white sand – palm trees – clear turquois water. For free more secluded beaches you have to go towards Westpunt and you find on your way: Klein Knip, Groot Knip, Playa Jeremi. You also have to go towards Westpunt for diving sites. Be sure to watch the sunset on the beach as many times as you can as it is amazing.
The climate is dry so the only vegetation comes from palm trees, cacti and mangroves – no Bali-like scenery. When it comes to other living creatures, you will most probably encounter iguanas, lizards, goats and sheep. When it comes to beauty, on the island you can find the Flamingo Sanctuary Sint Willibrordus – flamingos are my favorite birds ever (this time I did not manage to visit the sanctuary, but if I ever return to Curaçao, this will be a first stop). It wasn’t a priority now as I have just seen them in freedom in Bonaire (I will talk about this experience soon). I just love them.
Coming back to the historic Willemstad – the UNESCO World Heritage Site this is indeed a remarkable place, a small town full of colonial houses in different colors, boutique hotels and amazing restaurants (see the culinary experience here but don’t worry a foodie has a place in Curaçao – my favourite one – Kome. Queen Emma Bridge or “Swinging Old Lady” offers the most spectacular view of the colonial houses but also take your time and take a tour of Willemstad streets – you will not regret it. Floating Market & Plaza Bieu are a must if you want to enjoy local experiences.
There are several diving sites for the ones who want to explore the underwater world.
Children find their place on the island as there is a Sea Aquarium and a Dolphin Academy – I did not try it, but you can swim with dolphins if this is something you would like to do… (the natural pool looks amazing, you should consider the costs, maybe check in at the Academy for special packages with swimming sessions included).
…and when it comes to local experience, the February carnival is the cherry on the top. Locals and not only prepare for this grand event and participate to all parades. Music, costumes, colors, vibrant mood, happy people, smiles this is what you get in exchange of watching the different cars pass for approx. 2 hours. You can watch it from main town or go towards the airport if you want to see how local wait for this event (drinking and eating the food brought from home). I enjoyed it really much… so, if you can, try to plan your trip so as to be in Curaçao in February.
Just to sum up … Don’t forget to drink the famous Blue Curaçao at its mother so to say J the best I had was at Mundo Bizaro and buy a bottle of Curaçao liqueur on your way home as remembering of the precious moments you lived there.
- Getting there:
You should know that it is easy to get to Curaçao, its International Airport receives daily flights from all over the world, but mainly from US. As in the case of the other two ABC islands (Aruba & Bonaire) the main visitors are from US and Netherlands. Let’s not forget that the ABC islands were all colonies under the Kingdom of Netherlands and are still related to it.
European travelers can easily fly KLM (if you book your flight when promotions are in place you may get the round ticket for approx. 650 EUR, at least from Bucharest). For EU citizens, there are no visa requirements but you need a valid passport with 3 month validity term after the estimated return date.
InselAir gives you the possibility to travel around the Caribbean at good prices but be aware that they change the flights without proper notification or excuses. So, always check your flights and read well the emails you receive from them (if you receiveL). There is also a fee – airport surcharge – for all InselAir outbound flights from Curaçao, depending on where you are travelling. For Aruba it was 20$ – consider arriving 1 ½ hours earlier – not 2-3 as they say as you have nothing to do in the airport – not that crowded and there is not much shopping to do.
There is no public transportation and a rented car seems to remain the only alternative if you want to explore the island. There are sidewalks in Willemstad so you can take long walks but I couldn’t identify a proper bicycle route. The walk from the high rise hotels to Willemstad is not a very pleasant one. Walking on the streets of Willemstad is wonderful. So, I rented a car one day (approx. 50$ / day with Budget Rent a Car, made the reservation one day prior) and did a tour of the island. When renting the car 24 hours are considered so try to connect your rental with your flight – either take it from the airport or leave it there because the airport taxi is 25$, 35$ or even more one way, depending on the distance and you can make some savings.
I stayed 6 days on the island in two different hotels: one right in the center of Willemstad (no sandy beaches – only pool – Saint Tropez Apartments & Suites – best location and at Curacao Marriott Beach Resort & Emerald Casino that had an amazing private beach. Unfortunately, I would say that they are not worth it. They both need renovation. The overall image is ok, but when you go into details you will be disappointed. Service is also not the best one.
Languages: No problems at this chapter. They speak various languages: English, Dutch, Spanish – so you can easily communicate.
Payment in dollars, in some places you might receive the change in local currency, but most places have POS.
Shopping: I didn’t go there for shopping, so I cannot detail on such experience but apparently you can do high class shopping if that is what you are looking for – there were plenty of famous brands. I like to buy local stuff when visiting a place and for such I only returned with a bottle of Curaçao liqueur and some skin products based on aloe vera – Curaloe.