Small Island, Big Appeal
If turquoise water and a soft island breeze is your idea of a real vacation, Curaçao should rank high on your travel wish list. The “C” of the ABC islands, Curaçao is known for its scenic bays and more than 35 exquisite beaches. Travelers who love water sports and outdoor activities will especially appreciate Curaçao for its heaps of recreation options. With temperatures generally in the mid-80s and trade-winds that fan the heat year-round, this island is a prime vacation destination. Since the island is located outside the hurricane belt, travelers can confidently visit this region of the Caribbean any time of the year.
Curaçao is a self-governing country within the Royal Dutch Kingdom along with sister islands, Aruba and Bonaire. Its main port town, Willemstad, is rich in history and dons an Old-World European vibe. This is where the illustrious rows of brightly painted Dutch colonial buildings exist and where most of the island’s tourists visit.
The first notable feature of Curaçao is the warm and friendly nature of its people. It’s a society that encourages personal empowerment and tolerance. There are more than 55 cultures represented on this tiny island, so diversity and inclusion are highly valued. Most of the locals speak at least four languages, which makes it easy for travelers to converse with nearly everyone. The native language spoken by most is Papiamentu, which is a blend of Spanish and Dutch. English is widely used as well. In addition, Dutch, French and a variety of other dialects are popular across all three ABC Islands. Listening to locals speak with each other is a symphonic experience as they often slip in and out of numerous languages during one conversation.
Curaçaoans have a distinct epicurean palate. Seafood is fresh and widely available, as are local dishes such as ostrich and goat burgers. City restaurants serve dishes influenced by the island’s mostly Dutch and Afro-Caribbean cuisines. Plantains are a fundamental ingredient at every meal.
Curaçao’s landscape is primarily desert with hundreds of species of cacti strewn throughout its dry terrain. During the months that other Caribbean islands experience torrential rains, Curaçao enjoys an arid, warm climate. The trade-off is noticeable in the topography as the island is not the stereotypical tropical vista with lush palm trees that glisten in the sunlight, but its dry landmass is scenic, nonetheless.
Hotels range in style from Old World to contemporary décor, and beachfront resorts enable ocean lovers to make the most of their days on the island. Oasis Coral Estate is located on the West Coast in Banda Abou, known for the most beautiful beaches in Curaçao. This exceptional property features a spa and wellness center, several beautiful pools, a rooftop bar and a seaside restaurant on the sand.
Scuba Lodge Boutique Hotel and Ocean Suites features apartments with one, two or three bedrooms, ideal for family travel or a girlfriend getaway. It’s centrally located so visitors can play in the ocean and hit the town center at their convenience. There’s a dive center on site, and expert instructors are available for lessons for novice and experienced divers. There is an oceanfront restaurant and bar open seven days a week– the best part is the entire property is situated directly on the sand.
There are more than 60 unique diving and snorkeling sites around the island. Coral reefs exist along the coast adding to the majestic ocean views. Beaches vary in size from small secluded beaches to popular long stretches.
When out of the water, there’s plenty to do in town. Visitors can rent bikes and ride through town or walk across the floating Queen Emma Bridge which connects the Punda and Otrobanda neighborhoods over Sint Anna Bay. Museums tell stories of the island’s heritage and oceanic environment. The Curaçao Sea Aquarium is home to stingrays, sea lions and sea turtles, and features an interactive touch tank. The Kura Hulanda Museum has exhibits outlining the history of the African slave trade, as well as cultural relics and Caribbean art. Shopping for artifacts, local finger-food, souvenirs, handmade clothing and crafts is a favorite activity as well.
Street art tours are available, many times by the artists who created the work, such as Garric Marchena. Considered the originator of the remarkable street art movement in Curaçao, Marchena’s work holds personal significance and celebrates the island’s evolution. Other artists, many trained by Marchena, have left their artistic marks on structures throughout Curaçao as well.
Chichi® Curaçao, founded by Serena Israel, is a painting workshop open to the public. Chi Chi is known as the wise elder sister in Papiamentu – she is a handmade Caribbean figure that visitors can hand-paint and take home as a souvenir representing the traditions of Curaçao. The interactive outdoor setting affords the opportunity to make new friends as creative juices flow, or it can be an experience of solitude and mindfulness as guests paint the Chi Chi however they choose.
Andrew Kirchner, known as the “Recycled Artist,” has turned recycling into an art form. After experiencing a traumatic personal injury that nearly destroyed him, he created “2nd Life Curaçao,” a movement that underscores the value of second chances in both life and waste. “2nd chances are created by using products that can be recycled and passed on to their next cycle in life,” Kirchner explains, “We live by the 3 R’s; Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.”
Curaçao’s people are wholly committed to saving our planet, and a great deal of attention is given to socio-ecological efforts. Recycling is a huge movement on the island, and the use of biodegradable products is encouraged. Kirchner, a leader in the sustainability focus on the island, tells stories with functional art utilizing material that would otherwise go to waste.
Although it’s a small island, Curaçao delivers huge options for travelers who either seek an active getaway or a secluded respite. Both alternatives are sure to offer a memorable experience that will be cherished lifelong.
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