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Flying into Curaçao, I did not realize how close this Netherlands Antilles island was to South America - so close, than when I left the country, I could see the coastline of Venezuela before we banked north toward Miami. At the Floating Market in Willemstad I discovered that I could literally taste Venezuela and Columbia. Fresh fruits and vegetables come in over water on the Caribbean and are part of what makes the boats and market so colorful in Curaçao. This island country, where most residents speak three to four languages, has fantastic international flair. With a stable economy and educated population, Curaçao still depends on neighborly imports and the tourists that other countries provide and boasts of Dutch colonial architecture to add another unique aspect to the island that cannot be found on many other places in the Caribbean.
If you’re looking to get away from the beautiful beaches for an afternoon, then be sure to include the Curacao Ostrich Farm in your travel plans. Originally started by expats from Namibia, today the Ostrich farm is one of the top tourist sites on Curacao. At the farm ostriches are raised as an alternative meat source and as an attraction in their own right. Every hour a safari truck takes guests around the farm where they can see, touch and feed these beautiful birds and learn more about them in the process. Along the way you’ll also see emus, crocodiles and a few pot-bellied pigs. Afterwards be sure to eat at the farm’s restaurant for a classic African style lunch.
The Curacao Marriott Beach Resort may be one of the best located hotels I’ve ever been to. Situated on a private beach in Piscadera Bay, the resort feels like the height of secluded and elegant resorts. It’s also a short three-mile drive from the capital of Curacao, Willemstad; the free shuttle delivering guests to the heart of this colorful city. Whether or not you’re looking to just lounge by the pool or get out and explore the island, the Marriott makes it easy to do it all.
Equally brilliant to the Dutch colonial cityscape of Willemstad, Curaçao during the day is the view across the water at night. This cruise port city knows how to attract tourists and keep them fascinated with bright lights! A fairly safe and easily navigable town, Willemstad has plenty of delights during the day and late into the evening.
My trip to Curaçao was a reprieve from too much overtime and a desire to warm up while checking out the scenery under the water to my heart's content. I arrived at Blue Bay with a group from my hotel for a day of sun soaked snorkeling - and I was not disappointed when I saw my first octopus! One of the couples who I was with kindly gave me the tip of the day: to walk past the beach to a small jetty of huts. What a fantastically beautiful place to put my feet in the sand, snorkel a bit, watch the lizards show their turquoise color while I took in my own sort of sun-saturated color, and STAY all day!
Just think, the only real thing that gets in the way of a great swim is the need to come up for air. Snorkeling is great in Curaçao, but the diving is even better. Exploring an airplane wreck will have you humming the Indiana Jones theme song, and at Punt'i Piku, the huge (harmless) Baracuda take your breath away. There’s so much to do on this island, but you could spend the entire week just diving. It’s a swimmer’s fantasy come true.
The most relaxing day in Curacao was the day we spent in a rental car driving the entire island in search of small beaches we could have to ourselves. We found so much more than beaches. We found restaurants, piers and fishing docks. This was one of the most beautiful sights of the day. It was a quiet pier just waiting for us to find. The water was the most stunning color. I could have spent the entire 10 days in Curacao sitting on this pier.
Carnival is a month long reason to have a good time. It’s a street party. It’s theatre. It’s history, food and folklore. It’s music that gets into your skin until you find your hips starting to move as if they had their own set of batteries. This image is a favorite. At first glance, you’re wowed by the intense grace of this woman in her elaborate costume. She’s bursting with passion. But then you notice the woman standing behind her, and it shows you another side of the locals. Simply put, she is just doing her thing, enjoying being part of the spectacle. She’s not taking it too seriously – she’s just having fun with it. She is a reminder of the inner peace you find in island living and the reason to come to Curaçao in the first place. To breath and let loose!
I decided to take a break from the tourism of Curacao and find a secluded beach to relax and wade around in the crystal clear waters. I found this tiny beach where at certain points of the day we were the only two on the beach. It was so quiet, so serene and so beautiful I fell in love and it is still the best beach I've ever been to.
Local dish, Keshi Yena, which is Papiamentu for stuffed cheese, touts a long history dating back to its 17th century origin during the Caribbean slave trade. Dutch settlers would toss the scraps of their Edam or Gouda cheese, which you recognize by its red wax covering, and plantation cooks would salvage the rind, soak it, stuff it with leftovers, and bake the ensemble to make a meal. Today we get an upgrade on the once slave fare at the best restaurants on Curaçao, still stuffed, but now refined with ingredients like capers, local spices, raisins, or spicy peppers. It’s a cheese lover’s hearty fantasy. Mmmm cheese…
Curacao was the perfect blend of relaxation, sightseeing, beaches, culture and adventure. And there's nothing quite as iconic to represent my trip than the view of Willemstad from across the water. Queen Emma Bridge will take you to the vibrant buildings and it is actually a floating bridge made up of boats that swings open and closed like a door to let barges pass. It's beautiful to see and even more pleasant to walk around, shop and eat.
There are lots of great museums and historical attractions in Curacao, but none harbor near as many secrets nor as many tasty goodies as this place. You’re looking at the famed Chobolobo Mansion on the grounds of the even more famed Curacao of Curacao Liqueur Factory in the capital city of Willemstad. This is the Mecca for one of the most unlikely and longest-running success stories in the annals of Caribbean alcohol… Just don’t go there expecting you’ll hear the whole story…
The building itself dates to 1737, when the first of what would turn out to be several homes was built on this spot. Over the years, many different families made memories here. In the late-1960′s it was sold to a local historical preservation group that restored and maintained the old building during the 70′s and 80′s. Finally, in 2001, the current owners came along, bringing with them the De Gouverneur name and restaurant concept, which ranks among the best in all of Curacao. Amazingly, they stock 50 different rums! And not just any rums either. The who’s who list includes Mount Gay Extra Old, Brugal Añejo, Ron Zacapa XO and Solera 23, Pampero Aniversario, Appleton Estate 12 Year Old, Flor de Caña four, seven and 18 Year Old, and even Angostura 1824! This is easily the very best selection of rum on Curacao.
You came to the island to relax, but after two days of lying on the beach you begin to feel guilty you’re missing out on something. Learning to dive has always required commitment it seems. Maybe you have always wanted to try it but weren’t sure you’d love it? Time to get off the beach, lazy bum, and try a mini-submarine! Whereas health concerns can restrict certain people from diving due to pressure changes in the body, this is not the case with a mini-submarine adventure. What’s more, you’ll be able to boast that you submerged to 1000 feet, greater depths than most most divers can reach. Crystal clear waters, colorful fish and coral – you’ll finally learn what all the hubbub is about. We promise we won’t tease you when you return to the island next year, your scuba gear in tow.
Say Curaçao, or kur-a-sow, and your mind’s eye points you promptly to this blue-colored liqueur. And you are correct! But not many people know its namesake is the island it comes from. Most necessary fun fact for your trip to the Caribbean’s best kept secret: this liqueur is produced from a very bitter orange, unpalatable even to the indiscriminate wild goats of the island. The Laraha orange originates from the succulent Valencia orange brought over by the Spaniards in the 15th century. The different soil and climate produced this mutant fruit from which a beautiful fragrance was discovered of the oil from its dried peel. Authentic Curaçao liqueur can only be produced from the oranges that grow on this island.
The capital city of Curacao, Willemstad, is world-famous for it many colorful buildings set along the beautiful waterfront. Originally painted to minimize glare from the harsh tropical sun, today the colors are more for show than health benefits. Be sure to explore the Punda district of town, one of the oldest and home to the majority of fully resorted, period buildings. The architecture here is amazing, so be sure to look up as you stroll through the streets and narrow laneways that make up the Punda area.
This exemplary young goat, roaming free in Curaçao, posed for such a picturesque photograph - his white fur blending in unison with the wall beneath him. He thought he had almost made his chameleon escape. Thanks to the contrasting emerald and turquoise waters behind him, we caught the moment. Traditionally, when one defines this island as colorful, it’s the vibrant colonial buildings of Handelskade in Willemstad that come to mind. But it’s moments like these that demonstrate the origin of the colors that the Caribbean is known for, in nature.
Have you ever slept out under the stars? You may remember wishing you could sleep with your eyes open, to take in all that beauty without pause, all night long. It’s the same feeling you get on Curaçao, where eating outside at every meal is possible. Feet in the sand, cool breeze on the cheeks, and the most stunning views of the water, just steps away. It gets you wondering if you could go in for a quick dip between courses. Would that be rude? Not here!
Curacao really is one of the most beautiful islands I've ever visited. It has culture, history, beaches, diving, local crafts, restaurants and more. If you went simply for the views you'd be satisfied.
The Ethnic diversity of Curaçao is impressive. Consider its location, just off the tip of Venezuela, Caribbean gateway to Latin America, and its rich history of diverse colonization. This adds up to the veritable multicultural melting pot it is today. Dutch is the official language, but the local creole (or Papiamentu) is a mixture of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French, English, and Arawak Indian. However, it’s when you learn that Papiamentu is spoken by everyone, rich and poor, that images of Eden are conjured in the mind. It is an integral part of the island’s identity. It’s certainly a paradise for linguists, tickled to decipher the origins of different words and phrases. Here are two excellent examples to learn before you go. Thank you is danki, which comes from the Dutch dank u, and you’re welcome is di nada from the Spanish de nada. That kind of harmony between Germanic and Latin languages is enough to bring out the word nerd in anyone!
Chu, born Jesus Zimmerman (fantastic name, so characteristic of Curaçao’s diverse heritage) is manager at Netto bar, a famous local hangout on the island. Built almost 60 years ago by Ernesto Koster, called Netto by everyone, this is Curaçao’s very own Cheers, where people come from all over for good times, good music, and good drinks. Just one look at this man and you know he will have as many stories to tell you about island life as the collection of images on the walls have to show you.
After a day of driving around the entire island of Curacao I was ready for some fresh seafood and a relaxing seat by the ocean. I found a tiny hole in the wall restaurant where I sampled conch, fresh fish and shrimp. This picture was my view from the tiny table I was relaxing at. Washing it all down with a cold beer was a great way to end my day of exploration.
This row of colorful buildings is the indisputable calling card for Curaçao. After you’ve wistfully returned home from your trip to the island, you catch yourself at the hardware store eyeing the paint color swatches, toying with the idea of painting your house either mango, magenta or hot pink flamingo, and you realize it’s true. That combination of colors coupled with the Dutch colonial architecture is just so pleasing. You finally settle on peppermint patty, but you aren’t sure anymore if the neighbors would be able to handle all that color. And so, to vanquish your nostalgia, you settle on the easier and more satisfying solution: plan for Curaçao again next year!
Bask in the beauty of the brilliant pastels of Curacao while walking across the Queen Emma Bridge. Just be aware-this "Pontoon Bridge" swings open across the water to welcome ships into port.
Lesson number one for the experiential traveler: get your bearings as soon as you hit the ground, especially on an island so manageable in size. Curaçao is only about 40 miles long and 10 miles wide. Roaming through the flat, rugged terrain, weaving through many an inlet with the limestone cliffs in view and the wind at your back, you will find your sense of adventure here. These yellow jeeps make guided safari trips supercharged with priceless insight on the flora and fauna of the land. Some favorite moments include a visit to Brua cave, ancient escape slave hideout and, of course, the excellent drive through the Christoffel Park nature preserve, where you may spot unique animal and plant species like the White Tailed deer (only 250 remain), or, in an area exclusive to park rangers, beautiful wild orchids.
by Heidi Mitchell When the Dutch settled the town of Willemstad, Curaçao in the 17th century, they brought with them their architectural penchant for gabled rooftops and colorful facades. Despite the salty air and occasional hurricanes, the buildings have survived in picture-book condition. Walk past the impeccably preserved pastel-hued storefronts of the Handelskade, where the windows reflect the Caribbean Sea. Then pop into the Mikvé Israël-Emanuel Synagogue, the oldest continuously operating synagogue in the Western Hemisphere, erected in 1692. Don’t miss the Hotel Kura Hulanda (877-264-3106, kurahulanda.com), a preservation project led by Dutch native and philanthropist Jacob Gelt Dekker. What was once a run-down neighborhood is now an 18th-century town frozen in time, eight city blocks with 80 rooms and a profusion of hand-painted walls, carved teak beds, and gentle bay breezes. Photo by Wyatt Gallery. This story appeared in the November/December 2011 issue.
I visited the Curacao Sea Aquarium to swim with the dolphins and it was an incredible day. The dolphin show was the perfect warm up before entering the water with these larger than life mammals. It is very intimidating entering terrain that isn't yours with massive creatures swimming towards you. But the trainers were so helpful and the dolphins were very inviting and interactive.
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