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.
This story appeared in the November/December 2011 issue.