“Bon Bini”! Welcome to the hidden gem of the Caribbean Sea, Curacao Island. Curacao is one of the ABC islands off the Venezuela coast which includes Aruba and Bonaire. This exquisite island situated to the south of the Caribbean Sea flaunts clear turquoise waters, sparkling sand beaches, colorful architecture, exotic cuisines and friendly locals.
Curacao has a tropical climate, with dry months from January to September and the wet season from October to December. All round the year there prevails a warm sunny climate with occasional showers and cool trade winds blowing through the island. Dutch is the official language of the island but English and Spanish is also predominantly spoken here apart from Papiamentu, the native language of the region. Those who want to travel by air can arrive at the Hato International Airport or they can arrive by sea at one of the two docking spots for cruise ships, Curacao Mega Pier or the Curacao Cruise Terminals. Once you arrive at the undiscovered island you can get around with rented cars, taxis, buses or even ferries.
The best way to start discovering the place is at the heart of island itself, its capital, Willemstad. Willemstad is one of the world’s richest cities in terms of diversity and culture. For that reason the port is one of the six UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Caribbean to preserve its unique European-African heritage. The city has several walkways which you can use to explore it. It has a multitude of small markets bustling with vendors which attract numerous shoppers. You can also enjoy a mid-day meal at an outdoor café that sprawl the city and maybe get to know a few of the locals who love to socialize with visitors. St Anne’s Bay divides Willemstad into two districts, Punda on the east and Otrobanda on the west.
At Punda you will find the magnificent Fort Amsterdam which was built by the Dutch for protection when they had captured the city in the 1600s. In the present day the fort has duty free shops and restaurants and also acts as the Government’s Palace. Another well-known fort is Fort Nassau built on top of the hill to protect St Anne’s Bay and a part of the city. The fort is open to visitors and sports a restaurant that overlooks the bay. The ‘Floating Market’ in Punda is renowned for fresh produce and fish that it sells in mini boat fleets that comes all the way from Venezuela. Otrobanda, “The Other Side” is similar to Punda with its Dutch influenced architecture with an upbeat bold palette and lavish mansions with members of high social standing living here. The Queen Emma Bridge that connects the two districts is a must see. Also known as the “Swinging Old Lady” it swings open to allow ships to pass by. At night the bridge can be seen in all its grandeur with its new vivid lights. It is hard to miss the Queen Juliana Bridge which is one of the highest bridges in the world, with a stunning view around the city of Willemstad.
It would be a sin to miss the breath taking beaches of Curacao. The long stretches of white sand along the crystal clear waters are known for its world class diving and snorkeling experience. Pleasant currents and excellent visibility makes it easier to see the brightly colored corals and the vast collection of marine life. Beaches such as Alice in Wonderland, Big Knip, Little Knip, Mambo Beach, Barbara Beach have several dive centers, restaurants, hotels and are recognized for their nightlife bashes. For those of you who are bold enough to hit the waves, apart from diving and snorkeling you can also try windsurfing and para sailing. Mountain biking, rock climbing and rappelling are a few adrenaline packed adventure sports that you could attempt. On the other hand there are additional sports that are comparatively relaxed but nonetheless exciting like jeep safaris, sea kayaking, horseback riding, fishing and even golfing. You can visit the unique Hato Caves formed after the sea level dropped from coral and lime stones. Beautiful stalactites and stalagmites are found here along with water pools and a waterfall.
The cuisine of Curacao is a blend of various cuisines from around the world such as Dutch, Spanish, and Indonesia. You can try the delicious authentic local food at a variety of restaurants found all over the region. Dishes like Bami (Long noodles with vegetables and meat), Kabritu (Stewed goat), Rijsttafel (Table serving rice with up to twenty accompanying dishes), KeshiYana (Stuffed cheese-one of Curacao’s most popular dishes) and Sunchi (Meringue “kisses”) will definitely leave your taste buds tingling and mouth salivating. Curacao is also celebrated for its annual carnivals in which all the locals participate with vigor. The carnival routes keep varying every year but they definitely pass through Otrobanda so make sure you book your hotel around that area and arrive early to catch a good spot. You can join the carnival and dance along with the friendly citizens adorned in colorful costumes in the brightly decorated streets. If you get to join the parade then don’t miss the chance as it will be an experience you will never forget.
Curacao is an island where the old meets the new. Its ancient European charm makes the place unique. The country’s culture and beauty leaves you overwhelmed and wanting for more. At the same time all the activities taking place here makes it such a bustling and exciting area. Curacao is definitely the heart of the Caribbean Sea, real and different.