In the Southern Carribean lie a few small islands that form the remnants of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Once a vast empire, it now consists of The Netherlands and the tropical islands of Curaçao, Aruba and Sint Maarten.
Curaçao is the biggest of the three and a popular tourist destination for mainly Dutch and American holiday makers. Here's how to make the most of a week long visit to Curaçao.
This itinerary is composed with the following in mind: enjoying the best Curaçao has to offer, from a gastronomical, cultural and natural perspective, without having to rush. I recommend renting a car, I don't think you want to rely on taxis and public transportation in Curaçao.
Monday: Relaxing at Porto Mari beach
The main reason you booked a trip to Curaçao is probably because of your desire for three things: sun, sea and beach. With that in mind, I've chosen exactly that for day one: Playa Porto Mari. This beach lies on the north-western side on the island, a 30 minute ride from Willemstad.
Other than some well-deserved beach time, the crystal clear waters provide excellent snorkeling and swimming opportunities. If you want a bit more adventure, you can rent scuba gear on the beach and explore the underwater world right in front of the beach. A beach bar provides cold drinks as well as some basic food options.
On the way to (or back from) Porto Mari you should check out two things. First of all, about halfway you'll come across a salt plane where flamingos tend to hangout. There is a viewing deck available.
If the water level allows for it, you can also walk over to get closer. If you get too close, the Flamingos will fly away, which provides a fascinating scenery. Also check out the slave momument that was built in memory of the 1795 slave revolt that convulsed the island for more than a month.
The second thing to see is the Sint Willibrordus Church. This Roman Catholic church was built in the neo-gotic style in 1888 and is located near a tiny little village that carries the same name.
Tuesday: Visit Willemstad
Stroll around Willemstad center
A visit to Willemstad (the capital of Curaçao) is a must for any visitor to Curaçao. It's historic center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and features unique colonial architecture.
The city center is split in two by the Sint Anna Bay. On one side there are the Pietermaai quarters and the Punda neighborhood. On the other side, the area called Otrobanda is worth visiting. The two parts of town are connected by a ponton bridge.
Lunch at Plasa Bieu
Plasa Bieu (which translates to "Old Market") hosts several local food stands. You can try one of the many local delicacies here, from goat stew to curry roti and freshly caught fish.
Make sure to check out all the different stands and pick your favorite. Local favorites that you should try are the fresh lemonade called "Awa di Lamoenchi" and the banana pancakes.
Plasa Bieu is not a tourist place, it's where the locals eat. Don't expect five star service and fancy stuff. Great food for a reasonably price is what you'll get!
The Slave Museum
At the Kura Hulanda Museum you can get a glimpse of Curaçao's dark history. During the 17th, 18th and 19th century the main business on the island was the slave trade. Slaves arriving from Africa were either traded on the docks of Willemstad and sent off to their final destination, or forced to work on one of the plantations on the island.
The museum exhibits the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade in its totality, from slave capture in Africa through the relocation in the New World. The museum also demonstrates how the African heritage has influenced Curaçaoan and Caribbean societies until today.
Wednesday: Day trip to Klein Curacao
Klein Curacao (which translates to "Little Curacao" is a small, uninhabited island about two hours off the mainland by boat. It's a must visit. The first thing that comes into sight when approaching the island is its old lighthouse. You can climb up the tower to enjoy the view. Be careful though, the building isn't in great shape so mind your steps.
The island doesn't feature much more than its white sand beaches, but sometimes that's exactly what you're looking for! You'll have most of the beach to yourself and the water is amazingly clear, with a beautiful blue color.
As a bonus, the grassy sandbottom in front of the beach is a popular feeding ground for sea turtles. You can't miss them. They are not afraid of humans so you can get quite close to them. It's an amazing experience to see these beautiful creatures in their natural environment.
Trips to Klein Curacao can be booked with Mermaid Boat Trips or Miss Ann Boat Trips. Costs are about $100 per adult, $50 for children under 10 years old and include lunch, non-alcoholic drinks and snorkeling equipment. If you want a more private experience, you can call Zeno Lothman at 00-599-9677-0981.
Thursday: Culture & Adventure
The Curaçao Museum
In the morning pay a visit to the Curaçao Museum. The museum is located in the old Military Hospital, a beautiful monumental building dating from 1853. The museum features a number of old traditional houses as well as a collection of artworks, such as paintings, etches, drawings, statues, furniture, glass and textiles.
Aquafari: an underwater adventure
Aquafari is a new underwater activity that let's you experience the underwater world and the sensation of breathing underwater. It's really fun and very safe. You sit on a submersible, self-propelled scooter as you cruise around at a depth of 10 to 20 feet, accompanied by a few divers.
Friday: Captain Goodlife
Lunch at Captain Goodlife
Captain Goodlife is an icon in Curaçao. This guy has a very interesting personality and cooks some great food. He runs a company Let’s Go Watersports, mainly organizing boat trips. He can also take you to the blue room, the most famous diving spot in Curaçao. You will need to bring your own dive gear if you want to dive. He's not really up-to-date on modern technology, so the best way to contact him is to call him at +5999 864 0438.
Relax at Saint Tropez
Saint Tropez is an oceanclub, a great place to spend some time late-afternoonish. For a mere $7 you can use the cabanas, beach chairs, WiFi and infinity pool. This price includes towels.
Cool down in the pool or enjoy the sunset while sipping on your favorite cocktail. Some good food options are available here as well.
Saturday: Kenepa Beach and a fancy dinner
Kenepa Beach (in Dutch: Knip Beach) is one of the best natural beaches on the island. There are no stones, which makes for a comfortable water entry. There's not a lot of infrastructure at this beach, just a small restaurant and a beach chair service. The water is divine and beautifully light-blue colored.
Dinner at the Wine Cellar
Saturday night it's time to put on your fancy clothes and indulge yourself in some serious wining & dining. The best place in Curacao to stimulate your taste buds on fine international cuisine, is the Wine Cellar. The kitchen combines authentic French cuisine with Caribbean flair and has an extensive wine list.
Basic info about Curaçao
- Money: You can pay with either Antillean Guilders or dollars. The exchange rate is 1.78 guilders to 1 dollar and cash machines dispense both currencies.
- Safety: Although Curaçao isn't a dangerous place by all means, it's not recommended to walk around at nighttime outside the city center. Also, never leave valuables in your car. Rental cars are popular pickings for thieves.
- Language: Three languages are commonly spoken on the island: Dutch, English and the local language, Papiamento. The latter is a mix between Dutch, English, Spanish and some African influences.
- When to go: Curaçao is blessed with a warm, tropical climate all year round. There's a nice island breeze and it cools down at night-time. High season is December through February and July / August and peak season is around Xmas and New Year. During these periods prices are significantly higher.
- How to get there: The national airline of Curaçao, Insel Air, operates non-stop routes to several locations within The Caribean as well as Miami and Charlotte. From Europe, the island is served by Air Berlin from Dusseldorf and KLM from Amsterdam.
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