Curaçao: A Dutch-Caribbean Island of Paradise
Curaçao is a small (170 sq. miles) island centered around the main city of Willemstad. The airport is about a 20 minute taxi from the center of town. Landing, it felt like we were going to run out of runway space and fly into the ocean, but I was happy to see the double-decker KLM flight boarding too – our flight must have been fine if a plane that big can land! The island is still in Dutch influence, so you can head straight to Amsterdam most days of the week. There are plenty of rental places available, including airbnbs, hostels & hotels, however read the fine print as I saw places that had a daily fee for electricity. This may be a norm down there, but was a bit too confusing for me.
Willemstad is a beautiful European city, centered around a bridge that swings open to allow for ships to pass through. Due to the high volume of trade ships, this happens multiple times throughout the day! If you’re on the bridge when it would like to open, you can stay on while it swings – though the length of time it will stay open is never announced so be prepared to hang out. Likewise, if it opens while you are on one side of the city, access is restricted unless you rent a taxi. Several bars sell t0-go beer, and beer buckets, which made for a fun ride on the bridge! *NOTE: If you forget a bottle opener, or you’ll have to befriend a local that knows how to pop the bottle open using the bridge wiring*
Other spots to see in downtown Willemstad include the Rif Fort, a fort built in the 19th century to protect the island from invasion by both pirates and enemies. While it is still a walled fort that you can explore, many shops and eateries have been built into the area, including the nearby Marriott. I recommend the any of the restaurants on the fort wall, with a great view of the water, many many boats coming into the canal, and Queen Emma swinging bridge. We stayed for 2 nights in the Marriott, which gave us plenty of time to explore Willemstad properly. Plan time to explore & eat at the floating markets, stocked by boats that arrive daily from Venezuela.
A quick overview of the Marriott hotel: This was a large hotel centered around a casino. With its close proximity to Rif Fort, we enjoyed exploring the shops and restaurants. The pool, with an outdoor bar/restaurant was fantastic. Our room was competitively priced, though it looked out over the hotel’s interior.
Following our stint downtown, we moved to a Hilton waterfront resort. Unlike the Marriott, this had actual beach access, in addition to multiple pools. This also offered more of a vacation/relaxation vibe. The staff on site was incredibly friendly, especially to Hilton Gold & Diamond members, complete with a daily happy hour & member floor. The hotel is only 4km outside Willemstand, and within walking distance of a few fantastic beach-front restaurants, including our favorite, Pirate Bay.
Rent a car and head to Cas Abao beach – a gorgeous bay with clear water for snorkeling opportunities. It also has a sandy beach bar, and shop with beach supplies and equipment rentals. This is a great day trip!
For the more adventurous folks, exploring the water on a stand up paddle board is a blast. We enjoyed SUP Curacao with a beginner’s tour of a lagoon. Our guide, Jar, picked us up at the Hilton hotel and then offered a fun tour on the water! We start by taking a small boat to the boards, already set up in the water, and learning the basics of Stand Up Paddle boarding. Stopping halfway for a break and snack, we mainly traveled across flat water, with one final skip across open water a bit more wavey!
Overall, Curacao was a fantastic trip and one I recommend you take soon. Let us know you’re favorite places in the comments.
My “Wake up on a beach for the 30th” pose.