South America: Curacao

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Intro to Curaçao

Curaçao is a small tropical island just off the coast of Venezuela and is technically part of South America. Politically, Curaçao is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which also includes the country of the Netherlands, Aruba, and St Maarten. The island’s Dutch influence can be seen in the architecture, tasted in the food, and heard in the language. Unlike many Caribbean islands, including its neighbor Aruba, Curaçao’s economy is not dependent on tourism so you won’t find the kinds of large scale hotels many islands have. While we haven’t been to too many Caribbean destinations we loved the European culture and un-touristy vibe of Curaçao.

Accessibility

Since its not a tourist destination there are no direct flights from the North East. We connected through Miami. There are however, daily flights from Amsterdam, so when you land at the country’s little airport don’t be surprised to see a KLM jumbo jet parked next to you.

When we got to the island we rented a car. Getting around was no problem at all. Distances are short and roads were not congested and well marked.

Curaçao is outside the hurricane belt and the weather is always nice.

When we went

November 2012.  We flew down on a Thursday morning, via Miami, and back up Sunday afternoon.

What we did

The capital and biggest city on Curaçao is Willemstad, which is split down the middle by a deep water inlet. Each side is connected by a large floating pontoon bridge that swings open to all large ships to pass. The buildings lining the waterway look like they belong on a canal in Amsterdam, only these are painted in pastel colors and the water out front is slightly lighter shade of blue.

Willemstad’s main drag.

We spent one afternoon walking through Willemstad and having lunch along the water. Stay around more than an hour in town and you’re bound to see at least one huge ship cut its way right through the little town. Most often these are oil tankers on their way to one of Curaçao’s refineries.

We stayed at the Baoase Resort, which was about 10 minutes car ride from Willemstad. The Baoase is a boutique resort with only about 20 detached rooms. The private beach was amazing, great for swimming and snorkeling during the day and candlelit dinners at night. Out on a jetty there was a swinging bed, perfect for watching the sunset.

Just down the road from the Baoase was the Dolphin Academy, where we spent an afternoon swimming with dolphins. We’ve rode camels in Africa and elephants in Thailand, hand fed monkeys in Morocco, and even bottle fed a baby tiger in Myrtle Beach of all places. No animal was more impressive than the dolphins. We’d heard dolphins were smart but their ability to interact and understand commands was much better than expected. The dolphins at Dolphin Academy are well looked after. They don’t live in a square cement pool. The aquarium is on the ocean and the dolphin habitat is actually a large (somewhat) naturally enclosed cove, filled with all the sea life dolphins are used to.

At one point during the swim the Mr. lost his flipper. It sank about 15 feet onto the rocks below. A dolphin immediately dove down, retrieved it, and popped up right next to us with the flipper in his mouth.

Getting kissed by a dolphin.

Our resort and the Dolphin Academy were on the south western side of the island, protected from the winds of the Atlantic ocean. It’s here you’ll find the soft sand beaches and calm turquoise water. The north side of the island is often pounded by wind and waves, which makes its rugged landscape an ideal hiking spot. Keep a look out for the house cat sized lizards that can be found roaming the island.

 

Accommodations

Baoase Resort. A small luxury boutique resort on the southern side of the island with a private crystal clear swimming and snorkeling cove.

Restaurants

We ate at the resort for two of our meals.

De Gouverneur; Willemstad. A bar and restaurant with a  colonial feel and great views.

Salt & Pepper; Willemstad. Generic restaurant in the outdoor mall area serving tapas and mexican cuisine.

The Wine Cellar; Willemstad. A romantic French restaurant serving French cuisine with a caribbean flair.

Museums

Museum Kurá Hulanda; Willemstad. An anthropological museum that focuses on the African slave trade in the region and West African empires. This was more interesting than you think!\

Gambling is legal here and you’ll see some casino’s in Willemstad. We didn’t stop in.

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