Only 40 miles off the coast of Venezuela and with one of the most diverse populations on earth — a mix of more than 50 nationalities including Dutch, West Indian, French and African — this is a country that truly has something for everyone.
Why go now
Curacao is now easier to get to than ever, with Continental Airlines offering new direct flights between Newark and Curacao that are under five hours. And Curacao is still a relatively undiscovered gem of the Caribbean, with a sophisticated European vibe, thanks to the strong Dutch influence. Travel during the summer and fall months and you’ll avoid the December and January prices and crowds.
It’s my first time. What should I do?
There’s a great mix of culture and relaxation in Curacao. The vibrant capital of Willemstad, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, has mind-blowing architecture, museums and shopping, and those looking for more of an escape can choose from among 35 quiet and pristine beaches, all a short drive from wherever you’re staying.
I’ve been before. What should I see?
If you’re feeling adventurous, check out the private tours on the tiny Curasub (www.substation-curacao.com), one of only three submarines of this kind in the world that is certified for tourists. The sub avoids the dangerous pressure changes of scuba diving and offers amazing views of shipwrecks, coral and tropical fish with visibility of up to 60 feet.
What’s the best way to spend a day?
Start with a tour of downtown Willemstad to see the Dutch-influenced government buildings and one of the oldest synagogues in the world. Shop at the floating Venezuelan market and grab lunch at Marshe Bieuw, the open-air market where housewives serve authentic Antillean meals. Stop by Dinah Veeris’ healing herb garden, and then head to the beaches on the north coast to relax before hitting L’Aldea Brazilian Steakhouse for dinner.
Catch some jazz with that sun
The second annual Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival (www.curacaonorthseajazz
.com) will be held Sept. 2-3, and will feature Sting, Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire and Dionne Warwick. Local talent will perform in the week leading up to the festival at various locales around the island, including the popular party spot Mambo Beach.
Cost: Continental Airlines Vacations offers frequent deals on hotel and airfare packages. Check www.covacations.com for specials — recent deals include five night stays at luxury hotels for as little as $599, including airfare.
One local dish to check out: All over Curacao you’ll find what the locals call “snacks”—usually wooden shacks that serve authentic carry-out like the native funchi —a polenta-like comfort food consisting of half cornmeal pudding and half rice. Or try a Dutch national dish called Keshi Yena, a savory meal of Gouda cheese stuffed with meat or fish. For the more daring, locals say the iguana stew tastes like chicken.
Best place to grab a drink: The historic Avila Hotel in downtown Willemstad is the perfect place to watch the sun set over the water while sipping on a cocktail made with Blue Curacao, the world famous blue liqueur.
Where to Stay: The Hyatt Regency Curacao—this brand-new 350-guestroom retreat offers full balconies in every room and an 18-hole, par 72 golf course designed by the legendary Pete Dye.