Voted one of the best islands in the Caribbean, Curacao is a Dutch tropical island. The main town of Willemstad is built in the Dutch style but the surrounding areas are all tropical. Hit the beaches, lay in the sun, and party the night away as the island has an active nightlife. This may not be Gilligan’s Island but what it lacks in privacy it makes up for in beauty and fun.
Size: 444 km? (171.4 sq mi)
Power Outlets: 110-130V 50Hz
Official Languages: Dutch
Time Zone: GMT -4
Calling Code: +599
Weather: Like the rest of the Caribbean, the best time to go is between December and April when the weather is drier. The months of August through November are hurricane season and there are many storms.
Cost and Budgeting
Curacao is a fairly expensive place to go visit. Lodging is the biggest expense here as many of the rooms are in high-priced hotels. Travelers looking for a resort vacation should plan on spending about US$200 a day. For those looking for a budget holiday, you can get by on about US$75 per day if you hunt down an inexpensive guesthouse or hostel and eat from food stands. There’s a 7% room tax and 12% service charge added to every hotel bill and the porters will expect a 10% tip. Restaurants also add a 10% service charge.
The original inhabitants of Curacao were Arawak Amerindians. The first Europeans here were the Spanish in 1499. The island was occupied by the Dutch starting in 1634. The Dutch West India Company founded the capital of Willemstad on the banks and the natural harbor proved quickly to be an ideal spot for trade and defense. Commerce and shipping became Curacao’s most important activities and eventually the Dutch West India Company made Curacao a center for the slave trade.
During the 18th and 19th centuries, the island changed hands among the British, the French, and the Dutch many times but Dutch rule returned in 1815. The Dutch abolished slavery in 1863 and this caused economic hardship, prompting many inhabitants of Curacao to leave. The discontent between many of the Curacao social groups culminated in large scale rioting and protest in 1969. The civil unrest fueled a social movement that resulted in the local population having more influence in politics.
The majority of the inhabitants of Curacao are Roman Catholic. However, there are practicing Muslims as well as Hindus. Though small in size, Curacao boasts the oldest active Jewish congregation in the Americas, dating to 1651, and the oldest synagogue of the Americas in continuous use. Local food is called Krioyo and boasts a blend of flavors and techniques best compared to Caribbean cuisine and Latin American cuisine. Curacao liqueur was developed here when a local experimented with the rinds of the local fruit, laraha.
Things to See and Do in Curacao
Visit the Museums- Curacao has a number of museums and forts that provide a look at the island’s history. The Kura Hulanda museum, Fort Nassau and Fort Amsterdam are very good.
Head to Christoffel National Park- Christoffel National Park is home to Indian caves where you can see paintings left by the Arawak Indians.
Head to Shete Boka National Park- Shete Boka is home to the boca’s. Some of the boca’s serve as sea turtle breeding grounds.
Visit the Curacao Sea Aquarium- One of the most popular attractions in Curacao, there is a Dolphin center that allows you to interact with the animals.
Explore the Hato Caves- Coral and limestone caves that have beautiful stalactite and stalagmite formations as well as water pools and a waterfall. The caves are also home to a colony long nose fruit bats.
Scuba Dive/Snorkel- Curacao has some excellent dive sites too and the clear waters make for excellent visibility. If you don’t want to or can’t dive, the snorkeling is just as good. The waters are their calmest around December.
Curacao is famous for its coral reefs, making it a great place for scuba diving. The beaches on the south side contain many popular diving spots. An unusual feature of Curacao diving is that the sea floor drops off steeply within a few hundred feet of the shore, and the reef can easily be reached without a boat. This drop-off is locally known as the “blue edge.” Strong currents and lack of beaches make the rocky northern coast dangerous for swimming and diving. The southern coast offers remarkably calm waters. The coastline of Curacao also features many bays and inlets.