Last year, I visited Curacao, formerly part of the Netherlands Antilles, with a couple of friends after spending a few days in Trinidad and Tobago. Curacao is an interesting place – the Netherlands in the Caribbean, for sure, but also an incredible melting pot – many folks speak Spanish due to its proximity to and semi-shared history with nearby South America. Yet it also shares a lot with the other Dutch islands in the hood as well with Surinam, another former Dutch colony.
There is much to write about this island. I struggled with how to not write about it all in one long post. So this post will focus on the food, fun and beach as I experienced in a very short visit. I did not get to scratch the surface of what Curacao has to offer so I will, upfront, tell you that and then challenge you to discover Curacao yourself and perhaps share back with me what you discovered!
An upcoming post will focus more on the incredible charming architecture of this island. Enjoy!
First, Curacao’s capital, Willemstad (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), has two sides along the canal that splits it: Punda and Otrobanda. Punda is the better known side with the pretty pictures folks normally see whenever Curacao is mentioned (more on this in the next post!). Otrobanda is or was the poorer side though it contains some neat/charming architecture too.
I chose the Renaissance in Curacao (part of the Marriott family) as my hotel, located in Otrobanda right by the canal entrance. While the hotel was not an all-around knock-out (e.g., the confusion at breakfast on what was included in my rate and what was not), there were a couple of things that hit it out of the ballpark. One was the upgrade they welcomed me with. A corner suite was definitely a great way to greet a Platinum guest. Thank you for that!! I wish I had had others sharing the room with me but that was not the case so the space was not taken advantage of. But what I did greatly enjoy was the humongous bathroom! Larger than my master bedroom at home!
But what really blew me away was the infinity pool. Now you may say “seen one, seen them all” but, my friends, this was no ordinary infinity pool: it was a beach on an infinity pool! You walked into it as you would on a beach from the sand and the beach chairs. It was huge and at the far end, the wall dropped down to the rocks by the sea. When I first exited the hotel and looked at the pool, it seemed the sea was part of the water in the pool – I did not realize it was a pool at all!! Bravo, Renaissance!
Curacao has lots of beaches to choose from, 38 or so. Some of the best are on the west end of the island. Beaches in Curacao are not the typical long stretches of sand and surf that we typically envision. Instead they are smaller, less obscenely huge places to enjoy the sun and surf! We picked Mambo Beach just for being convenient to us as we were staying in Willemstad and had not rented a car. I imagine it is far from the best beach but it was definitely enjoyable.
Food and Entertainment
We ate at a couple of places that also doubled as entertainment with live music. I could have kept returning to these places except I ran out of nights!
On our first night, we decided to watch sunset at a high vantage point on the fortress walls in Otrobanda at the entrance to the canal leading to the bay/port. It was very near to the hotel and these places offered the right angle at sunset to look -or stare- at beautiful Punda!
Later that night, we went to Avila Blues Bar for both dinner and entertainment. The hotel is well known for hosting the Dutch royal family (allegedly, the heir to the throne comes to play here, wink, wink). The blues bar is on a pier by itself so you are sitting above the sea. The band plays on a loft-like second story above the bar. The food was great and so was the music. More importantly: great atmosphere!
For lunch one day, we sat at one of the average cafés right by the canal that is the entrance to large bay (St. Anna Bay). While the food was not spectacular, watching people, ships and the movable-floating bridge (aka, Queen Emma Bridge) was fascinating or, at least, entertaining (notice the mist in the picture below coming out under some umbrellas).
Another night, we went to a Cuban place near the old fortress walls in Willemstad called Mr. Congas. Its owner is a friendly but serious Cuban guy – the music is authentic (take it from this son of Cubans!) and the food is decent (but I have had and can cook it better!). The place has an indoor space built into the former fortress walls and an outdoor area where the live music plays. It was a great evening to sit outside, listen to music (dance for those so inclined), eat, and have a few drinks!
Curacao has a lot to offer – much beyond beaches. Beautiful architecture, sun, surf, food and a lively entertainment scene. It is a definite must-see in the Caribbean!