A small piece of paradise, Curacao is a Caribbean island near Aruba and Bonaire rich with history and a vibrant culture that combines both its European and African heritage. Curacao does not have the feel of a tourist trap, but is more like an exclusive tropical hideaway where the locals are friendly and the atmosphere is carefree.
Warm Weather Year Round
Located just 12 degrees north of the equator and outside of the hurricane belt, Curacao is blessed with a warm, sunny climate year round. Temperatures average in the mid 80’s and gentle trade winds blow from the east. During the rainy season, between October and February, visitors can expect occasional showers in the evening and continued sunny skies during the day. Tropical storms rarely hit Curacao but when they do, they can cause a couple of days of cloudy skies. All-in-all the island weather is mild most of the time allowing vacationers to fill their days with everything from vigorous hiking along the rugged terrain to languid relaxation on the beautiful beaches.
The landscape of Curacao is marked by magnificent lava formations. The oldest one on the 444 square km island is the 5,000 meter thick Curacao lava formation. It is estimated to have been formed during the mid-Cretaceous period, about 100 million years ago, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth. The northern coast of the island features rough limestone cliffs while the western end is characterized by hilly landscapes. The beautiful Christoffel Park on the west side is home to the 375 meter high Mount Christoffel, which is the highest point on the island. Curacao is teeming with 450 species of fascinating plant life that have adapted to the scant rainfall and frequent trade winds.
The readers of Scuba Diving Magazine chose Curacao as one of the world’s top 3 locations for snorkeling, shore diving and macro marine life, and for good reason. With 40 different dive areas covering 65 individual sites, the clear blue waters surrounding Curacao are filled with some of the most amazing marine life on the planet. Depending on where divers choose to explore, they may discover astonishingly colorful coral reefs, groups of eels and seahorses, spectacular sponges, playful sea turtles and a surprisingly diverse array of fish and plant life. Just be careful of the barracuda which may lurk among the undersea rock formations.
Curacao sports some of the Caribbean’s most beautiful beaches. Sun lovers may enjoy the long expanses of sandy beaches while those who are explorers at heart may prefer the beach areas covered with massive cliffs and rocky coves. Vacationers may choose between secluded beaches hidden by the native flora of the island or busy beaches bustling with activities. Some travelers have called Curacao’s beaches the Caribbean’s best kept secret. Among the island’s 38 beaches, some offer fishing, others have restaurants serving local cuisine as well as shops selling traditional island garb, and still others feature cliff diving for the bold adventurer.
Willemstad, the Island’s Capital
The lively port of Willemstad is the island’s capital and is rich with history and native culture. Named one of six UNESCO sites (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) in the Caribbean, Willemstad features fascinating historic districts and a vibrant street life. Numerous forts, the Governor’s Palace and a beautiful synagogue are among the 765 buildings named national monuments. Lovely restored mansions dot the city center as well as other historic buildings that mix Dutch and African architecture to form an inviting multicultural city overflowing with native cuisine, music and art.
Well-Preserved National Parks
Visitors do not want to miss Christoffel National Park, the largest national park in Curacao. Nature lovers will be overwhelmed by the beauty of the flora and fauna along the hiking trails, and may especially enjoy smelling the wild orchids and watching for the rare native barn owl. The Shete Boka National Park is home to special habitats where 3 species of sea turtles breed. Vacationers may explore the Boca Table Cave or cross the island’s Natural Bridge. Shete Boka features some of the most rugged terrain on the island and is a favorite among hikers who enjoy exploring the many lava formations on the island.
Vacationers may visit the old markets and sample the traditional cuisine of Curacao as well as the new markets which feature scrumptious fresh fruits and vegetables grown on the island. The floating markets of Curacao are a must-see for shoppers. Venezuelan merchants sell their wares, including delicious, fresh produce, from fishing boats along the coast. Not far from the floating markets lies Jo Jo Correa which is home to unique markets operated by local artisans who sell their beautiful native crafts. Travelers will not want to leave without purchasing a lovely piece of art or furniture to serve as a keepsake from their visit to Curacao.
Art and History
Curacao has an abundance of fascinating museums due to its rich history and unique heritage. The museums house both traditional and contemporary art from both local and international artists as well as many artifacts marking the religions and the history of the island. Vacationers may visit everything from Dutch colonial mansions to native adobe house that are hundreds of years old. From plantations that grow native healing herbs to lecture halls that offer education about the rich history of Curacao, there is nothing lacking in opportunities to learn about the culture of this wonderful Caribbean island.
Native Music and Cuisine
International influences from Austria, Spain, Africa and France have made the music of Curacao some of the most interesting in the world. Visitors may enjoy Tumba, which features traditional Afro-Caribbean rhythms or Tambu, which is a form of blues that originated with slaves singing of the sorrows hundreds of years ago. As far as the food goes, there are few cuisines more delicious than those of Curacao. Traditional dishes include Erwten soup, a thick pea soup with pork, ham and sausage and Nasigoreng, bunches of bean sprouts sautéed with chunks of meat and chicken. Vacationers will not want to leave Curacao without trying some of the delectable dishes prepared by gifted island chefs.
The people of Curacao are some of the friendliest in the Caribbean. Visitors will often hear the locals call out “Bon Bini,” which means “welcome” as they explore this rare jewel of an island and make memories to cherish forever.