Curaçao, A Perfect Blend of Two Worlds
Wouldn’t it be great if we could move tropical seas, palm trees and great beaches to Northern Europe? It’s not going to happen, but the next best thing is to move the Netherlands into the Southern Caribbean. Welcome to Curaçao.
There are a number of European influenced islands in the Region but no place expresses it as well as this little Dutch island. While Aruba has succumbed to run-away Americanization you can still stroll the streets of Willemstad, sit in a café for a cappuccino or stop in a small bistro for lunch and it isn’t hard to imagine you are in Amsterdam. Add to that the beaches and resorts, balmy weather and turquoise seas and you have Curacao.
Where Your Ship Docks
Willemstad is the activity center of Curacao and most ships will tie up in Otrobanda, very near the center of town. Located at the dock is a hotel area including a shopping and restaurant neighborhood. A short stroll along the water brings you to the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge, a unique floating bridge hinged at one end to swing out of the way and let ships up the channel and into the harbor. On the other side of this floating bridge is Punda, the downtown area of Willemstad. There are also public facilities near the dock.
Curacao is a larger island and, while there are taxis available, they tend to be pricey. The major bus system is made up of vans and cars with the word “Bus” on the license plates. There is also a more traditional system of buses which are known as “konvoi.” There are two bus terminals on the Island, which are used by both types of buses. The first is located near the post office in Punda with twelve konvoi routes leaving from that terminal. The other is located in Otrobanda, near the underpass. Nine konvoi routes depart from that location. Between these twenty one konvoi routes, nearly all major tourist attractions can be reached by public transportation.
Fares to ride the bus cost only about $0.60 (USD) for a trip in town and $0.85 (USD) to travel to the western parts of the island. Autobus Bedrijf Curacao (ABC) is the bus company on Curacao.
Taxi Start fee 35.00 Naf $26.02 – $45.00
Taxi per mile charge 10.96 Naf $8 – $14
Taxi 1 hour Waiting 72.19 Naf $40
Disembarking – This port has a developed cruise ship pier but the ease of disembarking varies by the individual ships gangway designs. For passengers using wheelchairs there can be a moderate ramp incline to deal with.
Port City Characteristics – This port has a fairly developed wheelchair friendly infrastructure. The port area is flat or has few inclines. From the cruise pier into downtown you must cross a floating bridge which has easy access. Intersection crosswalks have few curbs, cobblestones or other minorwheelchair obstacles.
Curacao is a major Caribbean destination and most places accept U.S. Dollars but usually for smaller purchases. The Netherlands Antillean Guilder (ANG, locally referred to as NAF, an abbreviation of the Netherlands Antillean Florin) is the official currency of Curaçao. It is benchmarked to the US dollar at a stable rate of US$ 1 = NAF 1.77. Most credit cards are welcome and there are ATMs readily available.
Curaçao has seen explosive growth in upscale resorts and residential neighborhoods in recent decades, but the old world charm has remained intact. Over a period of time there was a huge migration of Dutch retirees, much to the consternation of the locals, and that drove up the cost of living. Fortunately, it didn’t negatively impact the atmosphere of the island.
In the center of Willemstad there is a channel that is part of St. Anna Bay and the primary way of getting across is the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge. The bridge opens by breaking its connection on
one side and an outboard motor pushes it out of the channel anchored by a hinge at the other end. Fun to watch and fun to ride.
On the northwest side of town is a neighborhood that has been restored and turned into a resort, visitor center and museum known as the Museum Kurá Hulanda and Sonesta Kura Hulanda Village & Spa. Here you can walk cobblestone streets and visit cafes and shops. There is also a floating market in town where boats come over from Venezuela, only 70 miles away, to sell produce. (Current conditions in Venezuela have probably eliminated this business for the time being).
The island also boasts the Curacao Sea Aquarium and Dolphin Academy Curacao which are worth a visit.
If you like to dive, snorkel or just relax on the beach, you have come to the right place but you have to get some distance out of Willemstad. There are dive shops everywhere and great beach resorts at every turn.
Located between cliffs near the town of Lagun is the small Playa Lagun. It’s in a narrow cove and the calm waters are perfect for snorkelers, regardless of skill level, and there are facilities to rent snorkel and scuba gear.
A favorite with everyone is Cas Abao Beach with its’ white sand surrounded by cliffs and lush vegetation shaded by large palm umbrellas. Snorkelers flock to the warm, turquoise waters which are home to dozens of tropical fish and abundant sea life. There is also a great beach bar & restaurant offering a range of snacks and drinks.
In 1978, three plantations merged to create Christoffel National Park. The park is home to barn owls, the rare and endangered Curaçao white-tailed deer in addition to 450 species of plants, including wild orchids. Take a scenic drive through Curaçao’s largest national park or spend a morning hiking. Visitors say the view from the top of Christoffel Mountain is unforgettable and you can climb the peak and be back in two to three hours. Due to the tropical climate the park doesn’t allow visitors to start the hike after 10 a.m.
Willemstad is also a shopping mecca with great prices on many popular European brands along with jewelry creations, distilled spirits and local crafts and souvenirs.
The Island’s language is Papiamentu which is a blending of Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch. Greetings are Bon Dia – Good Morning. Bon Tardi – Good Afternoon. Bon Nochi – Good Evening/Good Night. Danki – Thank You. Di Nada – You’re Welcome.