Curaçao is the largest of the Caribbean’s Netherland Antilles, located among the group known as the “ABC” Islands alongside Aruba and Bonaire. Curaçao, 35 miles north of Venezuela, is outside the Caribbean hurricane belt. Curaçao features colorful rows of Dutch Colonial-style homes with gables and arches, plus Cunucu dwellings, which are similar to Afro-centric huts.
Willemstad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with winding streets, quaint museums, shops, a floating barge vegetable market, and sidewalk cafes serving Dutch and Creole cuisine. The city also features Mikve Israel-Emanuel, the oldest continually worshipped-in synagogue in the Americas, reflecting the island’s diverse mix of cultures. Willemstad also features a Postal Museum and Maritime Museum.
Although a flat, rocky, and somewhat barren island, Curaçao has many fine, calm-water beaches along its sheltered southwestern coast, with intimate rocky coves overshadowed by massive cliffs and long sandy stretches. Water sports activities are widely available, and attractions for divers and include the double coral reef at Porto Mari. Other attractions include Boca Tabla, a thundering underwater cave; St. Christoffel National Park; Caves of Hato; Sea Aquarium; and Landhuis Chobolobo, where the liqueur “curacao” is made.
Curaçao features eight historic forts, some of which have been re-developed as hotels and restaurants. Fort Nassau was built on the hill to defend St. Anna Bay and part of the city of Willemstad. The fort is open for tours and also features a restaurant overlooking the bay.
The Floating Market in Willemstad is actually a mini boat fleet that comes in from Venezuela and sells fresh fish and fruit. The floating market is roughly one block north of the Queen Juliana Bridge on the east side of the harbor mouth. Another Willemstad historic site is Queen Emma, a floating pontoon bridge linking the city’s “Punda” (Point Side) and “Otrobanda” (Other Side) across the Sint Annabaai Channel. The bridge opens and closes to allow marine traffic into St. Anna Bay.
The Curaçao Sea Aquarium is one of the country’s most popular attractions, featuring an interactive Dolphin academy. The coral and limestone Hato Caves were carved out beneath the ocean and created when the sea level dropped. Their Caves feature beautiful stalactite and stalagmite formations and water pools plus a waterfall.
Curaçao’s southwestern side is effectively one large coral reef and marine park, encompassing Banda Abou National Park, a favorite spot for divers. Central Curaçao’s Underwater Park is located in the island’s center and Curacao Underwater Park is located in the south. Curaçao offers a wide range of dive sites, from easy shore dives to coral bay dives and sheer drop-offs.
Curaçao’s beaches are concentrated on the southern coast, especially the western side. Playa Kalki, also known as Alice in Wonderland, is located at the far west end of the island past the town of Westpunt. Playa Grote Kenapa, also known as Big Knip, is a large sand beach west of the town of Lagun. Playa Kleine Kenapa (“Little Knip”) is a secluded beach past the town of Lagun with many shade trees. The bar/restaurant here operates on a sporadic schedule.