Curacao: The Next Caribbean Island For Your Travel Bucket List

Located 60 kilometres off the coast of Venezuela, Curacao isn’t often the first island that comes to mind when you think about jetting off for a Caribbean getaway – but it should be. One of the “ABC” Dutch Caribbean islands (along with Aruba and Bonaire), Curacao is not only beautiful, but it offers a healthy dose of European flavour thanks to it’s Dutch heritage as well as its multicultural population. The island is home to around 150,000 people comprised of over 55 different cultures including African, Dutch, German, Indian, Spanish and Portuguese. If that wasn’t enough, there are four languages spoken on Curacao: Dutch, Spanish, English and Papiamentu (a mix of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French, English and Arawak Indian). So if you’re looking for a twist on the typical Caribbean vacation, Curacao is a mighty fine option.

Whether you’re adventuring solo, planning a romantic getaway or jet setting with friends, Curacao has something for every type of traveller and we’ve uncovered some of the best in where to stay, eat, drink and play.

Stay

A hotel may not make or break a trip, but it can go a long way towards adding to your experience. And if you want a hotel to add to your Curacao experience, we suggest bedding down at Avila Beach Hotel. The luxury property has been in continuous business for over six decades and has a relaxed atmosphere well suited to a laid back beach vacation. Service is efficient but always friendly and the infinity pool is hard to resist no matter the time of day. Rooms have a minimalist feel, but they’re also warm and inviting with expansive balconies (ours overlooked the pool and some of the beach). The location close to the downtown area of Curacao also puts you close to all the action should you want to venture off-property for drinks, dinner or sightseeing.

Sun

If it’s settling into a beach chair that you’re after (and who isn’t when it comes to the Caribbean), you will be spoilt for choice in Curacao. The island might be tiny, but it boasts over 35 beaches to choose from making it an ideal beach-hopping destination. Good luck being able to peel yourself away from Playa Knip, one of the most stunning stretches of sand and turquoise water we’ve ever encountered. It’s hard to capture that particular shade of blue on camera, but trust us when we say you won’t be disappointed. If you’re looking for more action when it comes to your beach time, you might want to head to Curacao’s Jan Thiel area with bars, restaurants, a nice beach area and colourful hammocks scattered around to lounge in.

See & do

Curaçao’s colourful capital, Willemstad is the island’s only city and it also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with 17th-century Dutch architecture and enough to see and do to keep you busy for at least half a day. The pastel palette you see on the buildings makes for Instagram-worthy photo-ops at every turn and the pops of street art, European-flavour of winding side streets and open air cafes as well as great shopping just add to the overall appeal.

Tour the Curacao Winery – yes, you read that right – there is a winery on Curacao. It’s not yet producing wine but you can taste some of what they hope to bottle soon since the owners also operate a winery in the Netherlands. It’s also a super-romantic spot should you want to do something with your significant other that’s impressive while also being a little off the beaten track.

Shete Boka National Park should also be on your Curacao itinerary. Here you’ll find several inlets (boka means inlet), wherein massive waves crash against the rocks to create an awe-inspiring sight. Boka Tabla and Boka Pistol are particularly photo-worthy.

Eat

Curacao is pretty eclectic when it comes to eating options, whether you’re seeking a local experience, someplace lively, or a more romantic spot to enjoy a meal. Some standouts for us include Karakter, which offers the option to eat at tables right on the sand overlooking the water (as romantic as it sounds). The menu here is creative and has something for everyone, including many veg-friendly options. Mundo Bizaro, in the up and coming Pietermaai neighbourhood, is fun and funky where vibe and décor are concerned and flavourful when it comes to what shows up on your plate. And if you’re looking for a truly local dining experience, make sure to stop by Plasa Bieu on the Punda side of Willemstad. The lively food hall consists of several privately owned stalls cooking up local favourites like plantains, fish, stewed meats and pumpkin pancakes (warning: the pumpkin pancakes are highly addictive). They are open for lunch daily.

Drink

Blues Bar and Restaurant at the Avila Beach Hotel offers live jazz every Thursday night which is well worth sticking around the hotel property for if your visit is timed right. The bar was packed when we were there and filled with appreciative listeners. The band plays on a stage raised above the main bar ensuring everyone has a good sightline and can hear the music. For a swankier experience head to St. Tropez, which has a standout cocktail list and South Beach vibe perfect for pre-dinner drinks.

Those who want a tropical-feeling beverage without imbibing should get to a batido stand. Dotted all over the island, these drink stands offer a custom blend of fresh fruits with ice and/or sugar and condensed milk. We couldn’t get enough of the watermelon, but flavour combos are endless. Try anything from papaya and guava to banana, orange or pineapple.

Jessica Padykula

Jessica Padykula

Jessica Padykula is a freelance writer based in Toronto. Her work has appeared on Styleathome.com, ElleCanada.com, Slice, Travel + Escape, Thrillist, AmongMen.com and SheKnows.com among others. When she’s not writing or researching a story she can be found planning trips to places near and far in a never-ending quest to travel the world. You can follow her on Twitter @JessPadykula

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