Checking out Curaçao: Pretty as a Postcard
Melanie Reffes for Caribbean Travel
A Dutch Caribbean island with a candy-colored capital city that last year celebrated 20 years as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Curacao sits pretty 70 miles east of Aruba and 35 miles north of Venezuela.
Inviting with reliably sunny skies, the perennially popular vacation getaway is a short three-hour flight from Miami. American Airlines will add a third daily flight from Miami on December 19 and JetBlue added Tuesday flights from New York’s JFK Airport through September 4 in addition to flights on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. To speed up arrival through the Hato International Airport, visitors can complete the entry card in advance.
“The new and additional flights will bring more connectivity to the island allowing travelers to customize their trip to their needs, “said Gianina Atalita, Destination Manager at Curaçao Tourist Board, “additional flights mean additional seats as we aim to increase our arrivals from the North American market which will lead to economic growth for the island.“
The island hits the beach bullseye with 37 sandy strands rimming the coastline. On the west coast, Playa Kenepa is really two beaches; Kenepa Grandi or Grote Knip is the bigger beach and Kenepa Chiki or Klein Knip is the smaller one. One road leads to both where you can bring your own cooler and sample crunchy munchies called pastechi sold by the snack vendors at the entrance. Klein Knip is the go-to for snorkeling while Grote Knip is the better beach for drawing your own line in the sand. Halfway between the two is a lookout where Selfies reign supreme and cliff divers test their skills.
Cas Abao is what beach connoisseurs like to call full-service. On the northwest coast, the marquis beach with talc-soft sand and denim-blue water is adored by swimmers, kayakers, and divers exploring the reefs. In an upscale neighborhood southeast of Willemstad, Jan Thiel is a hip beach with day beds shaded by coconut palms and live bands at night. With calm surf, families who like to snorkel can rent equipment at the dive shop. Less than an hour from Willemstad, Playa Porto Mari is a sandy swath fronting shallow water that is home to coral, colorful fish and sea turtles. Next door to the Sea Aquarium, Mambo Beach is family-friendly with a breakwater that keeps the water calm, even on days with rough surf.
Take a walk on the wild side
To see the rugged countryside, head west from Willemstad towards Mount Christoffel, the highest point at 1,239 feet and the Christoffel National Park where the scene is less crowded than at the tourist meccas at the opposite end of the island. Keep your eyes open along the scenic drive for wild cactus, gaggles of goats crossing the highway, snack bars serving iguana soup, rock walls built by the slaves in the 1700s and their small houses that are now museums. Within the Shete Boka National Park, you’ll find an array of wildlife like barn owls, inlets where sea turtles lay their eggs and big waves up to 40 feet high crashing onto the rocks. Trails are suitable for leisurely walkers and experienced hikers who climb to the top of the mountain. For those aiming to beat the heat, sunrise Jeep tours are available.