Welcome to Curacao
Curacao is the "C" in the three "ABC" Dutch Caribbean islands, close to Venezuela and below the hurricane zone. Don't expect lush terrain on Curacao; do expect good snorkeling and diving, though. Also, a fascinating Dutch colonial town to explore: Willemstad, a World Heritage site. Local culture is lively, atmosphere is friendly. Cultural mix includes Arawak, Dutch, Spanish, West Indian, Latin, and African; also, due to the oil industry, Curacao inhabitants come from some 70 nationalities. It's fun to try out some words in the local lingo, Papiamentu.
Families love direct non-stop flights, and Curacao does have some from the US, Venezuela and the Netherlands; but many flights reach Curacao via a stop in Jamaica first.
Families hate long drives from the airport, and Curacao's a good on that score: the island is small, just 171 sq. miles, shaped long and narrow. The airport is in the middle of the island, just 4 miles from capital city Willemstad -- see map-- and 10 miles from popular south coast beach areas.
How's the Beach?
The "south coast" of Curacao (a term used loosely for a whole side of the island) has over thirty beaches, calm waters, and many good snorkeling spots. "Seaquarium Beach", near the Curacao Sea Aquarium, has white sand, restaurant, shops, and is good for kids but can get crowded; Blue Bay Beach is likewise a good family spot.
The north coast is rougher, not suitable for swimmers; surfers like it, though.
Curacao has a full range of resorts, from big brands to local small places, and most welcome families. Some choices:
Breezes Curacao Resort, Spa & Casino, on the south coast, is a well-priced family-friendly all-inclusive, with kids club and a sheltered beach area. Guests can snorkel right from the shore, and one shore dive per day is included for ages 12 and up. Guests can walk to the Sea Aquarium, or shuttle to Willemstad.
Curacao Marriott Beach Resort & Emerald Casino : a low-rise AAA four-diamond resort, Dutch-Caribbean style, with kids' programs, an all-inclusive option, kiddie pool, and snorkeling right off-shore.
Royal Sea Aquarium Resort: on its own private island, on the south coast by the Sea Aquarium. Kitchens are equipped with cooking gear. Part of Royal Resorts timeshares, but anyone can book a stay (if units are available.)
Lion's Dive Hotel Curacao: also on the south coast and near the Sea Aquarium; geared to divers and snorkelers; snorkeling right in front of the hotel, and shore diving, too. Expect European clientele.
Kura Hulanda Spa & Casino: this unique property in Willemstad covers 8 blocks that make up a "village", all beautifully restored; guests stay in one-of-a-kind rooms. For the beach, take a shuttle to sister property Lodge Kura Hulanda and Beach Club; both are on the "Leading Small Hotels of the World" list. Read visitors' comments; this place is not for everyone.
Attractions, Fun Outings
Diving and snorkeling are the featured activity on Curacao. At some hotels, visitors can snorkel right off-shore; those who rent a car can snorkel at many beaches, or try the Curacao Underwater Marine Park which has 20 km (12 miles) along the southern coast. Of course many companies will take you on diving and snorkeling outings, too.
If you want to see a coral reef without getting wet, Atlantis Adventures-- which runs submarine outings on many tropical islands-- has a "Semi-Submarine" experience on Curacao. Fish will probably come right up to your window. Nice way for wee kids to see sea life.
Lots of families enjoy a visit to the Curacao Sea Aquarium, on the south coast. Meanwhile, near the airport, the Hato Caves have ancient petroglyphs, and were used as hiding places by escaped slaves.
Be sure to explore the town of Willemstad, the only World heritage Site in the Caribbean: picture an Amsterdam canal street painted with your kids' crayons. Wander the streets, visit the oldest synagogue in the hemisphere, stroll over the Queen Emma floating bridge.
Willemstad is also home to a stunning world-class museum, the Kura Hulanda (associated with the resorts of same name.) The Museum's focus is on the history of the slave trade; expect an emotional whallop, and gauge whether the experience is right for your (older) kids. The Museum also has impressive sections on modern and ancient Africa.
More Curacao Tips:
- "Bon Bini"-- Welcome! Try to learn a few words in Papamientu, a Creole language that mixes Spanish, Dutch, english, French, Portuguese and more.
- for any resort -- and for attractions such as the Curacao Sea Aquarium-- always check recent visitor comments at a site like TripAdvisor.com