A Travellerspoint blog

Curaçao

Discovering Curacao

Off road driving, diving, dancing, relaxing and learning on the smartest island of the Caribbean.

sunny 33 °C

Curaçao

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Curaçao is a tiny island, a stone’s throw from the coast of Venezuela.
A former colony of Portugal, Spain and then Holland, today it is an autonomous, free and thriving nation. There is a huge oil refinery which processes much of Venezuela’s oil, plus a myriad of mechanics and engineering factories and businesses.

This is not a touristy island at all. Tourism is merely a blip on the nation's radar, coming in at only the fourth in terms of revenue generation after oil, machinery and aloe vera.

If you're looking for resorts and five star treatment, then don't come here. If you want to be in a tranquil, quiet, serene place, where everybody quietly goes about their business, and lives on equal footing in paradise, then this is perfect!

Curaçao is known for being the most literate and highly educated islands in the Caribbean, with the highest per capita standard of living in the region. You won't find a single vendor selling trinkets on any beach here.

Though Curaçao is largely independent, their citizens have Dutch sovereignty (and passports).

Languages

The official national language is Papiamentu; a mix of Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish and native African languages. Curaçao is one of the only islands where the official language isn’t a formal European one. Papiamentu is spoken in offices, government, courts, etc... and the default language of ATMs, etc.
To me it sounded a lot like Spanish with a Dutch accent, and it was nice to be able to understand much of the language as a Spanish speaker.

High school classes are conducted in Dutch and tertiary courses are in English. Most people also speak Spanish and listen to Colombian and Dominican music... and so almost everyone I met in Curaçao spoke all four languages fluently.

Areas

Wilemstaad

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This is the capital and really, really nice. It is surrounded by a river system and beaches. The architecture is distinctly Dutch and felt like little Amsterdam by the sea.

Punda

This is the hub of activity in the city. Most of it is pedestrianised, with many shops, cafes and businesses operating harmoniously here. The bridge between here and Otrabanda is a notable highlight!!
There is a gorgeous laneway system here full of really nice open air places to eat, drink and socialise.

Rif Fort

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This is a gorgeous preserved area with restaurants, bars and shops. The views from the upper levels are magnificent. Throughout the week there are many events here, including Salsa, Bachata and Kizomba dance nights.

Jam Thiel

This is the swish beach area of the island. There are stunning apartment complexes, beach restaurants and bars lining the sand. What I like about Jam Thiel is that it isn't in-your-face flashy, but rather pretty subdued. Though it's obviously upmarket, it isn't exclusive and barricaded. The beaches and facilities here are accessible to everyone. There are great parties here, especially on Sundays.

Mambo Beach

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This is my favourite part of the island. There is a complex of many different restaurants and cafes here, both set back from the beach and on the perfect white sand itself. The best parties are also around here because of the range of venues.

In Curacao locals love all Caribbean music - from Salsa, Bachata and Soca... and they have their own style called Ritmocombinar, which to me sounds a lot like Zouk or Kizomba. On weekends you will find most of the local kids partying to ritmo and zouk at the upper floor venues on Mambo Beach.

Whilst having dinner with friends on Mambo beach, I asked some of the staff what they like to do for holidays since they aleady live in paradise. One of the barman said he and his friends go to Medellin (in the centre of Colombia) to get away from the beach and have fun in a big city. Talk about #ballers

Facing the beach is a man made barricade of rocks, roughly 100 metres from the coast, creating a very nice pool-like swimming bay, free of tides and waves. There are several sunbathing platforms in the middle of the swimming area. It really is magnificent.

Emporio and Latin Community

This is a great place to hear latin tunes. Many folks from Venezuela, Colombia and the DR come to Curacao for seasonal work, or emigrate permanently, and this is their spot. I met a nice couple from Barranquilla at Emporio who set up a business importing clothes from Antioquia to the islands.

Flag Day Celebrations

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During my time in Curacao the island were preparing for their national flag day. In the main city square, many groups were rehearsing music and dance performances. It was really great to see.
The day itself was incredible. At every corner for the capital city, there were music and dance performances in traditional dress, song competitions, etc.

Whilst watching one of the performances at Rif Fort, a lady pulled me out of the crowd to dance with her. She explained the steps as we went, and I didn't really make too much of a disaster out of it. It was really great fun.
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Kura Hulanda Slave Museum

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This one of the most comprehensive museums related to the history of slavery in the world, and an important place in the Caribbean.
There are many displays, documents, and artifacts related to Holland's slave industry that not only serviced the Caribbean, but also the US. The Dutch slave companies sold many thousands, if not millions of Africa slaves to the US.
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I did a tour with a group of Afro descended Americans, who were tracing their roots. Our guide was very informed and clear, and as a group we left very informed about that controversial side of history.
The site itself is particularly beautiful and tranquil, which made the experience just a little bit haunting.
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Diving

I experienced some of the best diving of my life here. There are huge shelves and walls full of sea life, and the water is really clear. The great thing abot the island too, is that there water gets deep straight off the coast. We simply walked out from the beach in our gear and swam out over the shelf. I was the only customer at the Chilean run dive shop.
The bloke who owns the place said he never looked back once he came here. It's a usual story in Curacao,

Dune Buggies

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One of the most awesome things to do in Curacao is go on a dune buggy safari. Most of the island is rocky remnants of coral (most of it was under water).
I drove in this beast with a nice group from Holland to the far reaches of the island, explring caves and coral mountains. It really was an incredible day out!!

Thanks Curacao, what a suprise

This is easily my favourite spot in the Caribbean. It is rich with culture, peaceful, prominent and safe - with amazing food, music and beaches.
I can't wait to go back!!

Posted by SkinnyFists 08:47 Archived in Curaçao Tagged beaches diving curacao scuba_diving dune_buggies rif_fort mambo_beach wilemstad flag_day_curacao jam_thiel Comments (0)

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