Curaçao

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Travel Guide Caribbean Curaçao

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Introduction

Crystal clear water

Crystal clear water

© All Rights Reserved wian

Curaçao is one of the Netherlands Antilles and the capital is Willemstad. At the 10th of October 2010, the island of Curaçao became a separate state within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, just like Sint Maarten became and Aruba already was, and with its own government. The Netherlands Antilles were dissolved as a separate state and that state as such no longer exists.

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Brief History

The original inhabitants of Curaçao were Arawak Amerindians. The first Europeans to see the island were members of a Spanish expedition under the leadership of Alonso de Ojeda in 1499. The island was occupied by the Dutch in 1634. The Dutch West India Company founded the capital of Willemstad on the banks of an inlet called the 'Schottegat'. Dutch merchants brought slaves from Africa under a contract with Spain called Asiento. Under this agreement, large numbers of slaves were sold and shipped to various destinations in South America and the Caribbean. The slave trade made the island affluent, and led to the construction of impressive colonial buildings. Curaçao features architecture that blends Dutch and Spanish colonial styles. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the island changed hands among the British, the French, and the Dutch several times. Stable Dutch rule returned in 1815, at the end of the Napoleonic wars, when the island was incorporated into the colony of Curaçao and Dependencies. The Dutch abolished slavery in 1863.
In recent years, the island had attempted to capitalize on its peculiar history and heritage to expand its tourism industry. Due to an economic slump in recent years, emigration to the Netherlands has been high. Attempts by Dutch politicians to stem this flow of emigration have exacerbated already tense Dutch-Curaçao relations. In 2010, the islands stopped being part of the former Netherlands Antilles and became an independent island within the Dutch Kingdom.

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Geography

Curaçao excists of two islands. The main island and Klein Curaçao, which lies about 24 kilometres to the southeast. The main island is about 59 kilometres long, and in the north and the south approximately 10 to 11 kilometres wide. In the middle of the island, near Grote Berg, the width is only 3.8 kilometres wide. The best beaches are in the south, and also conditions for swimming and diving are good. In the north the coast is rocky, and because of the strong currents, diving can only be done by experienced divers, and only when the conditions allow it. The Christoffelberg is Curaçao's highest hill with a height of 375 metres (1,230 feet). It can be found in the northwestern part of the island.

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Sights and Activities

Willemstad

Willemstad is the capital of Curaçao and is by far the largest town on the island. The Historic Area of Willemstad, Inner City and Harbour is placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Here, the Dutch established a trading settlement at a natural harbour on Curaçao in 1634. Willemstad developed continuously over the following centuries and nowadays the modern town still has some fine historic districts whose architecture reflects European urban-planning concepts as well as styles from the Netherlands and even from the Spanish and Portuguese colonial towns with which Willemstad engaged in trade. Therefore, Willemstad makes for a great excursion if you want to get away from the beaches and diving which the islands are most famous for.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Christoffel National Park - Curaçao
  • Jewish Cultural Historical Museum - Willemstad
  • Museum Kura Hulanda - Willemstad

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Events and Festivals

Curaçao Carnival (Carnaval)

Starting New Year’s Day, Carnaval is the main event of the year and goes on through all of January. It features music, parades, and parties galore across all cultures that make up the island—Dutch, Portuguese, African, South American, and Jewish. There are also beauty contests and concerts, with the Festival di Tumba parade on Shrove Tuesday being the highlight.

Curaçao Heineken Regatta

Sponsored by a mega-brewer, the Curaçao Heineken Regatta is a fun, sporty high season event in late January. The international regatta sets off from Willemstad and goes over three days. While sailors race for a substantial dollar prize, on land are beach barbecues and parties.

International Kite Festival

Though not a must, the Curaçao International Kite Festival in February is worth a look as it highlights the creativity of the islanders. Along with flying and competitions which feature weird and wacky designs, are workshops where novices can learn to make and fly kites.

Curaçao Dive Festival

Curaçao is right up there with other areas of this region of the Caribbean for its scuba diving potential, and this festival in May has classes and dives for beginners and expert divers alike. Take note though, while this is the best time to dive in Curaçao, good visibility is apparent year-round.

Curaçao Restaurant Week

A great event for tourists in the low season, Restaurant Week sees hundreds of restaurants in Curaçao partake in the offering delicious three-course meals at a great value. The event spans over a week and is the perfect opportunity to taste Curaçao cuisine without breaking the bank.

Salsa Tour

The week-long Salsa Tour in August draws some of the best names in the business and features live concerts and workshops on the beach. Together with dance are scuba diving and snorkeling events, along with horseback rides.

Curaçao North Sea Jazz Festival

This two-day North Sea Jazz Festival in Piscadera Bay is the most high profile jazz festival in Curaçao. It features visiting artists from around the world who perform at the World Trade Center grounds, to the west of Willemstad. Along with jazz is a week of soul, hip hop, and R&B, leading up to the main event on August 31.

Amstel Curaçao Race

A mini Tour de France on Curaçao, the 50-mile long (80 km) Amstel Curaçao Race is run at the beginning of the high season in November, and usually attracts some big names in cycling. From Willemstad, the peloton goes around the island, with presentations at the Lions Dive & Beach Resort.

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Weather

The island of Curaçao has a very pleasant and constant climate. This means warm and humid weather yearround but with almost constant sea breezes cooling things of a bit. Temperatures average around 30 °C during the day, cooling of somewhat to 23 °C at night. Most rain falls between October and February but compared to the islands more north in the Caribbean it doesn't rain that much. July and August are high season and therefore the drier months of March to June are the best time for a visit.

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Getting there

Plane

Curaçao International Airport (IATA: CUR, ICAO: TNCC) has connections to neighbouring countries, nearby South American cities, North America and Europe. Airlines operating at this airport include American Airlines, TUI Netherlands, Continental Airlines, Dutch Antilles Express, KLM, Lufthansa and Thomsonfly.

By Boat

There has been talk of re-installing ferries between Curaçao and Bonaire, but up until now there aren't any.

Cruise ships arrive at Curaçao Mega Pier or the Curaçao Cruise Terminal. Larger ships will arrive at the Mega Pier, and smaller ships will dock at the Cruise Terminal. Sailors can enter at ports in Willemstad and has various marinas which seafaring travellers can dock their ships.

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Getting Around

By Car

Cars can be rented for about USD45 per day, from a variety of hirers at the Hato Airport and across the island. Driving in Willemstad is pretty similar to most Caribbean locations, with aggressive drivers, loosely enforced traffic laws and driving on the right side. Signs will be in Dutch using a European style. If you are involved in an accident, local laws prohibit moving your car. You'll need to dial 199 for road service. Do watch out for road hazards, such as donkeys, goats, and iguanas. If you stay outside of Willemstad, renting a car might be a good option as the taxi fares can be quite expensive and public transport is not very reliable.

By Bus

There are two types of buses on the island, BUS. and Konvoi. The easiest way to ride is to go to one of the two bus stations in Willemstad. These include Otrobanda Station, located across the street from the Rif Fort (see Willemstad) and Punda Station, at the post office, across from the Circle Market. For the most part, the Punda bus station serves stops along the Eastern side of the ring, and to the East including Salina, Zelandia, Mambo, while the Otrobanda station serves destinations West of the Bay, to include the Airport, Piscadera and even Westpunt. The destinations do not typically overlap, so a 10-15 minute walk between stations may be necessary for cross island trips.

  • Konvoi are large metro-style buses which run infrequently between major points in the city. Prices and routes are set at about 2 NAf.
  • BUS., on the other hand, are 9-12 passenger vans which look a lot like a taxi. You can spot a BUS. by a cardboard cutout in the front windshield listing a number of its stops, instead of the yellow Taxi sign in the windshield or on the roof.

Unlike taxis, the BUS. prices are not negotiable (1-3 NAf), but the route is. A common practice with bus drivers is to negotiate how close the driver can take you to your destination. Be sure to ask the bus driver if the bus stops near your destination before entering. You can pay the driver while the BUS. is en route, or before exiting the bus. You can board a bus anywhere on the island by waiting at one of the ubiquitous yellow 'Bushalte' signs and waiving at a coming BUS. or Konvoi. Taxi drivers will also try to lure you in. So make sure to look at the sign in the window or a license plate (that says BUS.) to avoid paying high taxi fares. The bus schedule varies, from about 6AM-8PM for most stops, and until 11PM or even midnight (and sometimes later) to Salina and Mambo. If you are ever lost during daylight hours, just find a yellow bushalte sign, and the bus should take you to either Punda or Otrobanda.

By Boat

Ferries are a great way for shoppers to get to and from some of the island's main shopping areas.

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Red Tape

Countries eligible for a visa-free entry are most countries in North and South America (not Bolivia), Caribbean (but not Haïti, Dominican Republic and Cuba), Europe, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia, United Arab Emirates, South Korea and Japan.

Other countries required obtaining a visa, which is valid for Aruba, Bonaire, Sint Maarten and the Caribbean Netherlands and allows multiple entry for a maximum period of 90 days within 180 days. The maximum uninterrupted stay in one of the individual countries is 30 days. The visa is not valid for the European part of the Netherlands.

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Money

See also: Money Matters

The Antillean Guilder (Naf) is the currency for the Curacao. It is also known as the Florin or Gulden and is subdivided into 100 cents. Note denominations are 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 250 NaF. Coin denominations are 5, 2.5, 1, 0.5, 0.25, 0.1, 0.05, and 0.01 cents.
The Guilder is fixed to the US dollar at an exchange rate of 1.79:1.

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Language

The native language of Curaçao is Papiamentu, which is a richly unique mixture of Spanish, Portuguese, English, Dutch, African and other languages. Most people from the island speak this language in addition to Dutch, English, and Spanish. Almost everyone speaks English.

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Eat

Local cuisine in Curaçao is a mixture of European, West-Indian and East Asian (particularly Indonesian) flavours. Dutch influences are found in the use of cheeses, bread and seafood, which are also important in Curaçaoan food. Indonesian cuisine, a migrant from Suriname, another of the Netherlands' former colonies, can be found on the island, and explains the widespread availability of Sate and Peanut sauce along with the islands more Caribbean fare. Also, Chinese "snacks" can be found all over the island serving cheap Chinese food. They cater mostly to locals, but most serve good food.

Dishes common in Curaçao are found in Aruba and Bonaire as well. Popular dishes include: stobá (a stew made with various ingredients such as papaya, beef or goat), Guiambo (soup made from okra and seafood), kadushi (cactus soup), sopi mondongo (intestine soup), funchi (cornmeal paste similar to fufu, ugali and polenta) and a lot of fish and other seafood. The ubiquitous side dish is fried plantain. Local bread rolls are made according to a Portuguese recipe. All around the island, there are snèk's which serve local dishes as well as alcoholic drinks in a manner akin to the English public house.

The ubiquitous breakfast dish is pastechi: fried pastry with fillings of cheese, tuna, ham, or ground meat. Around the holiday season special dishes are consumed, such as the hallaca and pekelé, made out of salt cod. At weddings and other special occasions a variety of kos dushi are served: kokada (coconut sweets), ko'i lechi (condensed milk and sugar sweet) and tentalaria (peanut sweets).

  • Plasa Bieu, located in Punda, about 300 meters ENE of the floating bridge in Punda, is the favorite lunch spot of most, if not all, of the island's local-born population working in Punda. Open M-F, 10AM-3PM, the Plasa Bieu has about five restaurants within it, serving Chinese, Jamaican and Krioyo (local) food. Try the Cabritu Stoba (stewed goat) at Grasia di Dios, for an excellent example of the island's local cuisine, at one of the only restaurants in Punda which offer it. 8-14 NAf
  • Downtown Cafe at the Hotel Estoril Breedestraat 179 (O), located 200 west of the Arti Supermarket, on the Otrobanda Side's main shopping strip (the Breedestrat/Roodeweg) Open seven days per week 7A-8P, 'el Estoril,' as the locals calls it, packs its seven or so tables full from about 10AM-4PM, with Venezuelan, Colombian and Dominican expats. The Estoril serves a mix of local and Latin dishes, all served in a more typically Latin style. Order at the bar and sit down when a seat becomes available. You'll be expected to share a table if your party cannot fill it. 8-20 NAf.
  • Seaside Terrace is located next to Breezes Hotel and close to Lions Dive Hotel and Mambo Beach near the end of Penstraat. Seaside Terrace has a limited menu, but serves delicious fresh fish (red snapper, dradu, tuna, etc.) and, if available, very well prepared lobster against very fair prices. The owner "Amigo" is very friendly and makes you feel at home right away.
  • On y va picnic sells picnic baskets to take to the beach. Order your favorite basket one day in advance and pick it up along the way to the beach, or they will deliver it. Located on the way to the beaches on the west side of the island. 26-45 NAF
  • Gouverneur de Rouville is a popular restaurant in Willemstad that serves a variety of continental European dishes in a wonderful atmosphere. Located Just north of the floating bridge on the Otrobanda Side, 25-45NAf.
  • Oceans Restaurant is located at Habitat Dive Resort in Rif. St. Marie on the SW coast. Serves a wide variety of international and regional cuisine. Overlooks the Caribbean Sea in an open air casual decor. Has full service bar. 15-35 Naf
  • Wilhelmina Plein Cafe is located 200 meters east of the Floating Bridge in Punda; this cafe is a favorite among the island's many Dutch interns and businessmen. Wilhelmina Plein Cafe offers exclusively outside seating along a major pedestrian thoroughfare, with good food and one of the island's better beer selections. 18-28 NAF
  • Vincent's Cafe Copa Cabana is a relatively hidden cafe just east of the Iguana Lounge's Main bar along the water on the Punda side of the bay. Skip the overpriced and mediocre waterfront restaurants on the Punda side and go to Vincent's for great sandwiches and a number of good daily special entrees. Vincent's is an outdoor cafe under the shade of a number of trees and the two buildings between which it is sandwiched, which also create a very pleasant breeze. 8-20NAf. M-S Lunch - 6:30PM.
  • Old Dutch Cafe Located on the Pietermaaiweg 500m east of the Bay on the Punda Side, the Old Dutch Cafe serves inexpensive Dutch cuisine with a kitchen that stays open late into the night. 15-28 NAf. Closed Sundays.
  • Kontiki Beach Club is a seaside restaurant offering good food in an idyllic location right on the beach. It is a little outside of the city, but it is well worth the short drive.
  • La Granja is a Peruvian influenced chain restaurant with a very local feel, serving great Latin cuisine, including excellent whole chicken, Lomo Saltado, and other great dishes. Sta Rosaweg 15-25 NAf. Open 7 days.
  • Il Forno is a popular Italian/pizza restaurant with two locations, (Caracasbaai location and Doormanweg location) serving European (though not Italian) style pizzas with fresh and delicious ingredients. 15-30 NAf.
  • Kasbanini located in the Rif Fort, 100m south of the floating bridge on the Otrobanda Side, is probably the best of the Rif Fort's five or so mid-level restaurants. Offering typical seafood and chops with a bit of local flair. 30-40 NAf. 7 days/week, lunch and dinner.
  • La Pergola located in the Old Fort on the southwest side of Punda, is likely the island's best Italian restaurant. Offering good pasta dishes as well as a few innovative 'secondi', La Pergola's quaint waterfront view completes an excellent dining experience. 25-40 NAf.
  • Ay Caramba is an American restaurant offering excellent American pub-grub with Tex Mex offerings. Located just below the Governeur Restaurant.
  • Golden Star is located on the Dr. W.P. Maalweg, on the way to Salinja. It serves local creole food and drinks, and is a good value for the amount of food you get. Prices vary from 15-25 NAf for a main course with sides.

Bistro le Clochard, located in the Rif Fort, offers outstanding French Cuisine with a beautiful waterfront view. Open daily. ANG50-80
Sculpture Garden Restaurant located in the Kura Hulanda Hotel one block West of the Governeur Restaurant. Excellent international cuisine with some very innovative specials

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Drink

Tap water, which comes from a large seawater desalination distillation plant, is excellent tasting and perfectly safe for consumption.

Popular alcoholic drinks include Amstel Bright beer, which used to be locally brewed by Antillaanse Brouwerij, a subsidy of Heineken International. It is a pale style lager, usually served with a wedge of lime. And Polar Beer, which is brewed in neighbouring Venezuela. It is a 5% abv lager beer.

Curaçao is famous for the alcoholic beverage of the same name, Orange Curaçao. It is made from bitter oranges grown on the island.

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Sleep

Many of the hotels on Curaçao are based in and around Willemstad. Especially to the south, at the Jan Thiel Baai and Piscadera Baai there are many hotels. Still, there are some luxurious hotels right in the center of Willemstad as well. In the north and west there are far less luxurious hotels but again much more smaller hotels and apartments for rent.

  • Kura Hulanda Hotel and Lodge - The hotel is in Willemstad and the lodge is at Westpunt in the northwest of Curaçao. Both offer luxurious rooms and the lodge has a private beach.
  • Papagayo Beach Resort - Jan Thiel Baai
  • Scuba Lodge - Willemstad, small scale lodge, especially catering for divers.
  • Avila Hotel - Willemstad, 5-star luxury
  • Landhuis Daniel - small scale cheap hotel on the road to the Westpunt
  • Jan Kok Lodges - small scale hotel in the centre of the island
  • Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort & Emerald Casino. Has excellent restaurants such as the Portofino Restaurant and the Seabreeze Bar and Grill, which specialize in local dishes and fresh seafood.
  • Flamingo Villa, St. Willibrordus, e-mail: info@Flamingo-Villa.com. Luxury villa that sleeps 12 people with a private pool and overlooks the magnificent Caribbean Sea.
  • Pietermaai Smal Apartments, Pietermaai Smal 51 (20 metres away from the Caribbean sea), ☎ +5999 465 0478. In a 200 years old renovated country house surrounded with an stylish swimming pool, you will find boutique hotel style apartments. Apartments with a distinctive design. edit
  • Seaside Curaçao, St. Willibrordus, Banda Abou. 10+ private villas to choose from. New beach-bar and restaurant, private pools. Sleeps 4-10 in a pure countryside setting with friendly security.
  • Westhill Bungalows, Westpunt (west from Willemstad). A place for a short or extended stay. Just up from Playa Forti and a short drive from other great beaches, each of the 2 bedroom bungalows are well equipped and all have kitchens. Nice grounds, pool and wonderful owners.

View our map of accommodation in Curacao

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Health

See also: Travel Health

There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Curacao. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Curacao) where that disease is widely prevalent.

It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Curacao. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and vaccination against hepatitis B and typhoid are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.

Dengue sometimes occurs as well. There is no vaccination, so buy mosquito repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net. Also wear long sleeves if possible.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.

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Safety

See also: Travel Safety

Safety is not a big issue on Curaçao. The locals are friendly, welcoming, and willing to give assistance. After all, a major part of their island's income comes from tourists. Just take normal precautions for a tropical island and use common sense.

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Keep Connected

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

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Quick Facts

Curaçao flag

Map of Curaçao

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Population
141.766 [1]

Contributors

as well as Herr Bert (3%), Sander (1%), travelnetwork (<1%), chiel.bakker (<1%)

Curaçao Travel Helpers

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Accommodation in Curaçao

Use our map of places to stay in Curaçao to explore your accommodation options and to compare prices across the country at a glance. To narrow the results down by budget category, use the links below.

This is version 35. Last edited at 9:03 on May 8, 19 by Utrecht. 6 articles link to this page.

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