Updated: Oct 26, 2021
Have you ever visited a destination that was on your bucket-list? It's surreal when it happens, when dream meets reality. Sometimes the fantasy is better than the actuality. This was NOT the case when I finally visited (one of) the travel locations on my bucket-list : Curaçao.
Curaçao is a part of the ABC islands, which are located off the tip of Venezuela. This area is often overlooked despite being a great year-round destination. Its warm and sunny weather makes it a great place to stay, no matter the month. The people on the island are very kind and welcoming. Meeting the locals was one of the highlights of my experience. It is an autonomous country within the Netherlands Kingdom, and is the perfect place to visit for all kinds of travelers: families, solo, couples...Curaçao has something for everyone.
Keep reading to find out what to do, where to eat, and where to play, during your stay in Curaçao.
A LITTLE HISTORY (JUST A LITTLE):
Curaçao is one of the islands that make up the ABC Islands. The other islands are Aruba and Bonaire. The native language spoken is Papiamentu, and is a beautiful mix of Spanish, English, French, Portuguese and Dutch. That's just one of the reasons why Curaçao is such a unique place.
You will hear the word Dushi a lot during your stay, and trust me- you will go home forever using this local Papiamentu expression for years to come. Dushi has a lot of meanings, but it mostly means nice, good and sweet. You can use it to describe a delicious meal, or a loved one. This is my new favorite word!
I'm sure you heard of the famous liqueur: Blue Curaçao. The water in Curaçao and the famous liqueur of the same name are both vibrant and blue, and a must-have added to tropical cocktails (more about those cocktails later).
HOW TO GET AROUND:
Travelers who want to get the full city experience can now get around Willemstad on the handy TukTuks, which are equipped with colorful bikes. These motorized vehicles can be hired by tourists and can provide helpful information about the area and its attractions. We spent the day in one, provided by Curtuktuk and we were able to cover so much ground, and see parts of the city that were hidden and tourist-free as well the major tourist attractions.
COLORFUL STREET ART:
Candy-colored buildings and wall murals adorn the beautiful streets of Curaçao. Photos on Pinterest of these works of art are what made Curaçao bucket-list worthy for me. It's so strange that now, I have those photos, except I am the one smiling, looking off into the distance, and enjoying life in them. Our guide told us that the locals paint their homes a different color every year, because they want their homes to match their happiness, their bright inner lights. I found this to be so enchanting. Willemstad is a compact city with tons of twists and turns and something new and interesting to look at in every corner.
Francis Sling is an artist who lives in Curaçao. His colorful and impressive paintings have caught the attention of tourists, magazines, and mine! Sling is an artist from Otrobanda who has been getting recognition internationally, as his work has been featured in numerous festivals and exhibitions.
Sling’s work is very bright, yet has a lot of sadness to it. His style is very different from that of other artists, as he uses acrylics on canvas or wood. He enjoys creating pieces that are both unique and beautiful.
I had the pleasure of meeting Francis in his studio, and from the art I noticed, he enjoys capturing the essence of his subject or model, and he does it with every stroke.
With his transparent and honest style, Sling makes art that is real, raw, and expressive.
I love art, culture, and history... but I also have a sweet spot for wildlife and turquoise waters, I mean- who doesn't? I have to preface this part of the blog by telling you I'm a scaredy cat and I was terrified to go on a Jet Ski tour but realized that I am a speed demon and enjoyed it very much, even though at times I thought I would fly off.
So let's get into it.
We did a 2 hour jet ski tour with Tourrific Curacao. Visiting multiple beaches plus snorkeling is a truly memorable way to experience the island. This is a great way to take a break from the bustle of the city to explore the island's natural features, such as its lagoons and mangrove forests. We also saw fascinating sea creatures, fish, and of course- sea turtles!
One of the stops was at Forti Beach which has a 10 meter high cliff. Lots of locals and adrenaline junkies jump off of this cliff into the water. My 42 year old husband jumped off and lived to tell. It's definitely for the daring type!
Tourrific Curaçao brought us to to all the best beaches: Kenepa Grandi and Lagun. This side of the island is filled with locals and less populated. Snorkeling with sea turtles next to fisherman in crystal clear waters was so serene and relaxing. You must do this while visiting, it's unlike any other snorkeling experience you've had.
Our tour guide told us repeatedly: "We love our food in Curaçao".
And boy did she mean it! Food is a very huge part of the culture on the island. The local cuisine is distinctive, original, and full of flavor. I'm no foodie, but I think I was converted by the island. Here are my top picks that you must visit while in Curaçao.
LI TRADITIONAL ICE CREAM:
During our TukTuk tour we had a well-deserved pit stop to get some refreshing Li. Li is a traditional Antillean ice cream and comes in many flavors, I had the Li Di Anasa (pineapple). I was hot and this was PERFECT! It was fresh, bursting with flavor.... DUSHI is what is was. The woman who sold us the Li ($1USD each), lives in a beautiful little house in Willemstad, and her name is Luz. Please go visit her, and tell her Elena says hello!
Located in the heart of Willemstad, this food court features six local kitchens serving up authentic cuisine. This is a must-visit for locals and tourists alike. We tried a variety of dishes, including a bowl of kadushi a plate of red snapper, funchi or goat stew. There are also some dessert options. Go inside and see what’s happening in the open kitchens. There are plenty of options for breakfast and lunch, such as goat stews, fried bananas, fish and pumpkin pancakes.
Blue View Sunset Terrace is a spectacular cliff-top restaurant that offers stunning views of the ocean and the adjoining Playa Forti beach. It's located in the heart of Punta Arena. You can "walk on water", enjoy fresh delicious salads, and try the very popular Iguana stew shown here (please note that I am not adventurous, however my husband is and he enjoyed this dish very much). Bring your camera because this is a very Instagramabble spot!
Bario Urban Street Food is a great place to eat in Curaçao. The food court features a number of different restaurant windows, including some that specialize in lionfish. It has a fun, chill, vibe and the walls are painted with vibrant colors and designs. There are plenty of fishcakes, dumplings, and pizza to choose from, which we loved. I tried the Otrobanda Colada, which is made with local blue Curaçao liqueur, and it was perfect on a hot steamy night in Curaçao.
This restaurant is located near Willemstad and is a definite must if you're in the area. It features a variety of Caribbean-style food. Favorite dishes we tried: Jackfruit Bao Buns, Fried Okra, and Biggie's Kick Off. As you can see, we had a mini feast and enjoyed the vibe (and the air conditioning!). I'm from NYC originally and they definitely understood the assignment! Try the BKLYN Spritz cocktail. Every detail of this cocktail was perfection and features mint & black pepper aperol, cava, and grapefruit soda.
Curaçao is filled with natural wonders both above and below ground. Hiking trails, caves, Flamingos, Ostrich Farms and more. I wish I had more time to do it all, but glad I was able to spend a morning at one of their National Parks. Here's why you need to visit Shete Boka National Park:
The highlight of Boka Tabla (which is inside Shete Boka) is its underground cavern, where huge waves can erupt from the limestone cliffs. Be careful because it gets slippery, and make sure your equipment is waterproof! I've never been in an underground cavern and loved watching the water crash, not knowing if it was going to splash me or not. After exploring the cavern, take a walk along the limestone bluffs to watch the surf, it's a sight to be seen!
You should also visit The Boka Pistol Trail. This trail leads to the Boka Brown where sea turtles hatch and lay their eggs. The Boka Wandomi Trail follows the rolling lava hills and is a walk along the Natural Bridge. Bring sunscreen, wear sneakers, and drink lots of water. AND BRING YOUR CAMERA! This is a beautiful park and it's great for the whole family.
I didn’t like Curaçao, I LOVED it. If you’re planning on visiting Curaçao, contact the Curaçao Tourist Board to assist you in planning your trip, and use this guide as a reminder of what to do and where to eat while you're visiting my new favorite Island!
There are many places in the Caribbean that offer great things to do, but none are as special as Curaçao. This island is more than a place to go on vacation. Curaçao will dazzle you with its fascinating attractions for both locals and visitors.
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