Curacao holidays

Experience Curacao

Best Places to Visit

A trip just 60m off the north coast of Curacao provides a chance to see one of its most distinctive features. On any coastline, it is common for there to be a 'shelf' of sand that stretches out a certain distance, before dropping away quite steeply so that the water becomes much deeper. On Curacao, this happens at less than 60m (about 200 feet) from the northern coastline. This sudden drop has earned the nickname 'the blue edge'.

Head to Willemstad, the island's capital, and look for the central bank - or, to give it its full title, the Central Bank of Curacao and Sint Maarten. The bank dates to 1828 making it the Western Hemisphere's oldest central bank. It is just one of the historic buildings found in Curacao's capital, which you might want to take a day to explore, so as not to miss out on any of the architecture and heritage of the island and its past and present inhabitants.

A pair of bridges are evidence of some of Curacao's bigger infrastructure, and proof that a relaxed pace of life does not mean falling behind in development. They can be found linking Punda with Otrobanda, two adjacent districts in need of both a road link and a pedestrian crossing. The Queen Emma footbridge is the smaller of the two, a 168m long pontoon capable of swinging open to let traffic sail in and out of the port. Look beyond it and you can't miss the much more imposing Queen Juliana Bridge. It is a broad arch 56 m above sea level, allowing road traffic to cross St Anna Bay, and replacing an earlier bridge that collapsed in 1967.

If you can drive over the bridge - or cross it as a passenger - take the time to do so. It offers a unique perspective looking back across the bay at Willemstad and Curacao, with panoramic views of the districts of Punda and Otrobanda from probably the highest artificial vantage point in the area. Alternatively, walk down to the Queen Emma bridge instead, and wait for it to swing open to let a boat sail gently by either into or out of the port.

Top Landmarks

The forts built by the Dutch when they arrived at Curacao in the 1630s offer some of the most striking landmarks. Fort Amsterdam in Willemstad is one example, built in 1634 to serve as the headquarters of the Dutch West India Company, as well as having strategic military importance as a lookout post on Sint Anna Bay. Visit it now and, if you look closely at the south-western wall of the fort's church, you may be able to see a cannonball lodged in the surface. This was a direct hit by the British, under Captain John Bligh aboard HMS Theseus, who successfully captured the fort in 1804.

Dotted all around Curacao are pretty Dutch style houses that wouldn't look out of place in the Netherlands, except for one thing… bright, pastel paintwork. Far from gaudy, it brightens up the vista when you look down a full street of houses, all painted in different pastel shades.

Entertainment

Holidays to Curacao promise an exciting mixture of island activities, including snorkelling and scuba diving. You may also find you can swim out to the adjacent coral reefs without the need for any breathing gear, and take a look at the life there. Just be careful not to cause any damage to these fragile ecosystems.

One form of entertainment you might not want to miss is the chance to try some Curacao while on Curacao. The famous beverage is named after the island and is produced using the bitter oranges that grow there. It is often referred to as Blue Curacao, due to its bright blue colour (although it is also available in other colours.)

Christoffel National Park is a point of interest if you have a fascination with history, as it is the location of Boca Grandi. These are caves where you can see evidence of paintings on the walls, left behind by the Arawak Indians who were the first to arrive at Curacao. The park is also the location of Curacao's highest point on land, Mount Christoffel, which stands almost 1,300 feet tall.

If you grow tired of Curacao itself, it is only a short hop to one of the neighbouring islands, including the other members of the so-called ABC Islands. Aruba is only minutes by plane, while Bonaire is a much-respected destination for keen divers, and will offer you a change of scene if you feel you have explored Curacao's coastline to the fullest extent.

It's even relatively straightforward to travel to Venezuela, the country with the longest Caribbean coastline and the world's highest waterfall, Angel Falls. You will have to pay a modest 'exit tax' for leaving Curacao, but in this picturesque part of the world, with more idyllic islands and mainland to explore, it's a small price to pay for a change of scenery.

Dining Out

Curacao has a respectable selection of different dishes available when it comes to eating out, from the familiar to the less so. Asian, Italian and Mexican menus are all available on the island, and there are eateries for both fast food and fine dining too, spanning the full range of formal food service. Steaks and other grills are available, and unsurprisingly for an island paradise, there is plenty of seafood on the menu too.

For authentic local delicacies, look for Krioyo, the name given to the local food, which is served in several restaurants on the island. This is pronounced like the Spanish word for Creole, and consists of many of the same influences. A typical Caribbean cuisine it includes dishes like beef stew with papaya, an okra and seafood soup named Guiambo, Sopi Mondongo (most accurately described as intestine soup) and a cornmeal paste called Funchi.

Breakfast consists of Pastechi, which shares more than just its name with the British concept of a pasty. It is a fried pastry, with a filling of minced meat, ham, tuna or cheese, and is widely consumed as a hearty and delicious start to the day.

Need to know

Language

The local language of Papiamentu is relatively new, built largely around a combination of Portuguese, Dutch and Spanish, with a few other influences from African and English. As a Creole, it is a fledgling language, still in its very early stages, and that means there are few specific grammar rules, and the islanders have only recently agreed on fixed spellings for their most commonly used words. Generally as a tourist, you should find English is widely spoken in the main resorts and by most islanders too, although many will use Dutch for day to day conversation.

Currency

The Antillean guilder is the local currency, but US dollars are also widely accepted, and the two are pegged to one another at an exchange rate of about 1.80 guilders to the dollar. Look out for the unusual currency code - NAf comes from the island's Dutch parentage, and originally stood for Netherlands Antilles florin. Money is easily obtained at ATMs in both dollars and NAf, while major credit cards are widely accepted, but could incur extra exchange fees and other charges for using them overseas.

Visas

As a package holiday destination, Curacao has more unusual entry requirements, although each rule in itself is nothing out of the ordinary. You will need a passport with at least six months left before expiry from the date you arrive in Curacao - this compares with most other countries whose six-month period starts counting from the date of your return journey. You don't need a visa for a stay of anywhere up to 90 days within one calendar year. If you want to stay for longer than that, ask at Immigration on arrival.

Climate

While you might expect Curacao holidays to be extremely hot, due to the island’s Caribbean location, this is not necessarily the case. Instead, low humidity helps to make the heat more bearable, as it is easier for the body to control its own 'thermostat' in the usual ways. Combine this with gentle breezes that drift over the island, and the effective temperature is often in the comfortable range for many people. There is little rainfall at any time of year, and together all of these characteristics combine to create what is commonly called a savannah climate.

Main Airports

Curacao's airport is officially named Hato International Airport, although its three-letter code is a logical CUR. It is in the north of the island, near to the capital Willemstad, in Plaza Margareth Abraham.

Flight Options

International flights into Curacao include regular services from Miami and New York, along with direct flights from Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

Travel Advice

UK visitors to Curacao do not need a visa, as long as you have a valid residence permit with you. The crew of aircraft and ships are all granted permission to stay in Curacao for up to 48 hours without a visa, after which time they must leave.

Other Transport Options

Air is not the only way to get to the island, and cruise liners dock at either Curacao Mega Pier, or at the Cruise Terminal. As is often the case, these disembarking points are served by a selection of duty-free shops. These can allow you to pick up some tax-free shopping. You may have to show some form of evidence that you are only on the island as a tourist before you are allowed to buy anything without paying the duty on it. The Mega Pier accommodates the largest ships while, for smaller sailing boats, there are several marinas around the island, as well as the port of Willemstad. This allows oceangoing vessels to be docked at Curacao while their captain recovers his or her land legs after a period out at sea.

Getting Around

Despite being a relatively small island, Curacao has plenty of public transport options, not to mention the ability to hire a car and drive yourself around.

Bus

The buses take some getting used to. Larger buses called 'Konvoi' make longer journeys between major destinations, but these are quite infrequent. In contrast, smaller vans simply named 'BUS.' can take about ten passengers at any one time. Once aboard, you can ask the driver to change his route slightly - allowing you to get closer to your final destination before you alight from the vehicle. While waiting at a bus stop, you may see a taxi driver attempt to pick you up, but unless you're prepared to spend the extra, it's best to wait for the next BUS. or Konvoi to show up.

Train

Rather than trains being used for public transport, in Curacao, they’re used for sightseeing. Catch a trolley train and experience historic Willemstad in a truly unique way, pootling along the streets of Punda and Otrabanda.

CURACAO`S WEATHER TODAY

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MONTHS

AVERAGE RAINFALL (mm)

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MONTHS

MAP

FACTS

  1. Curacao is one of the so-called ABC Islands, a collection of three Caribbean islands named after their initials, which also includes Aruba and Bonaire.
  2. Although it is an autonomous country the island is officially owned by the Netherlands - despite being located close to Venezuela.
  3. The native language on the island is called Papiamentu. This is a unique combination of English, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, and African languages as well. However, most people on the island speak English, French, Portuguese or German to at least some extent.

FACTS

  1. Curacao is one of the so-called ABC Islands, a collection of three Caribbean islands named after their initials, which also includes Aruba and Bonaire.
  2. Although it is an autonomous country the island is officially owned by the Netherlands - despite being located close to Venezuela.
  3. The native language on the island is called Papiamentu. This is a unique combination of English, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, and African languages as well. However, most people on the island speak English, French, Portuguese or German to at least some extent.

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