In April of 2005, my husband and I spent a little over a week in Curacao and fell in love with the island. We're sure to be back (I personally am ready to move)! We're in our late 30s and love to really explore our destinations. Here's how we spent the week in Curacao:
Day 1 - We arrived in the early afternoon, picked up our jeep at the airport, did a little driving around Willemstad getting our bearings, and then drove out to Habitat Curacao, our home base for the first 5 nights. We were satisfied with Habitat Curacao, but we had researched extensively on tripadvisor before going, and knew what to expect. The main thing to know about Habitat Curacao is that, in spite of its name, it is NOT a resort. It's a basic (and I mean BASIC) efficiency in beautiful surroundings. The first evening, we ate at the hotel restaurant and experienced a spectacular sunset right from our table. If only the food was half as good. We found the food pretty mediocre and overpriced for what it was. Since Habitat Curacao is pretty remote, we resolved that we would use the little kitchenette in our room for at least a couple of nights during our stay.
Day 2 - First thing that morning, we got directions to the local supermarket (about a 15 minute drive, half-way back into Willemstad). What a fun experience! The signs are in Papiamento (some Dutch, some Spanish, some other languages), which we don't speak (though my husband knows a bit of German and I know a bit of Spanish), so we had fun trying to figure out what everything was. Don't miss the Jamon/Kase Croissants (ham & cheese) -- for $1 each, what a bargain for a lunch on the run! We also experienced the meat counter, which included many different dishes already marinating and ready to cook, which seemed perfect for our somewhat limited cooking facilities, and meant that we didn't have to buy a bunch of spices. The trick was trying to figure out what everything was! We bought one dish that was obviously shrimp, and another that we thought was chicken, but turned out to be squid when we cooked it up. Oh well, it's just part of the fun of traveling in a foreign land! We also picked up a case of Amstel, the excellent locally brewed beer (not the same as Amstel Light in the US -- much, much better). We spent the rest of that day at the beach, Playa Porto Marie. This was a great private beach, $3 admission per person, with another $2 for a chair. There was ample shade, a nice boardwalk, and a good grill with full bar. The snorkeling wasn't that great, but may get better in future years, as they are working on getting an artificial reef going there. This beach was just up the road from Habitat Curacao, so it was very convenient. Habitat Curacao itself really doesn't have any beach.
Day 3 - Our trek this day was to climb Mt. Christoffel. This was a challenging hike, very steep in some spots, but well worth it for the views. Take plenty of water for the hike and wear a hat and sunscreen -- it's very hot & sunny there! After our hike, we did a driving tour of the park, including the park that stretches north of the highway out to the north coast.
Day 4 - More exploring of the north coast on this day. First thing, we set out to get a close-up view of the windmill farm, for which you must have 4-wheel drive. The bonus for this off-road trek was when we came across a large installation of "found art" on the coral cliff walls. What a completely unexpected treat! From there, we headed west to explore Boca Pistol (worth the hike!) and Boca Tabla and farther west out to Westpunt, a charming fishing/diving village.
Day 5 - This day, we stayed at our hotel, Habitat Curacao all day, alternating snorkeling (very good right off the dock & to the west) and lazing by the pool. We don't dive, but the people at the dive shop were very nice, and let us use their tanks to clean our snorkeling equipment.
Day 6 - After a morning snorkel, we packed up and left Habitat Curacao to spend the rest of our time in Willemstad at Hotel Kura Hulanda. What a special place! Even if you don’t stay at Hotel Kura Hulanda while in Curacao, don’t miss walking through it! So beautiful, so historic, with excellent artwork everywhere. We enjoyed mainly just looking around the area and relaxing by the Eco-Pool the rest of the day. We really lucked out, arriving on a Thursday, because every Thursday one of Kura Hulanda’s restaurants, Jaipur, has an Asian buffet which is incredible.
Day 7 - This day, we enjoyed visiting two nice museums (Kura Hulanda Museum on slavery, MaritimeMuseum on seafaring history of the island) and walking around the shops and seeing the sights of the city.
Day 8 - Our last full day in Curacao, we took the 1/2-day trip out on the sailing ship Insulinde, which gave a nice tour of the southeast coast and took us to the most amazing snorkeling we have ever experienced anywhere. One of the stops on this trip was for snorkeling at a sunken tugboat, where many different fish were swarming for food thrown out by the ship’s crew. That was cool, but the best snorkeling was actually on the reef a short distance east of the tug – such a variety of fish and coral! The last afternoon, we ate a late, leisurely lunch at a waterfront café and watched the ships & city go by.
One of the things we really liked about Curacao was that it’s a pretty middle class island. You don’t feel like the obnoxious rich American, surrounded by tar paper shacks like you do in the Bahamas or in Jamaica. In fact, the vast majority of tourists we met were Dutch. We had been there five days before we met other Americans. We found this very refreshing, in contrast to Aruba, where you kind of feel like you’re in America, transplanted to the Caribbean. The people were invariably friendly. We were also impressed with the education level of people all over the island. Even well away from the tourist areas, most people we met spoke Papiamento, Dutch, English and Spanish. With the spectacular weather and varied sights, we talk all the time about our trip to Curacao, and try to figure out how we can someday move there!