(Warning – this is a long one!) We just returned from 12 days on Curacao (July) and had a fantastic trip. As background, this was our second trip to Curacao, the last one was 8 years ago. We decided to spend the first 5 days on the West end so that we could access the great beaches there, and the last 7 days were on the East end. We rented a private villa in Coral Estate for 5 days and spent the last week at the Royal Sea Aquarium Resort. We used Daniel from D & D for our car rental because he offered free transportation to our villa upon arrival and also picked us up to take us to the airport when we left.
Accommodations: The villa in Coral Estate was stunning. We had our own infinity pool and an ocean view to die for. This was our first private villa rental and it definitely had it’s pros and cons. We loved the villa itself, it was gorgeous and we loved the privacy. There are a few downsides of a private villa, such as no A/C except in the bedrooms, which we only used when we slept. We opened everything up and the breeze was wonderful but it does let in some livestock. We had 4 different birds fly in which we had to catch and release. We had a few bees fly inside and since I am allergic, caused some panic! We had 2 huge cockroaches, 1 on the patio by the door and 1 in the living room. The flies were terrible all during the day, there were loads of them. There was a washer but no dryer (we thought the washer doubled as a dryer but were told by the property manager that it was only a washer) so we did not do any laundry which we had planned on doing. The internet connection was so sporadic as to be unusable and one of our party was trying to do on-line homework so it was a problem. One day we had no water at all and when we asked, the property manager said that the water gets turned off regularly once or twice a week. We wish we had known in advance as we could not make coffee, brush teeth, etc. and we could have saved some water the day before if we had known it was going to happen. I just mention these things because it may be helpful to someone else who has never rented a private villa before. We loved our stay there despite these minor inconveniences but just want to be honest. But floating in your own infinity pool sipping a cocktail while staring at the ocean pretty much wipes out anything negative!
Our stay at the Royal Sea Aquarium Resort was awesome as well. We asked in advance for a particular room location and they went out of their way to accommodate us. We had the full 2 bedroom suite with a full ocean view about 15 feet from the water. The central A/C was wonderful too! The staff was really friendly and took care of all our needs. The maid service was also perfect. We had one of the newly renovated suites so the kitchen was brand new, as were the bedroom linens. Really nice. Our room location also gave us the opportunity to see the dolphins every morning swim out of the aquarium lagoon and go out into the open ocean. The dolphins stay close to the boat and jump and swim out in the ocean right in front of the resort. I’m not a big fan of dolphins in captivity but it was interesting to see them leave the aquarium site and get to go out in the ocean. I kept wondering why they just didn’t swim away!
Beaches: We went to Big Knip, Little Knip, Lagun, Daaibooi and the Sea Aquarium beach. We had previously visited Porto Marie, Cas Abou and Jan Thiele so wanted to see some different beaches this time. My favorite overall beach was Little Knip because it was small but the water was so crystal clear and turquoise but still had good snorkeling. Lagun had great snorkeling, we saw more there than anywhere else. Big Knip was great for swimming but was very crowded and we were there during the week. There was not much to see snorkeling at Daaibooi when we were there, maybe just an off day. We meant to spend a day at Blue Bay but 3 out of 4 of us (luckily not me!) got bad colds and wanted to stay close to the resort. The lagoon at the Royal Sea Aquarium Resort had surprisingly good snorkeling. The water was crystal clear and turquoise and we saw a good variety of fish: 3 small barracudas, parrot fish, squirrel fish, squid, butterfly fish, big schools of blue tang, French grunts, a big school of very large fish under the bridge, and lots of the other usual suspects. We snorkeled east past the aquarium all the way to the breakers but the surf was really rough at the inlet so we could not go out to see the elkhorn coral that was supposed to be out there.
Dining: Not a lot to report on dining as this trip we self catered most of the time. We hit a few beach bar restaurants on the west side for lunch and ate at WaterFort at the Grill King so we could watch the eels and crabs in the water below. We also ate at El Mexicano at the Blvd. at Sea Aquarium Beach which had excellent service and good food and at Augustos at the resort.
Grocery Stores: We hit up quite a few stores since we were cooking in most of the time. We did a big shop at Centrum to stock up initially and it has everything you need. We went to the California Supermarket near Coral Estate and all I can say is thank goodness we went to Centrum for most of our items because there was no acceptable meat, not even lunchmeat there and the produce was just sad. It was fine for a few items to fill in but I would not rely on it to get major items. We also went to Best Buy which was excellent and had good prices (we bought a whole filet mignon roast there) and finally we went to Vreugdenhil which also is a very nice store. We bought a lot of Chilean wine and found it to be inexpensive and quite good. Amstel Bright was everywhere and also no problem buying vodka and rum for reasonable prices.
Weather: We had perfect weather the whole trip. It rained early one morning for about 10 minutes and that was it. It was overcast a few days but that actually made it cooler. It was windy but not like in Aruba, we did not get sand blasted except at Big Knip. Most of the time it was just breezy enough to make it comfortable.
Mosquitos and other critters: I did get 8 bites and all of them were during the day when I was not wearing repellent. Out of our party of 4 I was the only one who got bitten but I am always the bug magnet everywhere! I wore repellent every night and did not have a problem as long as I had it on. As I mentioned above, we did have 2 huge cockroaches at the villa and tons of flies there but did not see any scorpions. At the Royal Sea Aquarium Resort, we did not see any insects at all, not even flies. The iguanas are everywhere, if you don’t like them, don’t come here because they are at every beach and pool we went to. Some of them are quite large and friendly. The birds are so beautiful everywhere! We saw wild parrots flying and gorgeous birds all over.
Rental Car: As I mentioned, we used Daniel from D & D for our car rental. We got a Dodge Journey SUV which was brand new and in great shape. We needed a large vehicle for all our luggage for 4 adults for when we moved from one accommodation to another and it fit everything (barely – we had a lot of stuff!). I cannot recommend him highly enough, he was fantastic. He picked us up at the airport and drove us to the grocery store, then took us to Coral Estate. He gives you a free cell phone to use as well for local calls. You can buy minutes if you need to call back home. We also decided to rent the GPS even though we had managed quite well on our last trip with a map and I have to tell you it was a life saver as well as a marriage saver! It was worth every penny not to have to worry about where to go every time we got in the car. Get the GPS, you will be glad you did. I thought I would remember the island from our last trip but honestly, nothing looked familiar when we started driving around. Also, we had an early morning flight when we left and it was dark so we left the car at our resort and he picked us up at 5 am on the dot and got us to the airport in a flash. The best car rental experience I have ever had anywhere. It is cash only but that was fine with us.
Misc: We went to the Ostrich Farm and enjoyed the short tour. It is now $16 a person. We did eat lunch here and it was pretty good. The ostrich burger tastes a bit like a turkey burger. We had some pastechis here as well as some from a local lady at Big Knip and they are very good. We visited the casino at the Renaissance and their machines do accept US dollars directly into the machines. We found a great cheese shop in the RifFort by the Renaissance Hotel and bought truffle gouda that is heavenly, also pepper and dill gouda.
We used American Airlines and as much as I don’t like them, all of our flights (and there were 3 just to get back home) were on time and all our luggage showed up coming and going. Customs was no problem coming in to Curacao and also going back through Miami, even for a Saturday. We breezed right through both ways. I think we just got lucky! My sister-in-law and her husband had the opposite experience both coming and going. They had one of their flights cancelled on the way to Curacao and had to spend the night in Miami, losing a vacation day and then had the same thing happen again part way through their return trip and had to spend the night in Chicago so their opinion of American Airlines is in the dirt and justifiably so! Plus they lost their bags…….
We had a fantastic vacation and can’t wait to come back again! Curacao is one of my favorite islands and we have taken over 30 vacations all over the Caribbean, all of the Hawaiian islands and Mexico. I love the culture, the fact that it is not too touristy, not too expensive, has great snorkeling right from the beaches, good restaurants, friendly people everywhere we went, you can drive here and it has great weather. For us it is the perfect combination of all these things that makes us want to come back soon!