We were a party of two adults who stayed at the Avila Beach for several during February, 2012 for a short winter vacation. The Avila is a beautiful facility whose hotel staff treat visitors with the courtesy of a bygone era.
The Avila Beach is located on the ocean a short distance from down town Willemstad. The front desk told us that the Punda (the Point), which is in the center city business district, was about a 15 minute walk. We did not walk to the Punda, preferring to take cabs. I am a fast walker and doubt that I could have covered the distance in 15 minutes unless I were power walking. I would guess that 20 to 25 minutes would be more practical for me. I wouldn't consider walking, at any rate, because the streets are somewhat difficult to navigate (there is a tricky street merger and signs are not always apparent) and because the neighborhood is in some disrepair and sidewalks are not existent or in poor condition in some areas. In addition to the downtown area, the Avila is located within moderate taxi rides of beaches along the coast; however, many of the better public beaches are a greater distance away, beyond Willemstad. The Avila is approximately a $30 taxi ride from Hato (Curacao International) Airport.
The Avila Beach consists of three sleeping room wings: the Bolivar, the Blues, and the Octagon wings. We had a room in the Octagon wing that was truly superb. Our room had a king size bed (some rooms have two twins), a kitchen nook (two burner hot plate, bar sink, and refridgerator along with a tea kettle, plates, and cutlery), and a patio that over looked the ocean. We were on the top (fourth) floor and although we were above a plaza we were never disturbed by loud noises.
This room had a triple closet in a separate dressing area that contained more hangers (and hanger space), shelves, and drawers than I believe I have ever seen in a hotel. The closet doors were mirrored, which was helpful in dressing. There is a separate bathroom and shower area. The shower was a walk in more than large enough for two. In addition there was a soaking tub in the dressing area. The dressing area, like the bedroom, had a sliding glass door providing access to the patio so that it would be possible to use the soaking tub with the door open if one desired and if sufficient privacy was available.
In addition to the king sized bed, our room was furnished with a love seat and chair set along with a very utilitarian work desk. The furniture was a sort of beach modern style. The room makes extensive use of natural materials. the floors were wood and the bathroom was done in tile. All in all the room, its furnishings, and its decorations were very comfortable and very up to date.
Although there were extensive outlets, the Octagon wing is not wired for American electronics. There were a limited number of adapters available, but if you have older electrical items it would be wise to take one or more converters along as well. The room is equipped with a hair dryer, but the circuitry couldn't support it at high speed (the circuits popped). My partner was unable to use her hair curler at all.
The light switches were also somewhat non intuitive. As an example, the closets (which are in a room without other lighting) have small lights inside them. The switch for these lights is in another room, beside the door to the hall. Bell service does an overview of the room upon check in; it's worth paying close attention because there is a lot of detail.
Our room had a nice-sized flat screen television with about a dozen channels. Several (CNN, ESPN, and what appeared to be a Miami network station) were in English. Others were in Dutch, the official language of Curacao, or in Spanish.
The Avila is a resort-style facility that consists of several buildings. The central portion of the hotel served as a governor's country residence in the early 1800s and has been used as a hotel since 1949. In addition to the sleeping room wings mentioned above there is meeting space, three restaurants, and some on-site vendor facilities. The front desk is located in the historic, center portion of the hotel. The the business center is just off the front desk area while the rear door leads to the rest of the facility including sleeping rooms, restaurants, bars, and the beach. The hotel's spa and exercise facility are above the front desk. The exercise facility is built to allow treadmill and other exercise machine users to look out over the ocean during their work outs and appears to be well equipped.
The complex has a wide range of attractive gardens and lawns as well as two beach areas and a pool. The beaches are a bit small. I saw very few people using the pool, which was a very nice one. There are both snorkling and swimming in the lagoons off the Avila beaches. The Avila provides a fairly large number of chaises as well as towels for beach use. These are not anywhere nearly equal to the need, however, and it is best to obtain both (in addition to beach space) either early or late in the afternoon. Our experiences were that both towels and chaises were largely used up by about 9 AM on a weekend morning. Avila rules preclude saving chaises by placing towels and personal items on them to "hold" them for later use. Sundays are likely to be heavier use days because just about everything else in Curacao is closed on Sunday.
Food and Restaurants
As noted above, the Avila has several food service facilities. Blues is the primary restaurant and is built on stilts right on the ocean. This is a small venue with seating in booths around the bar and on a sort of patio. We found the Blues menu to be very limited and the food to be of very poor quality given it's price. On one evening I had the snapper, which was a small, very thin fillet that was over done. Another evening I had blackened pork, which was not blackened at all and which was served with brown gravy (which may or may not have been pork gravy). My partner ordered the rib eye steak (there is only one), but it was out of stock. She had a shrimp dinner that was disappointing as well. We also both tried the soups. I had a tomato based soup that was quite spicey to the point of causing indigestion. Each night dinner was accompanied by a local version of taco chips, which were thick, greasy, and tasteless. There is a very limited wine list as well. I tried only the Malbec, which was a very nice wine. There is also a good selection of beer and cocktails.
Blues is host to a jazz night (Thursday nights) that is reportedly very well attended. Reservations are recommended on Thursdays.
We ate at the Belle Terrace the evening we checked in. Again the menu was very limited and some foods listed were not available. We had roast veal, which was quite good. The Belle Terrace is designed to be the Avila's upscale venue. All seating is outside and a few tables are water view. During the day the Belle Terrace doubles as the Avila Cafe, where breakfast and lunch are served. Breakfast is a buffet ($17 US per person) which is fairly extensive. The fresh fruits are particularly good as are the traditional English breakfast items. Omlettes can be made to order. Coffee is European style, All in all the Avila Cafe breakfast is the best of the hotel's food offerings.
The Beach Bar and Schooner Bar, which appears to use the Beach Bar kitchen facility, are two outdoor informal venues. A bar menu is available from 11 to 7 and then lighter items are available later into the evening. We ate at the Schooner Bar a couple of times and found the food very poor. Hot dishes were cold, substitutions were made with no notice, and some items just never showed up at all. .
In addition to the hotel's food venues a coffee shop, the Coffee Factory, operates onsite, but does not appear to be affiliated with the hotel. This is -- hands down -- the best food available at the Avila and is usually pretty crowded for breakfast and for lunch. The Coffee Factory offers a line of sandwiches that are delicious, good coffee and other hot drinks, and desert type items (most of which are prepackaged and apparently not locally made). Coffee Factory orders cannot be charged to the visitor's hotel account and the staff much prefer Antillean money (rather than US dollars or Euros).
There are a couple of restaurants within walking distance of the hotel (one a sushi restaurant and the other two European dining restaurants). We did not eat at any of them. To find these restaurants, exit the Avila's front entrance and face right (walking against traffic on the one way street that passes the Avila). The restaurants are clustered about a block from the Avila. The Wine Cellar is located further up the street, but is in walking Del Mar. Both were excellent. Cru is approximately a $20 US cab ride from Avila and Perla Del Mar is about a $15 US cab ride from the hotel.
There are two small shops at the Avila. One sells botique type gifts and has a vintage Rolls Royce surrounded by tee shirts. The other sells more traditional hotel shop items such as sun screen and sodas. The major shopping area on the island is in Punda; however, there are shops across the inlet (accessible from Punda via the Queens Bridge, a footbridge) in and around the Riff fort, a 19th century fortification that guarded the harbor. Because Curacao is a cruise ship destination many of the shops are designer label. Wolf and Wolf is a very nice men's shop in Punda. Penha is a very good spot for perfumes. There is a shopping mall on the island (Zuikertuin), but it was a $20 US taxi ride from the hotel or downtown and we decided not to visit it because we weren't sure we would be able to cab back.
There are several larger food stores on the island and we saw several people carrying bags of groceries to their rooms. Centrum seemed to be the market visited most often according to the bags people were carrying. There is also a very small local store within walking distance of the hotel. To visit it walk left on the street in front of the hotel, go down one block and then walk up the side street to your left. The store is brightly painted and hard to miss. Neighborhood stores in Willemstad are often very limited and consist of a shopping area behind iron bars. Customers tell the clerks what they wish, the clerks go and get it, and then the customer pays and receives the goods. We bought only some sodas at the store near the hotel. The hotel staff emphasized that the store served the needs of the neighborhood (which is very poor) and this caution should not be taken lightly.
Getting around the Island
As noted above we used taxicabs exclusively in getting around the island. None of the cabs have meters in them and it is very wise to negotiate cost before taking the cab. In general we found the cab drivers to be pleasant, professional, and honest; however there were a couple of instances where this was not the case.
There are many car rental agencies around the island, both at the airport and in Willemstad. There is a Budget office at Avila. Rentals at Avila are for a 3 day minimum. Some sort of private transportation seems to be the best solution for any travel outside of the Willemstad area (either a car rental or a tour).
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Family run boutique hotel comprises the islands original governor's mansion dating from 1780. Located on two romantic private beaches, the hotel is just minutes away from downtown Willemstad. The new Octagon Wing features 68 spacious rooms decorated in sophisticated neutrals with splashes of vivid Caribbean colors and has transformed the hotel into a contemporary luxury resort & spa. Avila Hotel nevertheless continues to be a reflection of the island of Curacao. Friendly. Intimate. Understated. Welcoming. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Avila Beach Resort
- Hotel Avila Beach
- Avila Beach Hotel Curacao/Willemstad