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Curacao Netherlands Antilles in the Caribbean is a very beautiful island, the largest of the A-B-C Islands (Aruba, Bonaire & Curacao) and was the Caribbean capitol for the slave trade of the Western Hemisphere in the 1600-1800's. Europeans originally settling the island were the Dutch, but the English, Spanish, French and Portugese nations also fought over possession of the island with the Dutch winning the prize. The original inhabitants, the Arawaks, often called by other names, lived in caves along the northern coast of the island, as well as constructed dwellings from materials native to the island. When the Dutch first settled on the island, some enterprising businessmen formed the West Indies Company (WIC) to promote commercial trade, as well as being the managers of the huge slave trade business that was based from the island. The natural harbor of Willemstad made it prime real estate for a huge port. European and African slave traders would acquire most slaves from the western African coast but also brought thousands of white English from the Debtors' Prisons there and also pressed the native Arawaks into slavery. Large plantations (called Landhuis) were built all over the island beginning in the 1600's with each plantation dedicated to a different crop or industry and used slaves to produce the products of the Landhuis. Landhuis Groot Santa Marta is an excellent example of a restored, working plantation and is open Monday-Friday for tours. The Curacao National Museum in Willemstad also contains historical information and is restored to being an early 1800's Landhuis, as well as featuring local art. The Kura Hulanda in Otrabanda (Willemstad) has an excellent museum with information about the slave trade with many original artifacts (clothing, shackles, implements of torture, etc) from those times preserved for all to see. It is probably one of the best of its kind in the entire Caribbean. Today Willemstad preserves its early Dutch history with many buildings restored to near original state and some being open to the public for tours. The harbor is mostly refineries now with supertankers going in and out every day, but there is other commercial trade present with freighters also going in & out daily. Cruise ships can also access the harbor and 2 or 3 can be seen at the cruise terminals almost every day.
Curacao is one of the first places European Jews settled in the Western Hemisphere, and the oldest Jewish synogogue in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere is located in the Punda section of Willemstad and is open for tours Monday-Friday.
The geology of the island is quite interesting, particularly the eastern or northern coast of the island, depending on your orientation. The sea level at one time covered the entire island, and now you can see 3 distinct levels of shoreline for several miles that existed at different times when the sea dropped to where it is today. There are many caves that can be explored, Hato Cave near the airport being the most interesting and largest, but best to go with a knowledgeable guide. You can easily get lost just trying to find some of the caves if you don't have an experienced guide. Most of the island is like a flourishing desert with hundreds of thousands of cactus in many areas and wildlife also abounds. The western (or southern) coast has several bays or lagoons that make a variety of sea sports available in some places, and the best beaches and most hotels are also on that side of the island. The people are very friendly and welcoming and most speak, or at least understand, English. The primary language is Dutch with the secondary being Papiementu, the native tongue being a mixture of several languages including African, Dutch and Portugese. As of this writing, going to Curacao for a vacation is a good buy.
A word of caution, however: If you plan to go to a beach that's rather secluded and has no obvious security, DO NOT LEAVE ANY VALUABLES IN YOUR CAR OR ON THE BEACH. Take them in the water with you. Local thieves know the places exploring tourists like to frequent and they prey on tourists by damaging rental cars and stealing things from your car or from your beachbag if you don't take ALL precautions.