I didn't get a chance to post last week as we were on holiday! Jeff and I went away for a few days to the island of Curacao. Meanwhile, Elara got to have a vacation of her own with her grandparents. As both Jeff and I's parents don't live in Toronto it was nice for them to spend some time with her. And we got to reconnect as a couple. Win-win all around!
We spent five days on this beautiful island. It is a part of the Dutch Antilles and is close to South America next to the Venezuela boarder. The website for the country's tourism is a good source for planning a trip here. Curacao has something for everyone to do! Whether is be relaxing on the beach, visiting a museum, or hiking up the hills on the north end of the island. There is also every restaurant imaginable, lots of festivals, and the main city of Willemstad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Here is what we got up to on the island. There was so much more I would have liked to experience, but we were there to relax too, and you can't do everything!
We didn't get into Curacao until 11pm the night before so we didn't do much except settle in and sleep. On our first full day we explored our hotel's grounds and took a walk along the beach and cliff side, and went swimming.
We picked the Curacao Merriott Beach Resort, as it looked great, had good reviews, and was not expensive. The hotel, grounds, and beach of this hotel are all open air, and is just gorgeous. After exploring all over the island this hotel is definitely one of the best in terms of atmosphere and beach area. The room was comfortable, but was a little dated and worn. They could use a renovation to modernize and make the rooms look fresher. The food on the other hand was just OK, and was extremely expensive. We ended up eating most of our meals off site where the food was great. So, it had some pros and cons, but since you don't spend all that much time in your room we thought the hotel setting more then made up for the dated rooms.
On the second day we took a shuttle into the main city of Willemstad. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The buildings are so colourful and are in the Dutch style. There are two sides of the city which are connected by a floating bridge. This bridge opens and closes to allow boats through, which is lots of fun to watch. If you need to get back over to the other side when the bridge is open you can take the free ferry.
We found a cute little restaurant for breakfast which had amazing food and was only $5 compared to $20 US dollars. After eating, we wandered around the small, pedestrian only, streets and looked at all the neat buildings. There is also a floating market where boats park at the pier and sell their fresh fish, fruits, and vegetables. Lots of fun to people watch as they go about their daily shopping.
All along the water is the old fort wall. They have remade the wall into restaurants and shops. You can visit the Riffort and lookout from the top of the wall for a great view of the city. It looked like a museum was in the works when we visited, but it was under construction. We ended up going to one of the restaurants in the wall for dinner. The kitchens are located in the wall and they built docks out over the water for the tables. Can't beat watching the sun go down over the ocean while having dinner!
We started the day by heading to the Curacao Sea Aquarium. It was fun to watch the flamingos but the rest of the aquarium was just OK. There wasn't a ton to do there (unless you want to swim with dolphins or feed sharks, all of which costs more), and it was quite expensive. Afterwards we walked over to Mumbo beach, and enjoyed lunch at Chill and Grill Beach Bar. They had a great BBQ going, and you can sit at the bar or at tables right in the sand.
After lunch we visited the Curacao Liqueur Factory and Museum. There was a small museum that tells you the history of the liqueur (which is made from a type of orange) then tastings at the end, all of which was free. There is actually quite a few flavours of Curacao, only the blue one is popular internationally. We bought a tamarind flavoured one, which has a nice sour taste and would be amazing over ice.
For dinner we went to a beach near our hotel called Pirate's Bay. We fell in love with this place! During the day it's a private beach and bar/restaurant. However, at night they take away all the lounge chairs and place tables right on the sand, and light strings of colourful lanterns and lights. The atmosphere is wonderful! And the food and drinks were some of the best we had on the island. We definitely recommend this place, and it was great since it was a short walk from our hotel. They also serve breakfast and lunch, and there is a wood burning oven for pizza. As well, the cocktails were actually made with real fruit instead of the fake syrup mix. So yummy!
On our last full day we rented a car and took a little road trip up to the north side of the island. We visited Christoffel National Park for a hike. The landscape is very arid, and the park was full of cactuses (and huge iguanas too). It was so interesting to look around! We saw huge cliffs where the waves rushed up, giant cactuses, and hills in the distance.
After visiting the park we drove to a few public beaches along the road to do some snorkelling. Lots of amazing fish and coral to see all along the coast.
This is definitely an island to see! It's so different than a lot of other Caribbean islands, it almost has a European feel. It's a lot wealthier than some, and tourism is not as big here which means you are visiting a country not just a resort. In fact, on our plane coming in there were only a few of us who were tourists, the rest were all locals coming back from their holidays or visiting family/friends. The locals are very friendly and are very proud of their country. They are also very diverse. We enjoyed our trip a lot, and it was so nice to spend some time in the hot sun and swim in the ocean!