It might be better known as a staple of most cocktail bars, but Curaçao also happens to be one of the Caribbean’s hidden gems. And thanks to its close proximity to South America (it is located just 35 miles off the coast of Venezuela) and its colourful history, this small but beautifully formed island is also home to one of the region’s most diverse cultures.
Once a booming trade hub for merchants in the Dutch West India Company – and of the global slave trade – Curaçao fell into ruin following the abolition of slavery in the 1800s, only to be revived in the 20th century thanks to Venezuela’s oil trade. Today Curaçao remains part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. There is evidence of this everywhere; souvenirs, snacks and, most noticeably, the picture perfect, candy-coloured colonial buildings in the capital, Willemstad, whose historic city centre was named a UNESCO world heritage site in 1997.
In the Pietermaai district meanwhile crumbling mansions in the Dutch architectural styles of the 18th and 19th centuries are slowly being transformed into bars, restaurants and boutique hotels to create a Bohemian neighbourhood that’s perfect to explore after sunset.
Other must-visit attractions on Curaçao include the technicolour floating market, where fruit vendors from Venezuela come to sell their mangoes, plantains and papayas, and Hato Caves with their giant stalactites, beautiful underground lakes and waterfalls and bat colony.
Aside from its thriving arts scene, the fact that more than 50 nationalities have made their home on Curaçao has resulted in an equally rich and diverse culinary offering. Proving to be way ahead of its time, food trucks have been stationed around the island for over 30 years, serving local delicacies such as goat stew and fries smothered in peanut sauce.
After all that sightseeing it’s time to hit the beaches. And with 35 of them on offer (not to mention some of the best shore diving on the planet), you’ll be spoilt for choice.
For those who appreciate the finer things in life, the five-star Baoase Luxury Resort is a must. At its heart, a man-made island forms a tranquil lagoon surrounded by a raised tropical garden. With 23 extravagant rooms, suites and villas, many of which have either shaded terraces overlooking the garden or private plunge pools, the resort is the ultimate deluxe getaway.
Curaçao enjoys a tropical climate with daytime temperatures ranging from around 28/29°C (82/84°F) between December and February to around 31°C (88°F) between May and October. Trade winds blow constantly from the east, providing a welcome cooling effect. The best time to visit is from mid-February to May as October, November and December are the wettest months. Tropical storms and hurricanes are rare in Curaçao because of its southern location.
The native language is Papiamentu, but English, Dutch and Spanish are widely spoken.
Whether or not you need a visa to visit Curaçao depends on your nationality. Here you’ll find a complete list of nationalities that don’t need a visa.
All tourists should be in possession of a valid passport, a return or outward ticket on arrival and sufficient funds for accommodation and food.
A holiday in Curaçao is usually trouble free. However precautions against petty crime should be observed.
In general you don’t need vaccinations for Curaçao, unless you’ve travelled to a country with a risk of yellow fever six months before you arrive on the island. In that case you would need to have proof of vaccination with you, or an official document of exemption before you are permitted entry.
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