By Debi Lander
Every summer, Floridians prepare for the possibility of hurricanes. Not so for those in the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao) in the Caribbean. They lie just off the coast of Venezuela, beyond the hurricane belt, so if you want to visit the Caribbean in the summer or late fall, head in their direction.
I recently returned from Curacao and was awe-struck by the waterfront in the capital city of Willemstad. Rainbow-hued historic houses in the Dutch architectural style create an unforgettable scene and are protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Unlike the white buildings that dominate many Greek and Mediterranean isles, Curacaoans prefer bright colors.
To cross over the waterway into the downtown, you use the Queen Emma floating footbridge. The bridge swings to one side if a ship needs to pass through. It’s fun to watch, but you can get stranded before it closes again. As the locals call her, the “Old Swinging Lady” gets illuminated at night.
Of course, all Caribbean islands brag about their white sand beaches, clear turquoise water, and vibrant sea life. Thirty-five smaller, more intimate beaches and coves dot the shoreline in Curacao. You won’t find a string of resort hotels off a boulevard or one long beach. The little coves permit snorkeling off the beach, and many scuba divers find they can dive without the need for a boat.
Curacao receives little rain, so the landscape remains dry, again helping to keep those hurricanes away. Cacti and scrub bushes grow all over the place, as does aloe vera. You can visit an aloe farm and learn about its multiple uses.
Two national parks offer very different experiences. If you want to climb to the highest point on the island, arrive early at Christoffelpark. A round-trip hike to the summit will take about three hours and rewards with a 360-degree panoramic view. Shete Boka Park, however, provides a much more dramatic picture. This park rests on the northernmost point, and massive waves constantly bombard and send spray skyward. The boardwalk and viewing platforms offer great photo ops, but be careful and hang on to the little ones.
If you take children, consider staying at an all-inclusive property like the Corendon Mangrove Beach Resort with its incredible waterpark. They offer exciting rides with twists and turns for all ages and a child-friendly area for the young ones. The King Cobra drops and flings daredevils. The waterpark is rarely crowded, so the kids will get plenty of rides. The resort also offers a fantastic main swimming pool, swim-up bar, a lap pool that tends to stay quieter, and its own beach.
One of my favorite moments was discovering wild flamingos. If you are lucky, you may find them close to the road. The quirky creatures twist and curl their necks around like backyard hoses. Their coral color reflects against the tranquil water in a lake, creating a beautiful scene.
Curacao offers a variety of lodging options from AirBnB rentals, villa rentals, boutique hotels, resorts, and all-inclusive properties. I suggest you plan to rent a car. It takes just two hours to drive from tip to tip.
Take a nonstop flight to Curacao from Miami. Remember your sunscreen and appetite; the local cuisine blends Creole, African, Spanish, Dutch, and Caribbean flavors. Enjoy!
Visit www.bylandersea.com to read more of local travel writer Debi Lander’s stories and travel tips.
Photo courtesy Debi Lander