Curaçao: Exploring the Dutch Caribbean

Carolyne Parent By Carolyne Parent / 05 March 2016

Curaçao: Exploring the Dutch Caribbean

Carolyne Parent By Carolyne Parent

“Bon Bini!” Curaçaoans exclaim enthusiastically when welcoming others.  This greeting means “welcome!” in Papiamentu, the predominant language spoken among the locals, featuring a mixture of several different languages. No wonder these islanders are all so welcoming; they’re living in paradise!

Along with Aruba and Bonaire, Curaçao is part of the Leeward Antilles, an archipelago colloquially known as the ABC Islands, just off the coast of Venezuela. And “D” is for darling because it’s such a darling and picturesque spot.

Curaçao’s lively capital city, Willemstad, litteraly William’s City in Dutch, is like a mini-Amsterdam under a Caribbean sun, with a bustling café scene, shopping in chic boutiques, museums, art galleries. It has two distinct historic districts, Otrobanda and Punda, and the action centered around the Queen Emma Bridge. In fact, Willemstad’s Inner City and Harbour are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its buildings have been beautifully restored to their original, Dutch colonial state.

Something old

Close to the cruise terminal, Otrobanda is a popular historic district dating back to the 18th century and a good starting point to explore the romantic alleyways showcasing beautiful, Dutch colonial homes, and pastel-colored buildings. At the Kura Hulanda Museum, visitors can delve into Curaçao’s colonial history dating back to the 17th century, including the gloomy trade that enabled the islanders to build such pretty buldings: the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. Across the water, the Scharloo and Pietermaai neighbourhoods are filled with brightly colored residences. However, it’s Punda, the oldest and busiest part of the port city, that has the most Old World cache.

In Punda, visitors will find quirky shopping opportunities around every corner, including the Floating Market, where Venezuelan merchants sell fresh produce along the waterfront directly off their boats.  This unique experience brings a new meaning to the saying, “fresh off the boat.” Just behind the row of narrow, gabled houses lining the waterfront, known as Handelskade, is the oldest Jewish synagogue still in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere, the Mikvé Israel-Emanuel Synagogue.

Of course, soaking up the atmosphere could also mean lounging on a waterfront terrace, just like the locals do, and enjoying an imported beer like the Amstel, or a curaçao-based drinks, which are everywere on the island.

Blue like curaçao

If you really want to commit to local drinking traditions, make sure to plan a stop at the Landhuis Chobolobo. At this historic distillery and landmark located in a typical 1800s villa, you can witness the distillation of the “Genuine Curaçao Liqueur”. For more than 115 years, this distillery has preserved the tradition of the liqueur, made from the peels of the Laraha fruit (a bitter orange fruit native to the island).

As far as blue is concerned, this liqueur has serious competition… In this land of perpetual summer, the sea reflects the sky, and what a sea! The island’s west coast is fringed by a myriad of beaches, each one more inviting than the other. But should you only elect one, you would have to head to Klein Curaçao island, located approximately eight miles off the Southeast coast of Curaçao. Imagine… An abandoned lighthouse, a few beach huts on a long strip of white sand, and bluer-than-blue water. Now, that’s paradise, alright!. That’s paradise alright !

Did you know ?

Curaçao’s name was derived from the Portuguese word for heart, coração, referring to the island as the center of trade in the 1400’s.

Catch an Air Transat flight to Curaçao to discover this beautiful island.

Cover photo credit: Carolyne Parent

The comments and contributions expressed are assumed only by the author. The recommendations, intentions or opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Transat AT Inc. or its affiliates. See terms of use of the Air Transat website.

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