Firstly, where is Curaçao?
Curaçao is a small island in the Caribbean, off the coast of Venezuela.
How long did you live there for?
We moved to Curaçao when I was six; my dad got a chance to return to his birthplace because of work, and so we moved as a family! Growing up there was wonderful, as we spent most of our days outside. School started super early but because of the heat we were out around noon, so after lunch we went swimming, horseback riding or simply ran around in our garden. To me, these years were utter bliss; carefree, sunshine year-round and surrounded by friends and family.
Because of my father’s work and my parents’ wish to show their kids more of the world and the endless (travel!) opportunities when living in Europe, we moved back to Holland after 8 years. I remember that being truly traumatic- moving continents once again, from our own little paradise to a cold, rather unknown country. However, now that I have my own family, I finally understand why my parents thought it important to stick together- my father did not want to send us to university in the US or Europe, which would mean we would only see each other once or twice a year.
I remember being home from university for the weekend, and while sharing a glass of wine with my Dad, he looked at me and said ‘see, this is why I wanted to move back. So that we can have this glass of wine, together, instead of being oceans apart.’ It was then that I started to really appreciate their decision.
Tell us about your most recent trip home, we want all the highlights!
Funnily, I think you either hate or love Curaçao. There is no in between! I absolutely love this little island, despite her flaws.
The beaches, the relaxed vibe and weather are the absolute best. We have traveled the world for six months and explored many, many wonderful places. However, I still think Curaçao’s beaches are the most beautiful. Really! Even after all those years I still feel my heart skip a beat upon seeing the blue waters. People may say it’s a bit too crowded with tourists, and that’s true. They may say service is slow and sometimes sloppy. And that’s true. They may even say people should take more care of this little place- and that’s true as well! But (and that’s a BUT in capital letters!) I still think it is paradise. We have just returned from yet another wonderful stay, and this is what I wrote about it- this captures it quite well, in my opinion:
‘You quirky, crazy, cool, colourful and vibrant little island. You give me life, from the minute I arrive until the moment I see you disappear behind me. People may say you’re a mess; that you are moody, and unforgiving, and stubborn- and that might all very well be true. But let me tell you this: you are forever. You bounce back every single time. You show beauty where one would least expect it. And you make people want to believe in you. I have seen so many wonderful new initiatives by amazing island people, and I have never felt so proud. And hopeful. To be back and enjoy all your treasures- both old and new- with family and framily was beyond. Thank you’
In terms of do’s and don’ts: Personally, I love to explore and get to know the places we travel to, preferably off the beaten track.
However, if you feel like settling (your family) and just enjoying the weather, pristine beaches and divine piña coladas, that’s ok too!
Curaçao offers both possibilities, so you could combine them as well…
Basically, the do’s are endless; from exploring the island and its numerous points of interest (the plantation houses! The national park! Klein Curaçao!) to spending a wonderful day at one of the many beaches.
To me, the list of don’ts is significantly shorter– but for starters, I would avoid doing all the regular stuff. Or at least mix and match!
Where to stay:
Well, that totally depends on the type of holiday you are looking for. So this can either be a resort, a proper home, a hotel, a B&B or an apartment. We rented an apartment close to the city, with a shared pool and small private beach; away from the crowds, perfectly secluded and still close to many restaurants and shops. As I know the island so well, I do have a huge preference for certain neighbourhoods and areas but again, this is very personal.
You can roughly divide (touristy) Curaçao in three parts: the most beautiful and popular beaches are located in the upper part (‘Banda Abou’), the capital and most restaurants are in the middle, and most (all inclusive) resorts and water sport activities (apart from diving; this can be done almost everywhere) can be found in the lower part of the island (the Jan Thiel area). This resort area does have some perks, like a great fitness center, a supermarket, and several child friendly beaches and restaurants on site. Furthermore, as there are so many hotels and resorts located in that area, there are actually shuttle busses to take you either to town or to the beaches up west.
There are so many places to stay that you might find it hard to decide. Are you looking for peace and quiet and not planning to leave the compound anyways? Then you might consider staying in the upper part (‘Banda Abou/Westpunt’) with all the beaches nearby.
Just a few ideas:
Should you want to be closer to the city (Willemstad) so you can walk around, have a coffee or go out for lunch/dinner and do some shopping, you might want to look into the following options (please note that not all of these have a beach available!):
- Pietermaai Boutique Hotel
- Scuba Lodge & Suites
- Saint Tropez Suites Curacao
- Avila Beach Hotel
- Baoase Luxury Resort
- Lions Dive
- Villa Tokara
- Bij Blauw
- Boutique Hotel ‘t Klooster
- Kontiki Beach Resort
If you feel like staying in a more Dutch/touristy oriented part of the island and focus on water sports and family themed areas, you can choose one of these resorts in the lower part:
Some of the resorts on the island have quite an American vibe; if that is what you like, you should definitely check out the Renaissance Hotel which is located in the city but does have a marvellous pool, or the Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort, situated on a beautiful spot in the southern part.
Note: These are mostly hotels and apartments, however, do check out the available homes as well. Should you travel with several families, renting a big house with a pool and garden is a very good option as well!
What to eat:
Ha! I always have to go and get my fix- even if it were just for a trip down memory lane.
A definite must would be to try the ‘stobá’, which comes in many shapes but is basically a wonderful stew with either vegetables or meat. Best to combine it with ‘funchi’, a porridge made of cornflower (also great when fried! ‘funchi hasá’) and fried plantain (‘banana hasá).
Don’t forget to try some of the local fish as well; places like De Visserij, Purunchi and Pop’s Place serve these like no other. Freshly caught with just a splash of lime-bliss!
I cannot leave the island without having at least one fresh coconut; let them open it for you after drinking the milk, so you can taste the soft sweet flesh as well!
Oh, and do try an ‘arepa di pampuna’ when you get the chance; a pancake made of pumpkin, preferably with raisins in it and some cinnamon.
Number Ten – An amazing place serving all things fresh! Best coffee around, plus a wonderful garden with amazing art and sculptures, afternoon yoga classes and great service. Go!
Hofi Cas Cora – Founded by two amazing local youngsters, this farm offers you organic goodies galore. Open during weekends, they serve you and your kids fresh produce and amazing views; the kids can roam around freely while enjoying the ducklings, baby donkeys, horses and other small animals while you sit on the porch, enjoying the light breeze and excellent food. Check their website for extra events (kids yoga! Farmers markets!)
Beans – Smack bang in the middle of wonderful Pietermaai with its famous coloured houses; the coffee is fab and the vibe very chill.
Il Barile da Mario (opposite the beautiful Mikvé Israel-Emanuel synagogue (so worth a visit, too, as it is the oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere) – A very old school Italian bar that serves Italian coffee and lots of old artifacts and memorabilia. Nothing fancy, just a good vibe and centrally located in Punda.
Wandú – Right next to Il Barille you will find this ‘new’ coffee joint. Great interior, local art (for sale!) and fresh coffee and pastry. Does not get much better!
Lunch: (All of the above! Plus:)
Fleur de Marie Eatery – Located in former dodgy area Fleur de Marie, this cute eatery is one of the many new initiatives giving this part of town such a cool vibe! Fresh food, cool interior and a perfect starting point to explore this neighbourhood.
Dokterstuin – perfect if you are touring Westpunt and feel like you could do with a great local meal. Located in an old plantation house, this place offers you a glimpse into the past, wonderful shade and great dishes. Their banana hasá, funchi and karko (conch) are to die for…
De Visserij – one of my favorites! Fresh fish, cool drinks and wonderful views. Their seared tuna and easy peel shrimps are perfect; don’t forget to order at least one of the local fish too!
Marshe Bieu – ‘The old Market’ serves local food like no other. Fish, local dishes and delicacies; just try them all. Perfect for lunch during some sightseeing in Punda.
Dinner: I must admit that I am a huge fan of long lazy lunches during our holidays, but we do manage to change into decent clothing and go out for dinner, sometimes! Current favourites:
City 88 – Think wood oven pizzas, cold beers, a great ocean view and a gelato shop to satisfy the kids. Hammock within reach and the vibe is super relaxed. Perfect after a long beach day.
Serafina – Perfectly located, this restaurant offers upscale (pricy!) Italian meals and nice wines.
Mosa Restaurant – This place serves yummy international food, with a focus on Middle Eastern dishes. Lovely setting and friendly service.
Bij Blauw – Located in Pietermaai, this is quite the picture perfect little place! Amazing views of killer sunsets, cozy little lights all over the place and a cool shop to browse between courses! Kids can roam freely while you enjoy your wine and stare at the ocean.
Cravings Sushi – Perfect for takeaways, as sometimes you are just too lazy to either cook or eat out, right?
An Amstel Bright and freshly made piña colada should also be part of your diet!
Getting there and getting around:
The one and only airport is Hato; quite a few large airlines offer flights there.
There are direct flights galore from Europe; we fly from Amsterdam with KLM, but you can also check TUI, Corendon and Air Berlin, for example.
Many tourists don’t mind not leaving the premises, but I find it essential to rent a car during your visit. Public transport does not function very well, you can hardly find or reserve a cab and should you want to go and explore you do not want to depend on shuttle busses. Biking is hardly an option and the roads aren’t that well-kept, so I would definitely say that renting a car is by far the safest, most flexible way of getting around. There are numerous car rentals located at the airport so it is best to reserve a car and simply drive to your destination yourself. By the way, do not expect fancy rental cars! These are theft prone and since the roads aren’t that fabulous it would be a waste anyway. As long as you can safely transport both yourself and your little one(s) from one place to the next, preferably air-conditioned, everything is fine. We always rent at Noordstar rent a car but there are many options!
Top tips for families thinking of visiting for the first time:
Don’t make me choose! I literally don’t know where to start… But in my opinion, the following places and activities should definitely be on your to do list:
- Grote Knip
- Kleine Knip
- Porto Marie
- Cas Abou
- Daaibooi Baai
- Playa Grandi
Outings and activities:
- Childrens Museum ( a must!)
- Mikvé-Israel Synagogue
- Kura Hulanda Museum
- Curacao Museum
- Plantation Houses tour
- Christoffel Park (and climb the Christoffel mountain with older kids)
- Ostrich Farm
- Trip to Klein Curaçao by boat
- Yoga (at Number Ten or Hofi Cas Cora)
- StandUp Yoga–yoga on the ocean! (dushisup.com)
1. Muslin Cloth, €19.79 – Bobbi And Kate | Find it HERE
2. Scrunch Bucket, £6.99 – Scrunch | Find it HERE
3. SPF 50 Mineral Sunscreen Lotion Fragrance Free, $13.99 – Baby Bum | Find it HERE
4. Tortoise Sunglasses, £30 – Izipizi | Find it HERE
5. Bailey Laceless Pump Shoes, from £22 – Cienta | Find it HERE
Oh and one last-last-last tip! Fancy some genuine, homemade Italian ice cream? We discovered Il Gelato during our last trip and we were hooked. Daily made artisan gelato by true Italians. Do visit!!
Follow more of Felicia (aka The Travelling Toddler) and her family adventures HERE
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