Discovering Curaçao: A Hidden Gem in the Dutch Caribbean
As I yearned for the ideal Thanksgiving getaway, escaping the chilly weather of New York, my quest for a sun-drenched retreat led me to the enchanting island of Curaçao, nestled in the Dutch Caribbean just a few miles off the Venezuelan coast.
Only a 4-hour and 40-minute direct flight from NYC, Curaçao beckoned with promises of tranquility and a respite amidst the bustling candle season.
Less frequented than its ABC counterparts, Aruba and Bonaire, Curaçao boasts a refreshing lack of tourist crowds. Armed with my bikinis, sun hats, and a trusty sunscreen, I embarked on my first solo journey to this captivating island.
Delving into the island's rich history and culture, I share below some essential tips and recommendations to enhance your visit to Curaçao:
Immerse yourself in the island's history and culture, understanding its unique blend of influences from Africa, Europe, and the Americas.
The island was originally inhabited by the Arawak people, who were later displaced by the more aggressive Caribs. The Spanish explorer Alonso de Ojeda arrived on the island in 1499, but it wasn't until the early 16th century that the Spanish established a permanent settlement.
In the early 17th century, the Dutch West India Company took control of Curaçao from the Spanish. The island became a center for the Atlantic slave trade, with the Dutch West India Company using it as a base for trade and shipping.
Curaçao played a significant role in the transatlantic slave trade, with the WIC transporting enslaved Africans to the Americas. The exploitation of slave labor contributed to the economic prosperity of the island during this period.
Slavery was abolished in the Dutch Caribbean in 1863, leading to significant changes in the social and economic structure of Curaçao.
In the early 20th century, Curaçao's economy shifted with the discovery of oil in nearby Venezuela. The island became a major center for the oil refining industry, with the establishment of the Royal Dutch Shell refinery.
After World War II, political changes occurred, and in 1954, Curaçao became a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands within the Dutch Caribbean. In 2010, the island gained a new constitutional status within the Kingdom as a constituent country along with Aruba and St. Maarten.
Curaçao's history of colonization and immigration has led to a diverse cultural landscape, with influences from Africa, Europe, and the Americas. The island is known for its unique language, Papiamento, which is a creole language with influences from Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and African languages.
Where to Stay
I opted for the boutique hotel "Pietermaai," centrally located in Willemstad, allowing easy access to restaurants and bars. While walking is convenient, renting a car is advisable for exploring the island, given the limited public transportation.
Where to Eat
Indulge in the island's culinary delights at recommended spots such as BijBlauw, offering stunning views and delectable dishes, Sea Side Terrace for authentic, fresh seafood, and Kome for a mix of local and innovative cuisine.
Favorite Coffee Place/Breakfast
What to Do
Embark on unique experiences such as visiting Ostrich Farms, exploring the Aloe Vera Farm, swimming with sea turtles in the north of the island, and creating your signature Caribbean perfume at The Parfum Lab.
And don't forget to visit the Curaçao Distillery to learn all about the blue liquor and of course, to taste it!
In conclusion, Curaçao unfolds as the perfect destination for relaxation, sun-soaked days, indulging in local cuisine, and delving into a vibrant culture. Make Curaçao a must-visit on your travel list for a memorable and enriching experience.