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Home » Discover Curaçao Like a Local – Travel Guide

Discover Curaçao Like a Local – Travel Guide

To begin, Curaçao, off the coast of Venezuela, is an island in the southern Caribbean Sea. This Dutch Kingdom of the Netherlands boasts 38 world-class beaches. It also has a myriad of snorkelling and diving opportunities. Surely, most travellers arrive seeking a tropical beach holiday. However, a genuine appreciation for some place new comes from tasting the local cuisine, exploring its natural habitats, and understanding the history.

Firstly, discover Curaçao, like a local, provides travel tips and holiday inspiration for those wishing to take the road less travelled. aIn this way you discovered the cultural identity of this land. Now, discover why Curaçao is a melting pot of cultures and explore the Dutch, Spanish, and Caribbean influences throughout the island.

Curacao Waterfront Buildings Queen Emma
Waterfront buildings Queen Emma

Willemstad UNESCO World Heritage Site

Handelskade is a lively, historic waterfront neighborhood. It is also a cluster of colourfully painted traditional houses, Certainly are the hallmarks of Willemstad, the city’s capital. A Dutch trading settlement from the 1600s, is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Surely, it offers great cultural and historical value.
Dutch colonial design combined with tropical Caribbean styles distinguishes the architecture of the city of Willemstad. Definitely, the buildings painted vibrant shades of blue, sunflower yellow, and red hues dot the landscape. The buildings weren’t always a multitude of colours, however, they were white. In 1817, Governor-General Albert blamed his headaches on the glare from the white buildings. As a result, he passed a law ordering them to be painted in different colours.

Especially, a walk along the charming waterfront district, reminiscent of the Amsterdam canals- Here, is where visitors can admire the city’s colourful architecture. It’s also where locals and tourists alike peruse the numerous art galleries. Of course, they also enjoy the local cuisine. At Handelskade’s northern point, visitors can find the floating market. Fishing boats from Venezuela (which is only 40 miles away) arrive carrying fruits and vegetables.

Queen Emma and Queen Juliana Bridges

The two bridges in Willemstad, named after Dutch queens, link the districts of Punda and Otrobanda. Surely, the most famous, built in 1888, is the Queen Emma. The locals like to call this pedestrian pontoon bridge the Swinging Old Lady. It swivels open, making way for ship traffic through St. Anna Bay.

During the day, the visitors and locals watch the boats sail through the open arm of the bridge. But in the evening they gaze at its lights twinkling under the night sky. Locals pass by with greetings of “Pasa un bon dia” or “Have a good day,” accompanied with a friendly wave.

The bridge is named in honor of Juliana of the Netherlands. Surely, the Queen Juliana Bridge is the highest in the Caribbean. At a height of 56.4 meters (185 feet) above the water, this bridge allows cars to cross from Punda to Otrobanda. It also allows ships to enter the narrow harbour.

Curacao Queen Emma Pedestrians
Queen Emma - Pedestrians

History of Curaçao

Surely, a bit of historical knowledge about Curaçao provides an understanding and appreciation of the rich cultural diversity found throughout the island. The original inhabitants were the Arawaks. Arawaks, The Amerindian people came  from the South American mainland. The Europeans arrived in 1499 and in 1527, the Spanish settled on the island.

The Netherlands separated from Spain in 1581 and the Dutch established Curaçao as a major center of trade for the Dutch West India Company. They took an interest in Curaçao for its natural harbour. They were also interested for its favourable geographical position, making it favourable to trade with Europe, Venezuela, and other Caribbean islands for salt and other commodities. Slavery sadly ensued in Curaçao, with people arriving from Africa, bought and sold on the docks on Willemstad, and transported to Central and South America.
Curaçao became a Dutch colony after the bankruptcy of the Dutch West India Company in 1791. Surely, the diverse cultures passed on through agriculture, cuisine, and language over the centuries are strongly evident throughout the island today..

Curaçao’s Vibrant Art Scene

Definitely, the visitors don’t need to venture inside a museum to see creative works of art in Curaçao. Many galleries showcase the artistic talent of the island. Often it’s prevalent on the streets and sidewalks throughout the city.

Art tours assist visitors with learning about the local artists in Curaçao. Surely, the sculpture Hortence Brown and Shon May Henriquez, who is a pioneer in the Curaçao art scene, are just two of the more famous ones. Herman van Bergen, the creator of the Cathedral of Thorns, honor’s mother nature and the free spirit by utilising 30 million thorns from the Acacia Tortuosa bush tree.

Street Art
Street Art

Adventure in Curaçao

Curaçao isn’t just about its kaleidoscope-coloured town and vibrant culture, it’s about adventure too. Also, an eco-friendly way to explore the natural beauty of the island is with a snorkelling and kayak tour. No motors, no vast groups, just nature, and the open Caribbean Sea.

Tour participants paddle through breaking waves over the deep aqua water of Caracas Bay. The sun changes the ocean’s colour from turquoise – to teal – to emerald green, a beauty only unique to the Caribbean. Visitors can view Fort Beekenburg peeking from atop a rocky outcropping where green iguanas and royal terns nest. In 1703, the fort protected Caracas Bay and continued to prove its service by keeping the British and pirates out of Curaçao in the early 19th century.

The tour group then gathers at Baya or Tugboat Beach. This rocky coral beach provides respite in preparation for the next leg of the trip; snorkelling to a purposely sunken tugboat a few yards offshore. A guide leads visitors to an underwater world yielding big healthy Elkhorn corals, purple sea fans, and sponges. As if in an aquarium, stealthy blue tang, curious trumpetfish, and angelfish flurry in and out of the tug boat crevices. Through snorkelling and kayaking the visitors can witness wildlife in natural habitats and to explore the natural beauty and diversity of the island.can

Curacao Sunken Tugboat
Sunken Tugboat

Curaçao’s Beaches

Surely, with 38 beaches in Curaçao, it’s hard to decide which one to visit. Beach hopping is a favourite activity and Curaçao’s beaches are all unique. Some have vast stretches of sand with billowing palms, perfect for relaxing. Others boast a myriad of activities, such as jet skiing and windsurfing for those looking for a more active experience.

Cas Abou Beach, one of the most scenic and voted one of the 21 best beaches of the world, surely is a favourite with an expansive white-sandy stretch of beach, crystal clear water, and shady palms.
However, the more active beach, mainly for kiteboarders, is found at Sint Joris Bay. Featuring clear waters and a rocky backdrop, it’s the place to watch kiteboarders do tricks and where to go to learn how to do them.

Espacially, don’t miss the outlying uninhabited island of Klein Curaçao, a designated nature reserve and popular diving and snorkelling location. Tour operators offer relaxing catamaran excursions as well as adventurous snorkel and dive trips for those wishing to explore the reefs.

Curacao Beach
Typical Caribbean beach

Hato Caves

Surely, the geological history of Curaçao is evident in the 300,000-year-old Hato Caves. Tours provide access to the awe-inspiring marine coral limestone formations, small waterfalls, and a colony of long-nose fruit bats. On the walls of the cave you can see petroglyphs. Those represent ancient tribal life, estimated to be approximately 1500 years old.

Chobolobo

One can’t visit the island without a stop at Chobolobo. This 17th-century plantation house is where visitors can experience the production and distillation of the famous blue-coloured liquor Blue Curaçao. Made with the dried peels of the unique Laraha orange, a bitter citrus fruit native to Curacao.

After the conquest of the island in 1499, the Spaniards planned for the agricultural development of Curaçao and brought Valencia orange plants on the sea voyage from Spain. Unfortunately, the blazing sun and arid climate proved detrimental to the sweet Valencia orange, That way it became bitter and inedible.

Growers started experimenting with different recipes with the new Laraha orange, determined not to let their crops go to waste. Drying the peels thoroughly in the sun produced oil with an extraordinary pleasing fragrance. After some experimentation, Blue Curacao was born. Mixing the liquor with rum, vodka, and pineapple juice is just one of the many ways to enjoy a tasty Blue Curacao cocktail.

Curaçao Ostrich Farm

A visit to the Curacao Ostrich Farm, one of the largest breeding farms outside of Africa, is where 400 ostriches, from chicks to adults reside. Visitors can take part in a jeep safari to learn everything there is to know about ostriches from egg to adult. The farm, founded to export ostrich eggs, chicks, and meat to South America, has proved to be an educational experience for the young and old alike.

Surely, white sand beaches and year-round tropical warmth make it hard not to feel happy on this island. Curaçao is where visitors can sip Blue Curaçao on a white sand beach after a day of exploration and adventure. Most importantly, genuine appreciation for some place new comes from tasting the local cuisine, exploring its natural habitats, and understanding its history. Danki (thank you in Papiamentu) for Discovering Curaçao and travelling like a local.

Ostrich
Ostrich

In short, If you love adventure travel and off the beaten path destinations, visit Boulevards and Byways.

However. if you want to know more about the culture or art of other countries look at our Blog.

Author: Sandy Ruyack (Boulevards and Byways)

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