Aspen Times Weekly: Curaçao, the adventure continues
If you go...
Where to stay: Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort is a great place to call home base while on Curaçao. Although about 20 minutes south of Willemstad and far from the best beaches in the northwest section of the island, it offers the respite and tranquility one desires from a larger tropical resort — ocean view rooms, white sand beaches, several restaurants and a great staff. The luxury suites are a perfect choice if traveling with others. Each suit accommodates four or more people and several suites connect. The suite collection also has a private pool. Starting at $485 per night.
Where to eat: In addition to the market, my other favorite spot was Jaanchie’s Restaurant in the Westpunt area. Here I tried stewed iguana for the first time. (Tastes like chicken!) Jaanchie’s owner is a third-generation restaurateur, the fish (and iguana) is locally caught, and Jaanchie himself is the consummate host.
What to do: Don’t miss a chance to see the stunning eastern coastline vistas at Shete Boka National Park. Starting off with hiking trails along the rugged coral coastline, waves crash spectacularly onto the cliffs and into underground caves that you can explore if the tide levels are right.
Last week, I introduced you all to Curacao, pronounced kewr-e-sow, which is everything you imagine a Caribbean island to be. This week, I’ll share a little more about the adventures that await on the largest of the “ABC” islands — Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao — and tell you why it’s a place that’s ripe for growth as an active travel destination.
In terms of sports, diving is currently the island’s largest attraction and much of Curaçao’s tourism focus is here. There are massive coral reefs off the coast, caves and a wreck or two to explore, and which bring thousands of visitors from the U.S, South America and The Netherlands to experience each year. The island also has one of the most interesting architectural legacies of the Caribbean. The capital of Willemstad retains many of the brightly colored commercial buildings built by its Dutch settlers circa 1634. Willemstad is a UNESCO World Heritage site, with buildings of absolute stunning historical beauty, many that have become victims of time and weather just waiting for the right investor to restore.
One of my favorite mornings on the island was exploring Willemstad’s two sides: Punda and Otrabanda, which are separated by the deep-water St. Anna Bay, but connected by a historic pontoon bridge, Queen Emma Bridge, or “The Swinging Old Lady” as locals call it. In Otrabanda, I visited the fish market, and Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue, the oldest continuously operated synagogue in the Western Hemisphere. The well-established Sephardic Jewish population of Curaçao had great influence on the community, one of the first populations to call Curaçao home in the 17th century. This synagogue features enormous brass candle chandeliers, and the unique sand floor reminds worshipers of the Sinai Desert and symbolizes God’s promise to make the Jews as populous as the sands of the sea.
Next stop was the Old Market, which is no longer a market, but now a lively outdoor dining venue. There are several restaurants that serve traditional meals for lunch, Curaçao’s biggest meal of the day. They cook over coals, as hundreds of local people sit at community tables to eat dishes like stewed goat, or my choice of okra soup with clams, fish, pig tails, and topped with hot peppers. This was my favorite meal on the island — simple, local and a piece of the island in every bite.
Curaçao is an island on the verge of transition, which makes it an exciting time to travel there. The Isla oil refinery’s lease expires in 2019, and many private travel investors and tourists are eager to see which way the government will sway — saving its biggest and most precious commodity (its natural environment), or sticking with the status quo and allowing the outside interests of Venezuela to shape its future as it has for the past 95 years. The decision will have major impacts on how Curaçao changes in the next decade. But one thing is for certain, Curaçao could be one of the most attractive spots for mountain biking and road riding in the world; only time, a true commitment to the environment and a little investment will tell.
There is much more to tell about Curaçao. If you want stories, advice or more info on the island, follow Amiee on Twitter @awbeazley1.
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Have you ever seen Aspen-made ski film Little Skier’s Big Day, produced by Fred Iselin?