The island of Curacao is only just off the coast of Venezuela, but it belongs to Holland so is not strictly part of South America. It was not therefore on our original itinerary. However, we had become increasingly worried about our planned visit to Venezuela, having read and heard a lot about the dangers of travelling there. Originally we were to spend 15 days in the country, one week on a pre-booked tour and the rest of the time travelling independently, as we usually do. We decided regretfully that independent travel was not a good idea, so we extended our tour, but this left us with a few ‘spare’ days, as the date of our return to the UK was fixed.
So we were faced with the problem of where to spend those few days. We considered various possibilities, but rejected most on the grounds of danger and/or bad weather in June. Curacao appeared acceptable on both grounds, and we were also intrigued by the concept of a Dutch island in the Caribbean. Having rearranged our flights, we flew from Colombia to Curacao on June 19th.
Curacao is certainly an interesting place. There are two official currencies: Dutch Antilles guilders (ANGs or NAfls) and US dollars. The official language is Dutch, but English and Spanish are widely spoken, as well as Papiamentu, the local language. We were impressed with the way that everyone seemed to be able to switch between all four!
The weather was somewhat disappointing. According to statistics we found on the Internet, June is one of the driest months of the year in Curacao – if that is the case, we would not want to be there for the wettest! We had at least some rain every day, including several really heavy tropical thunderstorms. When it was not raining it was often cloudy, though always warm.
Our time in Curacao was mainly spent in three kinds of activities: parks, beaches and town. There are two national parks on the island, and we visited both. Although Christoffel is the best known and advertised, we preferred Shete Boka, where we were able to go for hikes along the cliffs and watch some really spectacular waves crashing against the rocks. There were also a large number of lizards, including really big iguanas and some blue-spotted ones with bright blue-green tails and feet.
We also sampled a number of Curacao’s beaches (when it wasn’t raining!). Although the ones in the west of the island are natural and supposedly the best, we preferred the ones in the east, especially ‘Mambo Beach’ which was picturesque and well supplied with beach bars. It came as something of a shock, however, to have to pay to go on the beach!
What we liked most about Curacao was Willemstad, the main (or only) town on the island. It has Dutch-style buildings, painted in an attractive range of colours (some pastel, some brighter) which are beautifully lit up at night. We enjoyed strolling around, and especially sitting on the waterfront at sunset, sipping cocktails while we watched the unique pontoon bridge swing open and closed to allow ships to pass. ‘Amsterdam on the Caribbean’ was definitely worth a visit.