Of Caribbean Resorts Curaçao Has More, Except Crowds

by Brandon Schultz

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday June 2, 2022

Snorkeling off of Curacao
Snorkeling off of Curacao  (Source:Curacao Tourist Board)

Of the six Dutch Caribbean islands, the most visited may be Aruba and Sint Maarten, but less-frequented Curaçao has more to offer of nearly everything. Except crowds.

With a walloping 743 listed monuments in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Curaçao's capital city, Willemstad, you'll find an astounding array of colorful alleys and waterfronts here, far better preserved and populated than in seemingly "similar" islands. And if you're here for the beaches (it is the Caribbean, after all), you're in luck: The southern coastline is home to 38 jaw-droppers of glittering turquoise hemmed in by romantic cliffs, and most of them are public. And if cocktails by the pool is at the top of your must-list, there's no other island in the Caribbean with a liqueur named after it. From snorkeling and diving to sunset sails and club hopping, Curaçao checks every item on your island bucket list with a fraction of the tourists, and it's often hailed as the most LGBT-friendly island in the entire Caribbean. Here's where to stay and what to do for a seamless tropical escape in Curaçao.

Snag a Private Beach Stay

Mangrove Beach Corendon Curacao
Mangrove Beach Corendon Curacao  

The all-inclusive is the hallmark of a fuss-free Caribbean vacation, and one of the newest in Curaçao is Mangrove Beach Corendon Curacao. While the island is rich in spectacular shores, and you should certainly venture out to see a few, you'll appreciate having your own white sand beach in a tranquil lagoon just steps from the Coco Pool Bar at the edge of the resort's two primary pools. Keep an eye out for the massage hut here, offering seaside services for some perfect pampering, and note that there are two tables here, perfect for couples treatments.

The resort's 399 rooms are dressed in tranquil water and wood tones, each with a balcony or patio overlooking your choice of the Caribbean, the hotel's two quieter bonus pools, or the protected mangrove forest bordering the property. Corendon's eleven dining and drinking venues include the all-day buffet you'd expect at an all-inclusive, but also offer a sushi bar, cigar lounge, smoothie stand, beach barbecue restaurant, and more, capped by a 24-hour lobby bar serving snacks and drinks, both alcoholic and otherwise, around the clock.

Whether you're bringing the whole family, celebrating a friends weekend, or enjoying a romantic escape for two, take a stroll to the waterpark near the hotel's main entrance. The park is home to six waterslides and adults are more than welcome to indulge (need proof? There's another bar here, and a separate aqua area for the resort's youngest guests); the King Cobra slide is a signature resort experience, so don't be shy. When you're ready to explore the island, downtown Willemstad is just minutes away by car (easily walked in about 20 minutes), and a perfect place to start.

Wander the Capital

Willemstad
Willemstad  

A guided walking tour of Willemstad isn't a bad idea if the enormous array of heritage monuments and the impressive assortment of well-packed streets and alleys leaves you unsure where to begin. If you'd rather explore on your own, be sure to catch the floating Queen Emma Bridge that opens to one side whenever a boat needs to pass (if you hear the bell, run to the closest exit or prepare to remain on the bridge for a while until the it floats back to shore).

This spectacle has been in operation since 1888 and is affectionately known as the Swinging Old Lady. On the edge of town, explore the 1828 Rif Fort walls, now encasing an outdoor shopping and dining area along the coast, and take note of the coral embedded in the nearly 200-year-old walls. Almost all the historic buildings you'll find in Willemstad were built with coral from the sea, not limestone or cement, and here you can see this clearly on the unpainted, unadorned fort walls.

Consider lunch at Old Market ("Plasa Lieu"), now an airy food hall dishing up plenty of local specialties (the goat stew, iguana soup, and slimy okra soup are among the more intriguing places to start). The hemisphere's oldest, continuously used synagogue, Mikvé Israel-Emanuel, is also in Willemstad, complete with sand floor and an attached museum including many of the centuries-old objects still used in services and ceremonies today. At night, the 350-year-old Pietermaai neighborhood is the spot for bar-hopping and club vibes, but the biggest party is often at Mambo Beach.

Explore the Island

Knip Beach
Knip Beach  

By car, you can traverse Curaçao in just about an hour without stops, but there are tons of sights you'll want to experience outside a vehicle, and a guided island tour can help you hit the highlights. Either way, devote some time to making your way to at least a few can't-misses, including Shete Boka on the northwest shore, where you'll witness the powerful sprays from waves crashing against the craggy coast, and a unique opportunity to witness them intimately from within a cave, too. From here, you'll understand why all of the island's beaches are on the south shore. This is just a few-minute drive from Christoffel National Park, which offers plenty of hiking with lush views if you're interested in devoting a few hours to the experience.

On the opposite shore (only about 15 minutes by car), Knip Beach ("Grote Knip" or "Kenepa Grande") is one of Curaçao's most beloved, with a wide expanse of sandy shore and crystal-clear waters for swimming, snorkeling, or even cliff jumping, and it's free to the public.

For more water-centric activity, Curaçao offers plenty of aqua tours including snorkeling with sea turtles, diving, and even spear-fishing the invasive lionfish. Back on land, keep an eye out for flocks of the island's wild flamingo population, particularly as you pass Rif-Sint Marie. The Curacao Ostrich Farm is an amusing excursion (especially if you're interested in tasting the world's largest bird), and Aloe Vera Farm Curacao offers a solid souvenir opportunity among a picturesque field of more than 150 plants. Finally, imbibers would be remiss to visit the island without touring the Curacao Liqueur Distillery, producing the world's only liqueur named for a nation (spoiler alert, in comes in more varieties than "blue").

Brandon Schultz is the author of 6 travel and lifestyle books, and his work regularly appears in Forbes, Fodor's, Global Traveler, and Thrillist, with contributions to dozens of others including OUT, Out Traveler, and The Advocate. He lives in New York City.