To be honest, the only thing I knew about Curacao was that it produced an eponymous liqueur – the blue version is very popular at bachelorette parties — not that I go to many these days. It’s very sweet, with essence of orange, and the last time I had it was over ice cream.
Before leaving on WestJet’s new non-stop flight from Toronto – five easy hours! – I did a bit of research. Curacao is one of the ABC Dutch Caribbean islands comprising Netherlands Antilles (the others are Aruba, and Bonaire) and is very close to Venezuela. It has a population of 150,000 and is around 60 km wide. The volcanic rock foundation makes it arid and difficult to grow anything. The oranges used in the Curacao liqueur are actually a bitter adaptation of Valencia oranges. The Spanish tried to grow them in 1499, but due to the harsh climate they morphed into the aromatic and bitter laraha oranges that are used today.
I stayed at the Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort, a 30-minute drive from the city of Willemstad and the airport. The resort was gorgeous, with private beach, a dock where diving boats could pick up passengers, sprawling golf course and lovely terrace restaurant overlooking the Caribbean Sea.
Sightseeing was more than beaches. Curacao has the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere – Mikvé Israel congregation was established in 1651 and the current synagogue building was inaugurated in 1732.
It was also a hub for the slave trade, although very little of that heinous period is left standing.
At the floating market in Willemstad all the produce comes from Venezuela.
Captain Blight fired a cannon at the Governor’s Palace.
Daily lunch staples at the Old Market include cactus soup, goat stew and fried fish.
Genuine Curacao Liqueur is made in Willemstad on an old plantation site. You can get tastes of the latest flavours including chocolate and coffee.
The HATO Caves are beautiful and actually above ground.
Dinah Veeris’ Den Paradera, an herbal garden, is a lovely stop and if you are lucky she or her son will take you on a tour.
Curacao is a diving and snorkeling paradise.
The Dutch influence is big at various Euro-style restaurants and boutique hotels such as Beach House Curacao and St. Tropez Ocean Club.
Jaanchies, on the west side of the island, is an institution with hearty lunches and many, many birds.
The west side of the island is home to Christoffel Park and the wonderful Playa Kenepa – it’s like being in a promotional poster for a hidden tropical paradise.
Beaches Big Knip and Cas Abou – places I will dream about forever!