Travel, Travel Tips

Curacao – The Best Island in The Caribbean?

Those who know how much I get down to the Caribbean ask me what the best island is. They’re often shocked to discover my answer is a place that many North Americans haven’t heard of, which is Curacao. Even when I point out that it’s the “C” of the ABC islands, they’re still not quite sure. If I elaborate that the A and C are for Aruba and Bonaire, some people start nodding, because Aruba might be a bit more famous. That’s a nice place too, but I don’t think it’s the best Caribbean island like Curacao is.


Where Is Curacao?

If you’re into maps, then zoom in on the Caribbean before further moving in on the Leeward Antilles. This is in the westernmost islands of that chain, not far off the coast of Venezuela, and only 12 degrees north of the Equator. That might be why it’s a new place to so many Americans, given how it’s on the far side of the Caribbean. Some cruise ships go there, but it’s not as popular as the Caymans or the Bahamas. One great thing about this location is how it’s actually geographically sheltered from the brunt of the Atlantic’s hurricane season. I like visiting here in those months since I know my travel won’t be interrupted by any storms, nor will I get stranded here in one.

Willemstad – The Main Port City

Willemstad is a place that might make you think you’re in Amsterdam. The colorful buildings and architecture certainly look like someone dropped an Old World city of Europe in the middle of this sea. Dutch influence is strong here, since the Netherlands primarily held this island for the better part of several centuries, with some brief interruptions at the hands of rival powers. Today, Curacao is considered a sovereign nation within the Netherlands. When you get here, you’ll see brightly painted buildings in Dutch colonial style in an impressive rainbow of blues, pinks, and yellows reflecting in St. Anna Bay. Once you get outside of the city, you’ll find that it’s arid, even desert-like, with mesquite and spiny aloe sprouting from weathered limestone cliffs.

Why You Should Really Come to Curacao

The beaches are the real draw here. Turquoise waters lap up gently on powdery white sand that I believe rivals anything other Caribbean islands have to offer. The geography really comes into play here, as the island has over 40 different beaches, and no two of them are alike. Whether you enjoy sunbathing in the sand, swimming in the waves, or going underwater to view the marine life of the reefs, these beaches are perfect for recreation and leisure. On top of that, gentle trade winds mean temperatures are in the mid-80s every month of the year.


Caribbean Island Rankings

Those year-long mid-80s temperatures might be why The U.S. News & World Report ranks Curacao as one of the top three best places to visit in the month of August, although any month you can get here is great. This place also ranks in the top 10 for best Caribbean family vacations and best destination weddings, and it’s the all-around #1 best cheap Caribbean vacation of them all! There is a local currency, but the American dollar is widely accepted here, and many ATMs dispense U.S. dollars as it is.

When to Come to Curacao

Many tourist destinations in the Caribbean have their peak in the summer, but Curacao is different. Their off-peak season runs from May until November. You’ll get the best hotel rates and airfares in this stretch, with some rooms half the price they are during the high season. You’ll also be spared the crowded beaches, and the western side of the island always has more room. This is a great way to have plenty of room while doing some epic scuba diving or snorkeling or crossing the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge.

scuba diving

Customs and Culture of Curacao

It’s a vibrant mix of many cultures here, and knowing just a few phrases of the local Papiamentu language will get you far before finding out how many speak English here. All you need to enter the country is your passport, and proof of reservations and trip money.