Visitors can take a dip with stingrays and tropical fish. // © 2014 Thinkstock
The Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao is about as multicultural as it gets. More than 55 nationalities reside here, and most residents speak at least four languages, including English. That said, travelers from the U.S. can get around with ease and experience the pastiche of cultures that have made Curacao what it is today. Only have one day to spare? No problem. Here’s how to maximize your time in 24 hours or less.
1. Nature Walk
Grab your hiking shoes and head to Shete Boka National Park on Curacao’s rugged north coast. Ideal for families and active travelers, the 6-mile park is home to sea turtles, hawks and an abundance of iguanas, which also happen to be a popular ingredient in local soups and stews. The daring won’t want to miss out on exploring Boka Tabla, located near the entry of the park. A short walk down slippery rocks reveals a dank, dark sea cave carved out by crashing waves. The Boka Wandomi trail offers vistas of rolling lava hills and limestone bluffs, while the main attraction at Boka Pistol is an impressive blowhole, spewing water more than 20 feet into the air.
2. Lunch With Locals
Awa Di Playa, overlooking Piscadera Bay and flanked by rusty fishing boats, might not attract a lot of foot traffic, but word-of-mouth keeps this local haunt bustling at lunch time. Specializing in seafood that comes straight from the ocean to your Styrofoam plate, Awa Di Playa does not have a set menu. Servers will come to the table to explain the day’s fresh catch and how it can be prepared. On my visit, the kitchen prepared spicy, shredded conch served with generous sides of plantains and polenta. Thin, crispy pieces of fried whitefish were also a hit, especially when topped with Awa Di Playa’s homemade pika (spicy onion relish).
3. Under the Sea
Need a new profile photo? Look no further than Animal Encounters at the Sea Aquarium Curacao. Visitors can don a snorkel or full scuba gear and swim alongside stingrays and all manner of tropical fish, including a goliath grouper named Herbie. Through a tube, guests can feed loggerhead turtles, lemon sharks and nurse sharks, who hungrily suck up fish like vacuums. A photographer snaps away as you pose with underwater creatures, and all of the photos are available for purchase.
4. The Sun Also Sets
Hemingway restaurant is a short walk from the aquarium and offers one of the most beautiful ocean views around. Kick back with an ice blended mojito and dine with your feet firmly planted on the sand. Reggae bands groove and sway every Friday and Saturday evening, and Sunday is Latin night, where tourists can dance to live salsa and merengue music under the stars.
5. Getting Hip to It
Just five short years ago, Pietermaai District was a derelict area, overlooked by tourists and locals alike. However, in recent years, run-down buildings along Nieuwstraat have been gentrified and turned into brightly colored student apartments, hip bars and restaurants. Among them, Mundo Bizarro is a favorite for its mojito menu, Cuban decor and Tuesday night tango events, called milongas. A few doors down, Miles Jazz Cafe offers a selection of cigars, board games and, of course, the music of jazz legend Miles Davis on vinyl.