Willemstad // © 2012 Curacao Tourist Board
Curacao has the unique southernmost position in the Caribbean, less than 50 miles off the coast of Venezuela. When you combine the island’s proximity to South America with its colorful mix of Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, Jewish and African ethnic heritage you have a unique setting for a Caribbean holiday. The island even has its own language, called Papiamentu, which is a mix of African dialects utilized by slaves and words and phrases from various European tongues. While English is spoken on the island, learning a few words of Papiamentu adds pleasure to a trip.
Only a smattering of Caribbean islands can boast of offering plenty of historical attractions, and Curacao is one of them. Visitors will find Willemstad has echoes of 17th- and 18th- century Amsterdam. In fact, in 1997, UNESCO declared Willemstad a World Heritage Site. There’s an island urban legend that accounts for Willemstad’s pastel painted buildings. It is said that an early governor of Curacao outlawed white buildings because the reflection of the sun gave him migraines.
A must-see for history buffs is the Mikve Israel Synagogue in Curacao, which was established in 1651, making it the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the Western hemisphere. One of its distinctions is the white-sand floor of the synagogue. While the sand adds an island-beauty to the synagogue, it’s actually symbolic of the Jews having been forced to wander for 40 years through the desert.
Another historical site, which kids love, is the Hato Caves. Guided tours through the caves showcase the 1,500-year-old wall pictographs of the Caquetios Indians. The Hato Caves was also a natural hiding place for escaped slaves on the island.
Curacao recently enjoyed some time in the limelight when it hosted the final episodes of ABC’s “The Bachelorette.” Sandton Kura Hulanda Lodge & Beach Club in Curacao hosted two private one-on-one dates in the show’s second-to-last episode this season, which aired in July.
Sandton Kura Hulanda is a unique pair of resorts on Curacao, with two distinctly different settings. Sandton Kura Hulanda Hotel & Spa is located in Willemstad. It’s an 80-room luxury boutique resort featuring restored 18th- and 19th- century Dutch Colonial Caribbean buildings. Even though the setting is tranquil, the city of Willemstad awaits right outside the resort’s doors, making it a great choice for those who want to explore the city on foot. The hotel is also the site of the Kura Hulanda Museum. The museum exhibits artifacts and displays chronicling the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and showcases the influence of African culture on the island.
The Sandton Kura Hulanda Lodge & Beach Club is on the quieter west end of the island. It provides a beachfront retreat with the seclusion of a unique island hideaway. Guests have the option of booking both resorts during a single visit, which gives them a comprehensive Curacao holiday.
The big news to hit the island recently is the opening of AMResorts’ all-inclusive Sunscape Curacao Resort, Spa & Casino, previously Breezes Curacao. Renovations are underway, the majority of which are modifications to the guestrooms, new decor in the existing six restaurants and new decor in the spa as well as enhancements to the theater, ballroom, wedding chapel and fitness center. The official rebranding of the five-story, 341-room resort is expected to be complete by November. The resort also will feature two swimming pools, a full-service spa, a salon, a fitness center and flexible meeting spaces. By 2013, the resort will include the brand’s signature Explorer’s Club for Kids and Core Zone Teen’s Club, Coco Cafe, Desires nightclub and a new swim-up bar. The beachfront Sunscape Curacao Resort, Spa & Casino even has its own house reef which is part of the adjacent Undersea National Park. Guests of the resort will also have close access to the Blue Bay Golf Course and the well-known Curacao Sea Aquarium.