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Curacao ushered in the new year with a revised set of entry protocols that now allow all U.S. visitors to experience this Dutch Caribbean island without quarantining. Before Jan. 1, 2021, the country implemented a slow reintroduction of American tourists, first welcoming those from the New York tristate area, before expanding to include Florida residents.
Under the new entry requirements, American travelers must complete a few key steps prior to arrival, through an online portal found at www.dicardcuracao.com. The process includes completing a Digital Immigration Card; filling out a Passenger Locator Card (PLC) within 48 hours prior to departure and carrying a printed copy as proof upon arrival; and uploading proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test result taken within 72 hours of traveling. Visitors must also carry a printed copy of this test as proof upon arrival. (Note: PCR tests based on gargle samples will not be accepted.) Children 6 years old and younger showing no symptoms, whose parents provide valid negative PCR tests, are not required to undergo a test.
More information on the revised entry requirements can be found at the official website of the Curacao Tourist Board.
Now that the island is open to Americans from every state, here’s an update on what’s new and noteworthy in Curacao.
New HotelsSet to be the largest property on the island, Corendon Mangrove Beach Resort opened phase one in July of last year with 399 guestrooms. This all-inclusive, open-air resort features a waterpark, two silent pools and a primary oceanfront pool adjacent to the beach. Eventually, a lazy river and suites with private plunge pools will also be added. With such a large resort also comes an array of restaurants, from fine dining to poolside casual. Guests will find seven food and beverage outlets where they can treat their taste buds. Phase two of the project — slated for completion in 2021 — will bring the resort to a total of approximately 800 rooms.
Located in the historic UNESCO-designated district of Pietermaai, Terra Boutique Hotel is a small luxury property inside a building that dates back to the 1800s. Restored in September 2020, the facade of Terra’s building stays true to its Dutch colonial charm while the inside invites guests to unwind with its warm earth tones and traditional decor that’s a nod to the natural elements of the island. The property is not without its modern touches and amenities, of course, and thanks to its prime location, guests are within walking distance of a number of restaurants, bars, cafes and shops. It’s also just steps away from the beach.
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Although not exactly a new hotel, Dreams Curacao Resort, Spa & Casino is also worth mentioning, as it opened on Dec. 15, 2019, only to close shortly after in March 2020, leaving few people the opportunity to enjoy the property. As pandemic restrictions eased, the resort reopened in late fall 2020.
RenovationsBeyond the new properties that Curacao has to offer, a few veterans of the island’s hotel landscape have also recently undergone renovations. Giving guests the best of both worlds, Avila Beach Hotel is located downtown near several attractions, restaurants and shops, while also offering its own strip of sand and sea. Now, this property has even more features to entice guests, thanks to the recent addition of its two- and three-bedroom apartments. Fully equipped for families, groups and extended stays, these apartments include large covered patios with views of the Caribbean Sea, while the patios of ground-floor units open directly onto the beach.
Perhaps the biggest renovation underway is of the former Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort, which will undergo a major transformation to become the first Sandals property in Curacao. Located on the island’s southern coast, the resort will mark the brand’s eighth island in the Caribbean region. The new Sandals Curaçao will initially include 350 guestrooms and suites stretched along Baie Longue Beach, Spanish Water Bay and the Caribbean Sea.
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Expansions are already planned for the future, but the process to “Sandalize” the resort will begin this year with signature pools, five-star restaurants, new River Suites and swim-up rooms. Guests will also have access to the neighboring 18-hole, par 72 Pete Dye championship golf course with ocean views and two on-site marinas.
Dining and AttractionsThough the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated Curacao’s Downtown Willemstad area, especially due to a lack of cruise passengers, local artists are revitalizing the area and drawing visitors with their work. These artists were invited to take 20 empty storefront windows and transform them with unique and colorful works of art. Now, the historic streets of Downtown feel like an outdoor art gallery — and passersby have taken note, with many stopping to enjoy the large-scale paintings.
On the culinary scene, this past year has seen a push toward organic, sustainably raised food with several entrepreneurs working together to source more local, indigenous ingredients. Several new restaurants have also opened, such as Ceviche 91 in Riffort Village and De Heeren at Sea, which is located at Scuba Lodge Boutique Hotel & Ocean Suites. In Scharloo, a new dining concept has also emerged with De Broeders restaurant, which serves up a range of dishes from chocolate, bacon and pretzel cake to tostone sliders. Matching the trendy vibes of the neighborhood, De Broeders’ interior is decorated with vibrant graffiti art.