Curacao, Netherlands Antilles, Caribbean

Colourful town

Curaçao  is one of the five islands, and the largest, of the Netherlands Antilles in the Caribbean, and among the group known as the ABC Islands alongside Aruba and Bonaire. This trio is located near Venezuela, and are considered to be outside the Caribbean's so-called "hurricane zone." This means that vacations to the island are rarely disrupted by such tropical storms.
The island is about 62 km long and 14 km wide (4 km at its narrowest point in the middle of the island). About 150.000 people live on the island.

One of the most notable things about the island is its culture. This Dutch island features building styles you'd find in the Netherlands, but painted in beautiful pastel shades. However, the people of the island have developed a culture, and even a language, of their own. Papiamentu (also spelled Papiamento), is the island's native Creole. Papiamentu is a mixture of Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, English, African and other languages. , but with a very basic grammar. Official spelling has existed for only a few years.  Most people from the island speak this language in addition to Dutch, English, and Spanish. Almost everyone speaks English.

Music is very important on the island. Starting in early days, the slaves here performed the Tambu in which they expressed their criticism and complaints. Today it can still be heard and people typically complain about increased taxes, high water prices, etc. Besides some European traits, the music here is mainly influenced by Latin and Caribbean styles. Popular music is typically a variation of either Merengue or Salsa, while more traditional music is usually a bit slower such as the Montuno or Waltz. The carnival music is Tumba (in contrast to Tambu), and once a year local bands will meet at the Tumba Festival to present their new carnival songs, one of which will be chosen to be the winner.
Carnival is a main event in Curaçao which usually takes place in late February. Many carnival groups come up with unique and interesting themes, colorful costumes, and large floats that they display during the parade. Preparations always start several months in advance. The carnival is not government funded and groups have their own way of raising money.

Food is also very important on Curaçao, just like music. Local cuisine in Curaçao is a mixture of European, West-Indian and East Asian (particularly Indonesian) flavours. Dutch influences are found in the use of cheeses, bread and seafood, which are also important in Curaçaoan food. Indonesian cuisine, a migrant from Suriname, another of the Netherlands' former colonies, can be found on the island, as well as Chinese  food.
The local food includes delicious seafood, meats and side dishes. Some of the local sea food is Dradu (Mahi Mahi), Piska Kora (Red Snapper), Karko (conch meat), shrimp, and lobster. Kabritu Stoba (goat meat) is also a local specialty. Plantains (fried bananas) are usually served as vegetables or side dishes. Keshi Yena is also very delicious and means "filled cheese"; the cheese is filled with chicken, raisins, beans, and many other good things. Funchi is another specialty and is made out of corn; it's similar to corn bread and is usually fried like french fries. Another local specialty is Iguana soup. Typical side dishes are rice with beans, white rice, french fries, or baked potatoes.

Local market

What do do and see: 
Christoffel National Park. A national park that is run by the Carmabi Foundation. Christoffel National Park is home to Boca Grandi, Indian caves where you can see paintings left by the Arawak Indians and Mount Christoffel. (At 1292 feet high, Mount Christoffel is the highest point in Curacao. 

Shete Boka National Park. A national park also run by the Carmabi Foundation, Shete Boka is home to the "7 boca's" including Boca Tabla and Boca Pistol (also known as "The Shooting Pistol") In season, some of the boca's serve as sea turtle breeding grounds.

Curacao Sea Aquarium, Bapor Kibra. Home of the Dolphin Academy. This is one of the most popular attractions in Curacao.

Hato Caves. Coral and limestone caves that was carved out below the sea and born when the sea level dropped. There are beautiful stalactite and stalagmite formations as well as water pools and a waterfall. The cave is also home to a colony long nose fruit bats. (Because of the colony, photography is limited and not allowed in certain chambers.)

Snorkeling and Diving at Curacao's Marine Park. The complete southwestern side of Curacao is one large coral reef and marine park. In the north you can dive at the Banda Abou National Park, in the center at the Central Curacao Underwater Park and in the south at the Curacau Underwater Park. Curacao offers plenty of dive sites, from easy shore dives, pristine coral bay dives to sheer drop-offs especially in the southeast.

Scuba Diving is a breathtaking experience here. Curaçao is known for its underwater paradise consisting of coral reefs and sponge formations with thousands of colorful tropical fish. The water is pleasant and the visibility is excellent. Spear fishing, breaking or removing corals or shells is forbidden to preserve and protect the under-water life. Curaçao has over forty dive spots, some of which are only accessible by boat. However, many dive spots are accessible from beaches which allows for a nice combination of beach time and diving. Occasionally flying fish follow the dive boats and they sometimes fly next to the boat for several seconds. At the Seaquarium divers can enjoy encounters with stingrays, turtles, all kinds of tropical fish, and can even feed sharks and have their picture taken. Many dive operators and several diving schools offer their services: joining boat dives and renting equipment is not a problem; becoming a certified diver can be accomplished in a few days and courses are offered in many languages. 

Curaçao Ostrich & Game Farm. The Curacao Ostrich Farm is one of the biggest Ostrich farms outside Africa. The tour takes you around the ostrich pens and incubator. Meat from this farm is shipped to Aruba (Ostrich is a red meat, which is high in protein and low in fat.) 

Fort Amsterdam, Punda Side, Willemstad. The seat of the Netherlands Antilles, Fort Amsterdam sits at the mouth of the harbor at the end of the Sint Annabaai Channel on the point. The complex has restaurants, shops as well as the Governors Palace. 

Fort Nassau, Willemstad. Fort Nassau was built on the hill to defend both St. Anna Bay as well as part of the city of Willemstad. The fort is open for tours and there is also a restaurant that overlooks the bay. 

The Floating Market, Punda Side, Willemstad. The "floating market" is actually a mini boat fleet that comes in from Venezuela and sells ultra fresh fish and fruit at the best prices. You'll find it roughly one block north of the Queen Juliana Bridge on the east side of the harbor mouth.

 Curaçao's beaches are concentrated on the southern coast, especially the western side. Find these from Rif St. Marie up to Westpunt. Beaches in Curaçao are small sandy bays with crystal clear water. On weekends many people go to the beach, but during the week you might find yourself alone on many beaches. Most beaches are located on the southern coast of the island and the water is calm. The northern coast is rocky and the sea is very rough. A few beaches are within minutes from the city, but most of them are in Banda 'Bou, the northwestern part of the island.

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