Curacao

Situated off the Venezuelan coast in the Southern Caribbean Sea, the island of Curacao forms part of the Dutch Caribbean. More than 50 nationalities are represented on the island, creating rich cultural opportunities for visitors. Like nearby Aruba, Curacao’s friendly environment welcomes honeymooners, families and LGBT vacationers.

Historic settlements, prime shopping, and varied outdoor adventures are all hallmarks of Curacao. Thanks to near perfect year-round weather, you’ll save money visiting during the off peak months of May through November. You can take advantage of perks like lower airfares, cheaper hotel rates, and smaller crowds.

Stellar beaches and several diving spots are lures for many. More than 40 different dive sites reveal robust marine life. One notable site, the Mushroom Forest, is a marvelous underwater jungle comprised of 10-foot mushroom shaped star coral.

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The beaches are plentiful, too. You could visit a new one every day for over a month! Popular with the locals, Blue Bay Beach showcases soft sand, ample shade, and facilities. Caracasbaai Beach is part of an underwater park, and provides excellent snorkeling. Small beachfront eateries and calm waters make it ideal for families.

Other outdoor activities range from parasailing and horseback rides to bird watching tours and rock climbing. Immerse yourself among spectacular wildlife and luxuriant gardens within the Christoffel National Park. This protected 4,446 acres holds three former plantations, an informative museum, and tons of activities. Give yourself a full day here – you don’t want to miss a thing!

Stroll through the capital city of Willemstad for shopping, dining, and architectural eye candy. Charming Dutch colonial buildings create an Old World European feel. This bustling port city is also one of just six UNESCO World Heritage sites – along with Old San Juan, Old Havana, and Colonial Santo Domingo.

If you’re into some serious history, visit the Hato Caves. Found at the north side of the island, these caves were once used by the Amerindian Arawaks who left cave drawings and petroglyphs that date back some 1,500 years. Later, escaped slaves also used them as hideouts.

Generous restaurant options await foodies. Mangos, in Willemstad, offers international fare in a friendly, bistro-like setting. Try the upscale Restaurant Seasons for European, French, and Mediterranean victuals (they have an extensive wine list, too). Savor local dishes within Plaza Bieu, where about six local food vendors tempt your palate with Cajun and Creole dishes. Nightlife in Curacao is lively and eclectic. Casinos, bars, discotheques, and jazz cafes provide copious ways to fill up your evening hours.

Places to base yourself are as plentiful as restaurant options – you’ll find everything from posh resorts to mom and pop hotels.

Curacao’s biggest cultural event is arguably their Carnival. Beginning in January with the Tumba Festival, it runs until the day before Ash Wednesday. More than 40 ethnic groups participate in parades, dancing, music, and a plethora of other colorful events.

Enchanting beaches, stellar diving, and activities and diversions for every interest make Curacao a special place. There’s such an extensive variety for visitors, you can’t go wrong with booking a getaway on this lively island.