Wanderlust: Island life on Curaçao

11 July 2017 · posted in life

Six months ago, the furthest I'd ever been away from Belgium, traveling, was in and around the Mediterranean Sea. On my humble list of what I'd seen of the world so far were Belgium (obviously), Spain, France, the Netherlands, the UK, Finland (only Helsinki), Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Tunisia, Turkey and Cyprus, that last one being the furthest away from home. Right now that list is still humble but it has one very tropical addition: Curaçao. (And next week, we're adding Croatia too!)

For one week, last year in November, Curaçao became our home and it was one of the most magical wanderlust experiences of our lives so far. We quickly realized, arriving at the airport at 10pm after a 10 hour flight, that the descriptions of tropical heat had not been exaggerated in our pre-trip research. The hot humid air outside was such a big contrast with the airconditioned airport corridors that we needed a few minutes to adjust our breathing when we stepped outside for the first time. Being on a tropical island for only a week doesn't really give you enough time to fully adjust to the heat and the humidity but after a day or two we kind of got used to the fact that stepping outside of an airconditioned zone meant sweating, burning sun and adjusted breathing.

TRAVEL PRACTICALITIES

Flight
From Belgium it's fairly easy to fly to Curaçao since it is still linked very closely to the Netherlands. Curaçao is not fully independent yet and is, after the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles, still (only) an autonomic region within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. We flew directly from Schiphol, Amsterdam to Hato, Curaçao. We flew with TUI Fly and it cost us around €600pp return trip. If you're booking a couple of months in advance instead of last minute it will cost you less (around €480-€500) which is a considerable difference. If you're flying with TUI, make sure that you recheck and print all documents related to pre-booked checked luggage. For some reason, although we rechecked and called before we left, we still had problems with our luggage reservations, really had to hustle to get out luggage on the plane and almost ended up paying twice when we flew back from Hato to Amsterdam.

Hotel
On Curaçao we stayed at the Amigunan tropical mini resort, P'Ariba (a room for one or two people) which we booked through Airbnb. There are also adjoining rooms for families if you're with more than two people. If you're planning on going to Curaçao I can really recommend it! The owners are really friendly and you have everything you need on a tropical island: an airconditioned room, a bed with a mosquito net, a bathroom with a shower, a cooking set on your own terrace, a full kitchen in the shared area and a gorgeously tiled pool, all that for €80/night for the room (not pp). It's also a good central location: only a 15min drive to Willemstad, close to a good supermarket and in a nice neighbourhood.

Transport on the island
To get around Curaçao easily and make the most of your stay you absolutely need a car, preferably one with airconditioning. Even though Curaçao is quite a small island, it is just too hot to cycle anywhere and the roads are not exactly cyclist-friendly either. If you have a car it will only take you max. up to an hour to drive anywhere you want on the island.

BEACHES WE EXPLORED

Kenepa Grandi
A free very idyllic basic sunbathing beach where you can rent a sun chair and a sun umbrella. If you're adventurous you can climb up a tiny path in the rocks at the side of the beach and jump in the ocean from up there. There are toilets and a Dutch take out style food kiosk. (photo on the right)

Playa Lagun
A free tiny beach at a tiny bay, hidden in between high rocks and the perfect spot for snorkeling to see tropical fish and you have a good chance of spotting sea turtles! Local fisherman haul their boats in around noon and they gut and clean their fish right there at the beach which is easy food for the turtles. There are toilets, two restaurants that serve both fresh fish and Dutch take out style food, a small shop, a scuba diving club and a snorkeling gear rental. This calm (read: not many tourists) tiny beach was by far our favourite!

Playa Cas Abao
A little more commercial and touristy sunbathing beach (entrance fee: 10,00-12,50 nafl, approx. €6). Very idyllic, especially at sunset. (First photo and photo below). You have to be quick though, because the beach officially closes at 6pm and the sunset is around the same time. There are toilets, lockers, changing rooms, a restaurant, gazebo's and you can even get a massage right there on the beach.

NATURE MUST SEE
In my honest opinion, Curaçao is definitely not a "beautiful" island if you only look at the island itself, the "center". There are some cacti and dried plants but it's not green, there's one big mountain but it's just too hot to climb it and there are only a few tropical animals to spot regularly: little lizards and all sizes of iguanas. I don't know if other tropical island are different, but the beauty of Curaçao is to be found around it's edges, at the ocean.

Shete Boka National park
Shete Boka National Park is know for the rocky wave exposed north coast of the island. (Entrance fee: 10 nafl, approx. €5). You can choose to walk on small trails or you an explore it by car. In this nature park you can see waves being pushed into a tiny whole in between the rocks and shoot into the air with a loud bang (Boka Pistol). There are also turtle nesting beaches, a beach full of different kinds of little crabs crawling around (Boka Kalki), a cave where you can see inside a blue wave of sea water (Boka Tabla) and a natural rock bridge (Boka Wandomi). Just don't forget to bring a hat and sunscreen: shadow is nowhere to be seen!

Ocean sunset
If you're ever on a tropical island, watching a sunset from the beach is still one of the most magical things I have even seen. The colors of the sky and the sound of the waves rolling onto the beach, it really doesn't get much better than that. Even now, sitting in my sofa far away from any beaches, looking at these photos takes me back to feeling humbled by the beauty and power of nature.

Snorkeling
Your island lifestyle trip is only complete when you admire the beauty of the ocean life as well. Where there is nothing much to see on the island, there is plenty to see in the ocean around the island. Even if you're not a fan of water and swimming, like me, I really recommend going snorkeling. We had so much fun looking at all the little brightly colored fish and some sea turtles that we're already dreaming about our next snorkeling adventure.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Have you ever visited a beautiful island? If you have, I'd love to hear your stories in the comments so can I add more of these wonderful islands to my wanderlust bucket list. Currently we're packing for our Austria/Croatia road trip so if you're curious to see where we end up this time: you can follow our travels and wanderlust on Instagram.

love,
Margot

Follow