I spent the past 7 days vacationing in Curacao with my girlfriend Ebony and another couple we’re friends with. In this post, I’ll talk about how it went, and how I might have done things differently if I were visiting again.
Ebony has wanted to go there for awhile, because of the beautiful water, sun, and beaches.
What to wear
Definitely wear light clothing. Average high temperatures in Curacao are mid-to-upper 80s Fahrenheit year-round. Don’t skimp on sunscreen, or you’ll regret it–even if your skin is already relatively dark. My friends aren’t that much lighter than me, and all of them got burnt. Don’t go easy on bug spray either.
We spent two nights at Renaissance Curacao Resort & Casino in Willemstad. If you’re familiar with and/or a fan of Marriott properties, this one has everything you expect. They also have plenty of outlets for appliances and electronics from the U.S., so you won’t need to use converters. The only wi-fi access appeared to be in the lobby, and I never managed to connect with my iPhone. There’s wired internet access from the rooms, so netbook and laptop users will have an alternative to the business center. The private beach they talk about on their web page is man-made, and doesn’t connect directly to the ocean, but a large saltwater pool.
We spent the rest of the time at the Hyatt Regency Curacao Golf Resort, Spa, and Marina. Parts of the property are still under construction, so we got the benefit of a grand opening rate, 4 nights for the price of 3, and free breakfast for the duration of our stay. The service we received from every member of the staff was excellent. Without exception, they were all incredibly courteous and polite, and went out of their way to accommodate our requests. I thought the rooms were nice, but some of the balconies are much better for privacy than others. The tub has a rather high edge, so it’s a bit of a challenge to get into unless you’re tall. Strangely, the shower only has frosted glass on half the length of the tub–and no sliding door.
Bistro Le Clochard was expensive, but the food was excellent. It’s inside Rif Fort, a very short walk from the Renaissance. We discovered that their kitchen accommodates vegetarians quite well. It seems to be a quite popular place, so make reservations ahead of time, or you’ll have to eat elsewhere. The restaurant within the Renaissance is ok.
The Hyatt has three restaurants: Medi, Shor, and Swim. The food at all of them is quite good, though the serving times vary widely (Shor is the slowest, Swim is the fastest). Swim will serve you poolside or at the beach. Their plantain chips and fish tacos were especially good.
How to pay
U.S. currency was accepted everywhere we tried to use it, as were our credit cards. I checked the tourist board website to get information ahead of time.
Activities, Attractions, & Shopping
Of the attractions available in Curacao, we got to the Kura Hulanda Museum and the Rif Fort in Willemstad. At Kura Hulanda, the extra money for a tour guide was well worth it. It provides a great history lesson of many cultures, as well as the slave trade. With more time, I would have visited the Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue and the Maritime Museum as well.
During our time at the Hyatt, we went on a 3-hour cruise with some time for snorkeling. I still regret my lack of underwater camera gear for this, because there were a lot of strange and beautiful fish to see. There was even a small shipwreck close to where we snorkeled that we were able to see. Ocean Encounters handled our tour, and they did an excellent job. If we’d planned further in advance, we could have gone on the 7-hour cruise to and from Klein Curacao. This trip made me wish I knew how to scuba dive. A trip back for the sole purpose of getting PADI-certified would probably be worth it.
At least in Willemstad, there are tons of places to buy jewelry, electronics, clothes, and souvenirs. Prices in downtown were pretty good from what I saw. The street vendors just outside the Rif Fort offered the best prices, and we ended up getting a couple of very nice things in both places.
Getting there (and back)
We flew American Airlines from Reagan National Airport to Hato International via Miami. Our friends flew to Miami from Philadelphia, then to Hato International. During the time I researched flight costs, they ranged from $450/person to well over $600/person. We ended up using frequent flier miles for the DCA-MIA leg of the trip to cut down our out-of-pocket costs. If I had it to do over again, I’d have planned much further in advance.
One thing I noticed (to my annoyance) about flying into and out of Miami is that the gate personnel decided to pick on either Ebony or both of us about the size of our carry-on luggage. To make sure you avoid that kind of harassment, make sure your packed carry-on fits in the stupid little cages they have near the gates. Otherwise, you could end up having to check a bag you weren’t expecting and risk the airline losing it (like American Airlines nearly did with her bag).
The last thing I’ll say about flying to and from Curacao (at least in this post), is to avoid taking the last flight out of Curacao on whatever day you depart. If there’s a problem with that flight (as there was in our case), you’ll be stuck at least one extra day.