It is believed that the name Curacao is derived from similar words from several different languages meaning either “cured” or “healing.” A trip to Curacao can indeed be a healing experience for those caught up in the overwhelmingly fast pace of everyday life. Curacao is small and secluded, allowing even the most harried vacationer the opportunity to leave their troubles behind them, and relax in a world free of crowds and full of soul.
Still a quiet, relaxing getaway, in recent years Curacao has begun to appear more often on the radar of travelers who frequent the Caribbean. In fact, in the beginning of 2011, Curacao was named as one of the top destinations in the world by not one, but two travel news Web sites: AOL Travel and SmarterTravel. Curacao came in at number seven on AOL Travel's Hottest Destinations for 2011 list, and is listed as one of the seven Destinations to Watch by SmarterTravel. Then, at the begining of 2014 it was listed as the second best island in the Caribbean by USA Today. If this is any indication of things to come for Curacao, one can only imagine that tourism will continue to steadily grow on the island, providing visitors with more ammenities and attractions as the years go by.
|Currency||The official currency of Curaçao is the Netherlands Antillean Florin (NAF), also called a guilder, but U.S. dollars are widely accepted. The exchange rate is 1.79 NAH to $1(USD).|
|Electricity||Curaçao operates on 110-130 volt system, but many hotels have transformers available for European visitors. Check with your hotel when booking.|
|GDP Per Capita||The average per capita income is $20,500(USD).|
|Island Size||The island is approximately 171 square miles in area.|
|Language||Dutch is the official language of Curaçao, but locals also speak English and Spanish; many islanders also speak Papiamento, a local blend of Dutch and African languages.|
|Population||Curaçao is home to 151,892 residents. In addition, the island sees 204,600 visitors annually, 16 percent of whom are from the U.S.|
|Entry Requirements||All travelers from the U.K., U.S., Canada, and Caribbean are required to present a valid passport in order to gain entry into Curacao. All visitors must also have a return or ongoing ticket.|
...Curacao may be small, but it has a lot to offer...
Curacao is located about 35 miles off the northern coast of Venezuela, and is considered to be both a part of South America and the Leeward Antilles. The island has a total area of 171.4 square miles, with Mt. Christoffel providing the tallest peak at 1230 feet above sea level. The island's topography consists of hilly countryside to the west, and flat lands to the west. There are no freshwater lakes or rivers, but the island is surrounded by lagoons and bays.
Curaçaons are adept at languages due to the diverse group of people who live on the island. Despite the official Dutch status of the island and the introduction of English as the language of business, African-rooted Papiamento is still alive and well today, demonstrating Curaçao's strong ties to African culture.
African heritage is also evident in the island's music. "Tambu" is an ancient form of music and dance originally brought to Curaçao by slaves. Despite being banned, first by slave owners and later by the Catholic Church, tambu has survived to the present day by being transmitted from generation to generation. Drums play the main musical role in this art form.
Curacao has a semi-arid climate, which means it experiences low levels of precipitation for its area throughout the year. Indeed, Curacao only averages approximately 22 inches of rain annually, and this occurs mostly between October and February. Typically, temperatures remain constant, with an average of 81 degrees Fahrenheit, made even more pleasant by cooling trade winds.
There are 38 beaches along the coastline of Curacao, some with gentle surf and soft sand, and others that pound against rocky cliffs. Many of Curacao's beaches are small and secluded, allowing visitors to feel as if they have discovered their own personal slice of paradise. Water sports are popular on Curacao, including snorkeling and diving. Marine parks on the island are a great way to learn about ocean life, and fishing is a popular pastime as well.
Natural attractions on Curacao are simply stunning. A visit to Hato Caves showcases an underground lake surrounded by awe-inspiring stalagmites and stalactites, as well as caves with ancient petroglyphs on the walls. Out in the open, the Christoffel National Park is also home to ancient wall art, as well as 20 miles of trails that bring you through thousands of species of wild plants and animals, and up to the summit of Saint Christoffelberg. Nearby is National Park Shete Boka, the island's resident turtle sanctuary. A truly one-of-a-kind attraction on Curacao is the Curacao Ostrich Farm, where guests can embark on a safari like tour to view one of the largest ostrich breeding ground outside of Africa.
...over 750 preserved historic buildings in the city...
Curacao has a very low import duty, making shopping on the island an incredible bargain. The island allows shoppers the unique experience of browsing the Floating Market in Handelskade, where sellers offer their wares (fresh produce, clothing, and crafts) directly off their boats. In the capitol city of Willemstad is Punda, a five-block shopping district where shoppers can find fine garments, perfumes, jewelry, china, and linens for knock-off prices. Speaking of Willemstad, the city is a great place to explore to learn about the history and heritage of Curacao. Willemstad is one of only six UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Caribbean. There are over 750 preserved historic buildings in the city, including the Penha building and the Governor's Palace. Walking and trolley tours are a great way to experience as many of these sites as possible.
Curacao can be an exciting place to visit as well, especially during Carnival season. Carnival is the island's largest and most vibrant event, lasting from the beginning of January to the end of February, and sometimes on into March. Events include parades, concerts, children's activities, art fairs, and more. Another great way to have fun on Curacao is by visiting one of 14 casinos on the island, which can be found in the four cities, mainly at resort hotels.
Because there are so many nationalities present on the island, and much of it must be imported, food in Curacao is quite diverse. Visitors should be able to find dishes that they know and love for every meal, but one of the great joys of visiting a foreign country is exploring their normal cuisine. If you are feeling adventurous, stop by a locally owned restaurant, and sample some regional delicacies. Kabritu (stewed goat), Sate (meat kabobs), fried plantains, and yuana (stewed iguana) are a few foods worth sampling.
Being home to peaceful people, Curaçao is not rife with crime against tourists. Still, it is wise to follow commonsense rules and safeguard any valuables. As far as water is concerned, Curaçao is home to a modern desalination plant, making water safe to drink. Willemstad is home to one of the most up-to-date hospitals in the Caribbean, so medical attention is readily available in the unfortunate event of an emergency.
Who is most likely to enjoy Curacao? Vacationers looking for warm weather, soft sand, bright waters, great shopping opportunities, historic attractions, and friendly people, that's who. Couples looking for a private paradise to get to know each other again without outside influences; families who love to explore and enjoy one another's company; friends ready for a good time, and singles in search of it all. Curacao may be small, but it has a lot to offer everyone who steps ashore.
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