WILLEMSTAD, Curacao | Dushiiiiii! This is the expression I heard most often during my three months in Curaçao. Add the word dushito just about any phrase and almost instantly make a Curacian friend! In the local language, Papiamento, dushi means a thousand and one positive things at once, such as “my darling”, “it's tasty”, “cool, beautiful or nice”.
Welcome to Curaçao, one of the autonomous countries that make up the Kingdom of the Netherlands with Aruba, Saint-Martin and the trio Bonaire, Saba and Saint-Eustache. Outside the tropical cyclone zone, the 276 km2 blue Caribbean paradise can be visited all year round.
It's a small island. How was I going to occupy myself for so long on an island of 151,000 inhabitants, which you cross in an hour by car? Did I have a plan B? Of course not! I had done my homework.
A fan of slow travel, I knew that beyond the tourist imperatives that we can take a picture of during a race against time, there are always these countless well-kept secrets of the locals. Curaçao is also part of the famous A-B-C trio (Aruba-Bonaire-Curaçao). Dozens of 30-minute flights a day connect these neighboring islands, costing approximately $100 each way. In case of a “boredom attack”, I would only have to run to the airport towards Bonaire only 79 km from Curaçao, or to Aruba at 113 km. I ended up visiting the other two islands just out of curiosity.
Curaçao waltzes halfway between the warm character of Latin Americans, the ultra-present European culture from centuries of colonization, then its very own identity. All this without forgetting its great ethnic diversity, with more than 55 nationalities living on the island. These have left their mark on history and particularly color the artistic scene.
Several Curacians speak three to four languages, which immediately impressed me. The three official languages are Papiamento, English and Dutch, although due to the geographical location of the island, Spanish is often understood and spoken there.
To the delight of visitors, all these universes with distinct features intertwine. Between the Dutch rap of university exchange students, the salsa parties and the Papiamento music that you will hear during a sacred Sunday with the family at the beach, you often have the impression of visiting several countries in a single day.
> Historic Willemstad and the Baie Sainte-Anne waterway.
With its historic center listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Willemstad, the capital of Curaçao, with a well-deserved reputation, is extremely well preserved. The beautiful port of old Punda, whose architecture is inspired by the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal, has many museums and monuments that have marked history, including the oldest synagogue still in operation in America and Queen Emma's pontoon bridge.
Reserved for pedestrians, the bridge allows huge cruise ships to pass every week, yet the integrity of the city remains. Separated from Punda by the waterway of Baie Sainte-Anne (Sint Annabaai), one crosses the bridge to access the historic sector of Otrobanda and contemplate the life of the neighborhood, at a slow pace.
Gastronomy and nightlife
Goodbye culinary disappointments: Curaçao can count on many simple restaurants offering fresh products, with local flavor, as well as on renowned chefs.
You will definitely want to taste a typical dish from the old Bieuwdans market or the delights of street food.
Don't miss the dushi little cousin of the Quebec poutine, the kapsalon (a word meaning hairdresser in Dutch, yes, yes!): French fries, hot chicken, grilled cheese, lettuce and tomatoes.
L he ultimate daring experience will be the yuana (iguana), often stewed.
You'll also find good wine cellars in Curacao, a rare commodity in some Caribbean countries that often only have eyes for cocktails and beer. Lovers of this last drink? Go to one of the many bars on the neighborhood street, to mingle with the energy of the locals. Fun A-S-S-U-R-E!
The nightlife hasn't detracted from the authenticity of Willemstad, which is a feat on a tourist island. Strangely, one of the days when Curacians let themselves go the most is Sunday… it's like no one works the next day!
For nature lovers
The beaches of the island are simply spectacular! The water is translucent and there is something for everyone.
Viewpoint on a natural aquarium during the hike starting at Santa Cruz beach.
Snorkeling enthusiasts will be served by the coral reefs and many wrecks, in addition to being almost guaranteed to see turtles near the seagrass beds.
Those who love action will find what they are looking for at the popular beaches of Mamboo and Zanzibar, or at the many beach bars, such as Kokomo and Pirates Bay. Short hikes or private boats lead those who prefer to be alone in the world to small hidden beaches where you will not meet anyone on weekdays… or only one if you are “unlucky”!
Do you like to cover miles while walking on the beach? It is important to specify that those of Curaçao are generally short and narrow. But don't worry, we offer you its little sister on a silver platter: Klein Curaçao!
A little paradise
While the blue background of the Curaçao flag symbolizes the sky and the sea, and its yellow band represents the sun, its two stars evoke its two islands: the main one and Klein Curaçao.
A perfect day getaway, this little gem of nature can be reached within an hour by boat. I strongly recommend Blue Finn for the stability and characteristics of its catamarans.
Uninhabited, Klein Curaçao was used by the West India Company in the 17th and 18th centuries as a place of quarantine for slaves. There are wrecks and the most beautiful desert beaches of white sand in Curaçao, where you can walk endlessly, overlooking crystal clear water… and never want to come back! A popular dive site, it is also the birthplace of many sea turtles.
The first lighthouse built by Prince Hendrik in 1849, destroyed and rebuilt several times, offers a beautiful view of 360 degrees on the island.
And the mountain
The climate of the island is very arid: its cactus flowers and its reptiles will impress you more than its greenery.
Its highest peak is only 372 meters, but hikers will still enjoy it, especially in Christoffel National Park and around the port of Spaanse Water, from where there are breathtaking views of several bays and islets.
Almost every day, around the Salt Lake of Willembrordus, pink flamingos await you.
TOURS TO DISCOVER THE ISLAND
- The free tour departing from the Bed and Bikes hotel in Pietermaai every Monday morning at 10 a.m. to explore the arts and old Punda.
- The Gone Caribe agency belonging to a Quebec-Curacien couple passionate about culture.
PANORAMA AND HIKES
- Besides the summit of Christoffelberg in the national park and the Salt Lake of Willebrordus, the Santa Martha Baai lookout offers effortless breathtaking views.
View from the top of Christoffelberg, the highest point of the island.
- The Seru Kabritu summit to admire the Spaanse lagoon.
- Shete Boka Park for its natural bridge and violent waves in the north of the island.
MY FAVORITE BEACHES
< li dir="auto">Cas Abao for its white sand and width.
The white sand beach of Cas Abao.
- Kalki for scuba diving and its unforgettable blue.
- Karakter: the bluest of blues, for the snorkeling and its facilities.
- Klein Knip for its intimacy and local vibe (next to the classic and beautiful Grote Knip).
- Porto Marie for the clifftop panorama.
Sunset on Porto Marie beach, one of the longest on the island.
- Playa Jeremi, secluded and relaxing.
- Baai directors for snorkeling, further south. < /li>
THE LESS CROWDED BEACHES WHERE TO GET LOST
- The isolated Gipy mini beach, where you get by walking on a cliff from the Watamula Hole.
- The hike from Santa Cruz beach to Boka Hulu beach, with its stops idyllic like the Blue Room Cave.
The beach of Santa Cruz, from where a magnificent hike starts.
- A road trip from Manzanilla beach to nearby beaches.
- De Visserij will fish for its divine fresh fish; a local favourite!
- The Kome for the culinary experience, the atmosphere and its favored local ingredients.
- Lionfish and Mangoes which specializes in sustainable catering, offering travelers the opportunity to taste this famous fish (lionfish) in an inventive way.
- The Bonchi Coffeehouse for working from home and the best coffee in town.
- The Saint Tropez Ocean Club for its trendy events, swimming pool and boutique hotel.
The infinite swimming pool of the Saint Tropez Ocean Club.
- Number Ten Curaçao for its magnificent terrace.
- < strong>Tourisme Curaçao: curacao.com/fr/
- Visa: No visa required for stays of 90 days or less.
- Weather: You can visit Curaçao all year round and the rainy season is not really one. The temperature is always pleasant (annual average of 28.5°C and 27.5°C for water). The driest period is from February to June and the high season between December and April.
- Getting there: Direct flights from Montreal to Curacao are lasting 5 h 15 (high winter season). Flights are also offered year-round with a stopover in Toronto or via American cities.
- Getting around: Public transport is quite frequent around from the city center, but it is strongly suggested to rent a car to visit the outlying sites. Book in advance: rentals are expensive and cars are limited. The Advance Car Rental company offers an exemplary service.
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