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Curaçao travel guide: Explore the Caribbean island's beaches, food and culture

Curaçao travel guide: Explore the Caribbean island’s beaches, food and culture

For a tropical getaway outside of the hurricane belt, consider Curaçao. Located about 40 miles north of Venezuela, the island is home to crystal-blue waters, a vibrant culture and year-round balmy temperatures. Here’s what to do in the under-the-radar Caribbean gem.

Colorful capital

Seen on every Curaçao postcard are the colorful, waterfront Colonial buildings in Willemstad. The island’s capital is divided into two districts, connected by the Queen Emma Bridge over St. Anna Bay: On the east in Punda, you’ll find the pastel stretch of pier Handelskade, as well as streets lined with boutiques and eateries; on the west in Otrobanda, there’s Rif Fort, a fort revamped as a waterfront mall.

Fun in the sun

Curaçao has more than 35 white-sand beaches. A popular one is Knip, a shaded cove beach on the western side of the island, where daredevils cliff dive at their own risk. Hikers head to Christoffel National Park ($14.50/adults; $4.50/ages 6-12; Savonet), with trails that include a challenging trek to the top of Mount Christoffel, Curaçao’s highest point.

Culinary spotlights

Standouts in the island’s food scene include Plasa Bieu (Sha Caprileskade), a picnic-tabled lunch spot for fish, chicken and pork served with rice and beans and fried plantains; farm-to-table spot Hofi Cas Cora (Landhuis Cas Cora, Willemstad), located on an actual farm; and Mosa (Penstraat 41, Willemstad), a d-plate restaurant in the trendy Pietermaai District.

Complex history and rich culture

Nicknamed “Little Amsterdam,” Curaçao is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands (along with other Caribbean islands St. Maarten and Aruba). It was a center for the transatlantic slave trade during the 17th and 18th centuries. Museum Kura Hulanda (closed Mondays, admission $10/adults, $8/students, $7/ages 12 and under; Klipstraat 9, Willemstad) features educational exhibitions on the slave trade and an impressive collection of African artifacts.

Curaçao’s African-Caribbean residents make up the majority of the island’s population. Kas di Pal’i Maishi (admission $3; Dokterstuin 27, Willemstad), a small adobe museum, illustrates how the Afro-Curaçaoan rural population lived until about 1950.

GOOD TO KNOW

Getting there: JetBlue offers nonstop flights under five hours from JFK to Curaçao several times a week.

Getting around: To cover the 171-square-mile island, rent a car from the airport or your hotel.

Money: American dollars are widely accepted; many businesses don’t accept American Express.

Language: Curaçao is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands; natives speak Dutch, English, Spanish and Papiamentu.

Where to stay: For beach access, consider the Renaissance Curaçao Resort Casino (Baden Powellweg, Willemstad) or Lions Dive Beach Resort (Bapor Kibra, Willemstad), both near manmade beaches.

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