Onsite Review

Unanticipated Adventure in Curaçao

written by | Posted on July 2nd, 2012

For instance, how many Caribbean islands can you name that offer safari tours? At the Curaçao Ostrich Farm, guests can board an open-sided safari vehicle for a tour that’ll teach them everything there is to know about ostriches and ostrich farming. Meanwhile, thrill-seekers (like us) will jump at the chance for an ostrich ride ($35)—something that can’t be done just anywhere, you know. The island’s historic slave-trade roots come out in the restaurant where an array of African meals, including ostrich burgers and steaks, can be sampled, or in the gift shop, which features a selection of authentic African souvenirs to take home. Admission is $15 for adults, or $12 for kids ages 2 to 12.

An even more culturally involving experience can be had at Dinah Veeris’ Den Peradara herb garden. Your clients can opt for a self-guided tour of the gardens, learning the medicinal benefits of a variety of plants and trees via posted signs throughout, but for a truly immersive visit, schedule your clients a tour with Dinah herself. They’ll find themselves engrossed in her anecdotes and swaying to her songs, as she explains the historical uses and significances of each of the plants in her garden. They’ll fall in love with both her and her dedication to preserving the island’s culture and the earth itself.

Even meal settings in Curaçao are an authentic experience. On this less-traveled island, gastronomy is often an open-air affair, in restaurants featuring picnic table-style seating and open kitchen layouts. While the decor may not be five-star, the seaside views do their part to make up for it. Consider the handwritten and verbal menus a testament to how fresh the meals will be…so fresh, in fact, that it’s not even worth printing the day’s featured selections, since they’re just bound to change tomorrow.

In our eyes, the most exciting open-air restaurant available in Curaçao (we are self-proclaimed open-air restaurant know-it-alls, by the way) is Fort Nassau. Built in 1797 to protect Willemstad from invaders, Fort Nassau perches above the city, offering views of the ocean beyond. Incredibly, the fort is now a fully operational restaurant. Rooms that may once have housed gunpowder and cannons are now dining rooms, and fort walls—once patrolled by infantrymen—now serve as dance floors.

sleep in

For accommodations we most definitely recommend Hotel Kura Hulanda, a Small Leading Hotels of the World property with as much history as its hometown. For all intents and purposes, the resort is actually a working village that spans eight blocks, where winding cobblestone pathways connect separate 1- and 2-story housing buildings and lead throughout the property to two pools, a market area featuring local businesses, museum, casino, gym and spa, and the village square, where guests can find a restaurant and bar.

The buildings that make up Kura Hulanda were originally built in the 1800s, but in 1990 Jacob Gelt Dekker began purchasing them one by one, converting them into a hotel property that expanded with every purchase. However, no investor has the authority to purchase government sidewalks and roads, so anyone can take a stroll through the property—lending even more authenticity to the feeling of Kura Hulanda’s claim as a real village. Today, with all buildings restored to their Dutch colonial grandeur, the property serves guests and local residents alike.

Rates from $150 per night will get your clients one of 80 super spacious guestrooms, each one unique. While some rooms feature a loft-style layout with tall exposed-beam ceilings and a giant outdoor courtyard, another might have a townhome layout featuring separate rooms and balcony. Regardless, all accommodations showcase giant four-poster beds, freestanding wardrobes and unique touches throughout (our room had an exquisite lion and antelope lamp).

Deluxe guestroom at Hotel Kura Hulanda.

Another option for rest after a busy day is the Renaissance Curaçao Resort & Casino, where we’d have to rate the property “fabulous” on service standards and “above and beyond” on amenities. The latter, we’ll be honest, is based 100 percent on the property’s private beach—a true feat, since the property backs up against a dangerously rocky coast.

While other resorts solved this problem by bringing guests to a local beach via free shuttle, Renaissance Curaçao brought the beach to them. The compromise required a large rectangular “pool” with a steep slope—no steps or hand rail necessary—to be filled with salt water and layered along the bottom with a generous coat of sand that stretches up towards a plateaued “coast.” The coast, then, was planted with palm trees, thatched huts and chaise longues. Voila, instant beach. Meanwhile, the far wall of the “pool” was left just a tad lower than water level, providing guests an endless view of the ocean. The world’s first “infinity beach”? Could be! Regardless, staying here is totally worth the $165 per night.