The ABC chain of islands – Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao – offer the best of the Southern Caribbean to cruise passengers, and each has unique charms. Curaçao’s many painted houses provide a colorful welcome to this beautiful island, which lies just 40 miles north of Venezuela but is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Cruise ships dock in the capital of Willemstad, a vibrant and walkable city with tempting waterfront shops and cafes. The historic downtown, divided into two districts by Saint Anna Bay, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Cross the bay on a water taxi or by walking across the floating Queen Emma Bridge. Highlights of Willemstad include the much-photographed Penha building; the Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue, the oldest surviving synagogue in the Western Hemisphere; Fort Amsterdam; and Wilhelmina Park.
On the North side of the island, the Hato Caves were once used by native Arawaks, and then by escaped slaves, for shelter. A tour will give you more of the caves’ history, and you can admire the limestone formations that have been carved by nature through the years.
Of Curaçao’s many beaches, Blue Bay may be the most popular. It has a children’s play area, shady spots, restaurants, and bars, but the real attractions are the coral reefs – perfect for snorkeling and diving – not far off the beach. Beautiful Playa Porto Mari has fewer facilities, but features excursions to a unique double coral reef.
The north side of the island is home to two national parks, Shete Boka and Christoffel. Shete Boka means “seven inlets,” and the most popular is Boka Tabla inlet, where you can walk down rock-carved steps to get closer to the magnificent waves crash on the rocky shore. Christoffel has hiking trails and views of Mt. Christoffel, the island’s highest point.
When in Curaçao, it’s natural to sample the island’s signature liqueur, famously blue and flavored with the peel of the laraha orange (other popular flavors include coffee and chocolate). Tour the production facility on the Landhuis Chobolobo estate, then enjoy some cocktails and dishes inspired by the flavors of Curaçao in the café.
There’s much more to Curaçao, including museums, art galleries, golf courses, an excellent sea aquarium and an ostrich farm. To pick out a Southern Caribbean cruise that calls on Curaçao, talk with Anita, your Cruise Holidays personal cruise expert.
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