Back in high school and junior high, most exams of any import were taken on a sheet called a Scantron. This was a narrow rectangle of paper with a grid of potential answers (A, B, C, and you guessed it – D) for each question that had to be completely filled in with a Number 2 pencil. Like many of my classmates, when unsure of an answer, or running out of time, the tradition was to simply fill in ‘C’ and hope the law of averages worked out in your favor.
The Caribbean has its own form of ABC represented by the Dutch islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. While each has their own charms, if pressed to make a choice, once again my recommendation would be to choose ‘C’. Let me tell you why.
Topographically, all three islands are not what most envision when they think of the Caribbean. Despite lying only a hundred miles or less off the northern coast of South America, these are dry, semi-arid islands. The upside to that is a greater chance of sunshine during your visit, and low runoff means more vibrant coral reefs for snorkelers and divers, which is a primary objective on the itinerary for many.
Whether they like it or not, nearly all visitors to Curacao will pass through the colorful capital of Willemstad – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This bustling settlement is a whirlwind of color in a pastel palette split in two by Sint Anna Bay and connected by the pontoon-style Queen Emma Bridge and the large, arching Queen Juliana Bridge set a further bit inland. While it may look like a village right out of an amusement park, the banks, shops and businesses are all real, despite their cartoonish color scheme and gilded architecture. May I point out that color – the town’s most striking attribute – also starts with ‘C’. Just saying.
The island has a long, narrow shape, but despite its narrowness, there’s a tangible difference between the north and south coasts. While just about every square inch of Curacao is blessed (cursed?) with a constant breeze, the north coast is the one taking the brunt of the open sea, and perhaps nowhere is this more evident than at Shete Boka National Park at the far northwestern tip of the island. Here there’s a steady supply of powerful waves that mercilessly crash against the craggy cliffs scoured of any vegetation by the incessant beating. A natural arch attests to the erosion process and fury of the sometimes tempermental Caribbean. In this case the correct answers for ‘C” would be ‘crashing’, ‘crushing’, ‘current’ and ‘crazy if you decided to take a dip here’.
Also on the western side of the island but on the tranquil, leeward south shore, is perhaps Curacao’s finest beach – Playa Knip, alternately called Grote Knip. Here you’ll find more greenery than cacti and the scalloped crescent of sand forms a secluded bay of the bluest water this side of Bora Bora. There isn’t much in the way of facilities, but the correct answers for ‘C’ in this idyllic context are ‘coral’, ‘carefree’, and ‘can I stay here a little longer?’.
Besides a scattering of other smaller and even more secluded beaches on the south shore – which is also the main drag for all scuba and snorkeling activity – another popular attraction is located just to the southeast of Willemstad called the Curacao Seaquarium. If you haven’t already guessed, this is in actuality an aquarium-type complex which isn’t all that impressive until you see the dolphin or sea lion show, at which point the answers for ‘C’ are ‘cute’ cuddly’ and ‘can I have one?’.
Getting around Curacao is relatively straightforward. There are some vans/buses that will get you into town from one of the many resorts in the Willemstad area for a reasonable price – taxis are comparatively expensive ($10 US for a five minute ride). My advice is to rent a car – the roads are in good shape and since this is an island, there’s a limit to how lost you can get. Most people a visitor would likely come into contact with speak English in addition to the local Papiamento language, and if not, the merits of pointing and gesturing cannot be understated.
So now that I’ve given you all the overview you’ll need for a successful visit to Curacao, here’s your final question. If you need me to give you a hint, then maybe you should re-read this piece, because obviously you were not paying attention.
The reasons why a person would want to visit the Caribbean island of Curacao are:
a) Beer making and hula dancing lessons
b) Skiing and snowboarding
c) A colorful capital city, gorgeous beaches and great diving and snorkeling
d) All of the above
This concludes the quiz on worthwhile Caribbean islands to visit. Make sure you filled in your Scantron sheets correctly and pass them forward. If you left any blank, I trust that you now know what to do.