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Discover Your City

Curaçao’s appeal lies in its unique blend of cultures, queer-friendly locals, inviting blue-green waters and dazzling sand beaches, diverse cuisines, and long history. With a population of 160,000 the island nation encompasses 171 square miles and sits just 40 miles from Venezuela. Most people speak four languages: Papiamentu (a Spanish and Portuguese-based Creole language), Dutch, Spanish and English — a fluidity that helps engender an open-mindedness.

Same-sex marriages aren’t conducted locally though they are legally recognized. Curacao Pride occurs annually in the fall which is also a great time to visit. You’ll find exuberant art everywhere: colorful outdoor art; live music; and art galleries crammed into historic alleyways in Willemstad. Visit the official tourism website for more trip-planning assistance.

Ed Salvato

Sleep

Entrepreneurs, including an openly gay one, opened the Bario Hotel, in a gentrifying neighborhood across a historic footbridge from downtown Willemstad with unique units (some with kitchenettes) in restored and colorful historic buildings. The restaurant/lounge area includes three local eateries. There is a small pool, and on most nights there’s a DJ or live music. Not to worry early risers; it quiets down by midnight.

Formerly the gay-popular Floris, the all-inclusive Dreams Resort Hotel, Spa & Casino and Zoëtry Curaçao share a gorgeous location in the quiet fishing community of Piscadera a 10-minute drive from Willemstad on Curaçao ’s southwest facing coast. You’ll find turquoise waters, magnificent sunsets and a laid-back vibe.

Refresh

For fresh seafood reserve at Oceana at the edge of the bay. You may even find groups of local of LGBTQ folks hanging at Crafty Iguana Brew Pub. Zoëtry is pricier but there are far fewer families and while both are LGBTQ friendly, this one is enthusiastically so.

The Willemstad area features numerous culinary influences and fresh seafood and other specialties whether at a hoity-toity, haute-cuisine Euro dining room or a modest beach shack. Mosa/Caña Bar & Kitchen serves international, tapas-stye dishes and shared plates in a homey environment. Bario Urban Street Food at the Bario (see above) offers a range of food styles in an outdoor market environment: upscaled street food; plant-based delights; and a variety of dishes involving the invasive but delicious lionfish.

In the vibrant ex-pat popular Pietermaai area BijBlauw offers sophisticated Dutch takes on local cuisine. It’s pricey, and you’ll mostly find other North American and European patrons, but the outdoor beachside setting is gorgeous. While sightseeing downtown, grab lunch at Marshe Bieu, a local food hall in the heart of Punda with local dishes fished, farm or cooked up that day.

To really get a sense of how locals dine out, eat at Kas di Piskado Purunchi an example of what locals call a fish shack, a casual indoor/outdoor restaurant bobbing on a dock along an inlet just outside of Willemstad on route to the airport.

Step-By-Step CuraçaoEd Salvato

Activities

A wonderful, enriching way to soak up the complicated history (involving the slave trade) of Curaçao and its friendly vibe, delirious colors and endless art is with Step-by-Step Curaçao, on a two-hour city tour on electric-powered step-on, seatless bikes that can easily power up the occasional steep hills for $30/person. This tour covers the major sites including the 1888 floating Queen Emma Bridge, the 17th-century Mikvé Israel-Emanuel Synagogue, the historic district of Willemstad, local neighborhoods and numerous stops to enjoy sample local snacks.

Klein Curaçao

Curaçao’s flag includes two stars. One is for Klein (or little) Curaçao, an uninhabited island eight miles off the southeast coast with an abandoned lighthouse, shipwrecks and the longest and whitest sand beach in the country. It’s a two-hour catamaran tour with the seafarers of Blue Finn and features an all-you-can eat lunch, drinks, and music.

Go West

You’ll need to rent a car from your hotel to visit Westpunt, the rural, western part of the island, home to Curaçao’s most beautiful cove beaches, a lush national park and plantation houses — beautiful but stark reminders of slavery. Head to Shete Boka National Park, next to Christoffel Park, with the highest peak on the island. The park spreads over six miles of the north coast of the island, exposed to rocky waves and features 10 small bays where three species of sea turtles are known to lay eggs, and the famous Boka Tabla cave.

SEABOB Experience with Bearded Butlers Curaçao roar-assets-auto.rbl.ms

A highlight of your visit will be the SEABOB Experience with Bearded Butlers Curaçao at Playa Piskadó with Andy, the incredibly handsome owner. Think of it as a handheld underwater electric jet ski enabling you to dive and swim quickly underwater for as long as you can hold your breath. No training or certification is required. It’s $90 for an hour, and Andy points out significant underwater elements including sea turtles and art placed on the sea floor!

Enjoy lunch at Karakter, a beachside restaurant with light fare and fresh-caught seafood. Finish your western jaunt with a chill afternoon on the beach at Playa Kenepa Grandi on the far west side with vibrant blue-green water and the pristine white sand beaches of your Caribbean fantasies.

About the Author

NYC-based Ed Salvato is a freelance travel writer, instructor at NYU and the University of Texas at Austin’s NYC Center and an LGBTQ marketing specialist.

Image Source: Cotton bro at Pexels

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