A Summary — with the caveat that what's "pro" and "con" for some is not so for others:
1. Great location on the island – not too isolated but also not crowded and not noisy; not difficult to get into the main town of Willemstad or to go food shopping, either by rental car or by the free shuttles provided.
2. For marine life aficionados young and old, the proximity to and daily free access to the Sea Aquarium is a fabulous benefit. This is not comparable to a really large public aquarium or Sea World type of experience, but offers a lot in a small area – including a dolphin and sea lion show, an opportunity to feed stingrays and sharks. The staff is quite knowledgeable and provides a great educational experience. Also it's fun to watch the sea lions every day when you walk by their enclosed area near the resort.
3. For snorkelers, the small lagoon offers a sheltered area that’s safe and more than interesting enough for the beginning snorkeler.
4. For scuba divers or more adventurous snorkelers, the dive shop right across the lagoon (2-3 minute walk) has day trips to other areas.
5. If you can afford the quite high cost, the on-site mini-sub operation can provide a "full immersion" trip to the outer reefs!
6. Resort staff is extremely friendly and helpful.
7. Every room has some kind of ocean or pool + ocean view, and have good wireless internet.
8. The larger rooms (1 BR or larger suite) are quite nice, have more than adequate kitchens, and have huge, comfortable balconies.
9. Across the small lagoon/harbor are numerous waterfront/beachfront bars, cafés, restaurants and shops – in the development called “The Boulevard.” It was quite lively during our stay, partly due to a lot of World Cup soccer fans and the large TV screens the bars had set up.
1. This is a small resort and has few activities to offer, other than the Sea Aquarium during the day. There is no nightly entertainment or night-life, other than what’s going on at the beachfront bars on the other side of the lagoon. (Fortunately that is an easy walk.)
2. No on-site fitness center, tennis courts or other athletic facilities.
3. Few options for dining; only Augusto’s on the premises (but which we liked!), and a few others across the lagoon, associated with other small resorts. In addition to the smaller cafés there are some full restaurants but it seems that they are not among the more highly-rated ones in Curacao.
4. The resort’s beach isn’t the nicest sort of sand beach, it’s a hard sand with bits of broken coral that can be a bit uncomfortable to step on. The nearby resorts across the lagoon have nicer beaches such as Mambo Beach and Cabana Beach, however they are also more crowded. (Note, you can use them for a fee. Later in the day, they seem to pay less attention to newcomers.)
5. The overall setting of this resort (and all the nearby resorts) is a bit unnatural, having all been developed along this lagoon/harbor artificially created with coral rock and dredging. Although it has distinct advantages (mainly, providing shelter from wind and waves), it might not appeal to those who want a more natural looking tropical beach setting. The “ocean view” that most all rooms have is indeed a view of the ocean, but not with a palm-lined sandy beach as part of it. That did not disappoint us, but maybe important to other people.
6. A small detail, but something I hope the resort will pay attention to: The outdoor showers, especially the one at the beach, is inadequate and offers no separate option for washing sand off your feet – especially needed at that location. Not an issue for us, but: In both the beach and pool locations, the water valve is too high for small children or shorter persons to reach.
Resort experience – Our basic story:
We did an Interval International one-week exchange, but this time extended our stay by a few days with a per-day rental added to the beginning of our stay. The daily rental was one of the small rooms, and as noted by others, they are a bit disappointing, especially because of the very limited kitchenette and small balconies. We would have been unhappy with such a room for the entire stay, but for a few days it was OK for getting oriented to the place. The one-bedroom suite we had for the full week was probably the best room we’ve ever had, comparing to a few previous Caribbean trips. The large balcony was especially appreciated. We were not quite satisfied with the unit location we were first assigned to, but the staff was amazingly helpful and flexible in trying to find us an alternative. Partly by luck I suppose, but certainly by their willingness to help, the result we got was entirely satisfactory and memorable.
The resort offers a free shuttle to downtown Willemstad, and a local supermarket “Vreugdenhil” offers a free shuttle to their nearest location – both are great extras, but of course you must be ready to follow their limited schedule. We decided to rent a car at the lowest rate we could find, and that turned out to be more than satisfactory. The super-econo-size was, for 2 people, just fine for our needs. Surely saved money vs. the rather expensive taxi rates here. We used it to visit Christoffel National Park, several beaches along the southwest coast, and some restaurants outside the immediate resort neighborhood. This leads to a few important comments about driving in Curacao. In a word: Challenging! Overall, road condition is fair to very good and although some roads are narrow, they’re still much better than we experienced on some other islands. The problem is signage. You may have a very good map, but excepting a few of the most important routes such as to downtown or to the airport you will have trouble finding road signs to verify what route you’re on. Signs seem to be, oddly, much more common for unimportant side streets than for main routes. Even when you see signs, the often very long Dutch names may not register easily in your memory, unless you know that language pattern well. This is where having a GPS (dedicated or as part of a smartphone) will help a lot. [iPhone/iPad note: Google maps has lots of detail for Curacao; Apple maps is nearly useless.] But don’t expect that to solve all your driving challenges. I wouldn’t recommend too much dependence on automatic directions generated by Google maps on phone or laptop, due to the fact that you will often not see a road or street sign for the turn your directions call for. It’s likely that with some destinations you will just have to periodically stop and re-verify your location and direction. And of course, asking the friendly locals is a backup option. Most people seems to speak English, Dutch, and Spanish as well as their native patois “Papiamentu.” (Say “danki” for “thank you.”) In general my approach was to drive more slowly and to frequently move over to let local and more confident drivers pass.
This trip was a bit of a diver’s homecoming for me. I was first in the Netherlands Antilles 34 years ago when my cousin and I, traveling in budget-backpacker mode, traveled from Venezuela to Curacao and then Bonaire. It was Bonaire where I had the best scuba diving of my life. Both islands have excellent water clarity and extensive reefs that in many places are not far from shore. On this trip, because my wife is not a scuba diver, we decided to stay with basic snorkeling and only in places accessible from the beaches. Although you don’t experience the greatest water clarity or most natural reef formations this way, it is still not disappointing. The variety of fish and other life is a real delight. In the lagoon/harbor near this resort, and the larger lagoon in front of the other resorts near Mambo Beach, the best water clarity is out near the breakwater. Wherever there’s an opening in the rocks and fresh seawater is washing in, the water is more clear. Although this breakwater all around the resort area is man-made of dynamited coral rock, one can see patches of natural coral (mostly “brain coral”) beginning to develop on the rock surfaces. We also snorkeled from some other beaches including Playa Knip, Playa PortoMari, Playa Daaibooibay, and Blue Bay Beach. The latter one is an excellent choice for a combination of a nicely developed resort beach area plus good snorkeling, and actually had the clearest water we experienced. Just beyond the resort’s pier is a dramatic and beautiful drop-off to much greater depths of intense blue. A most memorable snorkeling observation was seeing a school of 12 young squid of identical size, somewhat leisurely “on the prowl” as they moved in unison from one part of the coral to another. I wondered if they might be siblings.