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Curacao long report - 2009 update

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Curacao long report - 2009 update

Last year I posted a long report that some found useful.

I have updated it,

Here goes.....

It all started when I replied to a question about the weather in August and asked to suggest activities.

Like the man who when asked for time ends up designing a watch, I got carried away.

It was a fair amount of work. I think it should be shared on a broader basis.

Take a drink and read.....

WEATHER.

Curacao is blessed by a constant trade wind and great weather.

Temperature tends to stay in the low 80's (30C)

Mid January, February, March, April, July and August should be without rain and sunny. May and June and September will have a little rain but will otherwise be most pleasant.

October to Mid January is the rainy season. That usually means about 3 or 4 violent 5-minute showers with perhaps one day that could be described as rainy. This peaks in late October/early November and gets quite better from 15 December on.

Sun is hot

Combination of wind and temperature makes it very pleasant

If there is a hurricane in the Southern Caribbean - Curacao which is hurricane-free can sometimes lose its wind. Then it is quite hot. Does not occur very often and it beats watching butterflies, stop signs and palm trees whizzing by you at 100 miles an hour.

Come to Curacao, have a highball and if you must see a hurricane - watch it on CNN.

There can be one or two tropical storms – they would last about 2 days and the weather would be violent but not dangerous. October is the most likely month.

We spend 5 months per year vacationing there on the West side (Lagun in Banda Bou) many people come for a month or more - there is plenty to do, to see and to enjoy. You'll find 11 days to be on the short side

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Activities and getting to know the island

First go to www.curacao.com

Also

http://www.k-pasa.com/

It publishes a weekly activity/event sheet each Thursday. The web site will give you a good idea of "what happens" (K \pasa). Remember - this is a commercial enterprise. It reflects those who paid for a listing, as does the Big Red Book www.bigredislandguide.com/

That lists restaurants –

TIPPING

Tipping info is on the tourist site. Note, your restaurant bill will include a 5%OB charge. That is the sales tax. It goes to the government. (hotel tax is supposed to go to 7% soon). Some restaurants add a 10 or 12 % optional service charge to the bill. That is the tip. It is usual to roung it up to the next 5 if you are satisfied. NAF 43 – you would leave naf 45 – no more if service charge is included otherwise a ttip of 10 to 15% for good service is appreciated.

Do not confuse hesitant service – reserved with bad service – the island tend to respect privacy and service reflects that. The service may seem slow – in part because they would not dream of rushing you. You often have to ask for the bill…If you smile and exchange pleasantries you will get a smile and some pleasantry in return!

The tourist web site also has more listing but also charges a fee to the commercial listings.

It is the tourist board's site - its quite good - check "activities and events" and "the Curacao difference" You'll get more thorough information that I will provide.

Take these comments as complementary to what the site says.

Curacao can be divided into 3 parts:

In the centre there is the capital - Willemstadt - a sprawling city surrounding a frying pan shaped bay which houses the busiest port in the Caribbean and an older refinery. It has about 100,000 people and 700 United Nations designated "World Heritage Monuments" (you do the math if you must).

The prettiest parts of Willemstadt are around the mouth of Sint Annabaie the entrance to the port. There is Punda - one of the Burroughs of the city (this is the part you see in the brochures with all the Dutch style buildings painted pastel). To cross the entrance of the bay from Punda to Otra Banda (means "other side") there is the Queen Emma floating bridge (third version) now restricted to pedestrians and emergency vehicles.

On the Punda side of the bridge, the tourist bureau has a kiosk with lots of information and advice.

The main tourist bureau is also in Punda further up the street - ask the kiosk if you wish to go there - not necessary.

Punda and Otra Banda are the tourist wandering and shopping areas. It is worth some time for leisurely exploration. In Punda you will also find the Mosque, the floating Venezuelan Market, the main market, the cathedral, Fort Amsterdam (the parliament and governor's residence - the old church is open to tourists. Along the seaside wall of Fort Amsterdam you also will find many ocean side restaurants- pricey but picturesque. The Maritime Museum is worth a visit on the days where they have a boat tour of the harbour on Wednesdays to Saturdays.

On the Otra Banda side, there are also cafes - not as close to the ships and bridge as in Punda, Fort Riff at the point. Nice view - the Renaissance hotel has transformed the interior of the fort in many boutiques, galleries and restaurants - worth a walk around - lunch or dinner if you want.

The highlight of Otra Banda is the African Museum at the Kura Hullanda Hotel. If you choose to visit it schedule 4 to 6 hours and take a guide - there is much to see and navigating through all the rooms is like walking through a maze.

The Curacao museum is also worth a visit.

The rest of the town offers a tour of the Curacao liqueur distillery, Fort Nassau (good view - go for a drink or just a look - there is better food at better prices available elsewhere) shopping and the stuff you would find in a mid-size town - not what you came for.

Willemstadt is worth two half days, two days if you are a museum fan.

Got to go. I will deal with the rest of the island later....

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This is instalment #2 of what will probably be a 4-part answer.

As I said the island can be divided into three parts. We dealt with Willemstadt - the other parts are Banda Riba (the upper side) the East really and Banda Bou (the lower side) - the West - division has nothing to do with altitude - most mountains are in Banda Bou -

Also to understand Curacao you must remember that the sea on the North shore is whipped by the constant trade winds and is quite rough - all development, beaches, etc tend to be on the South Shore.

I know much less about Banda Riba, I seldom go there but here goes.

Three large bays on the South Coast - Jan Thiel, Caracasbaie and Spanish Waters, dominate Banda Riba. It tends to be more developed than Banda Bou with developments (many luxury villas) mostly circling these bays. The Bays also offer good moorings. This is where you will find most recreational boating and sailing as well as wind surfing.

Activities include the Seaquarium on the Eastern Edge of town - just past Breeze and Lion’s Dive. The Seaquarium offers three programs:

1. General admission - you get access to the aquarium - not ranking among the worlds best but an interesting one nonetheless. You'll see a sample of most tropical fishes in the area, be able to watch a dolphin show and a sae lion show - get the schedule of events at admission, see the Turtles and Nurse sharks be fed, get a chance to feed a nurse shark in a shallow pool - you hold a large horseshoe-shaped apparatus with a fish s-speared through the end. The shark sucks it as a vacuum cleaner and you're done - great photo ops for a friend who can be one yard away. You can also get kissed by a sea lion (10 spectators a chosen) they get an opportunity to buy the photo.

2. The Dolphin Academy is as good as any other such facilities - it operates on site at the Seaquarium and offers different opportunities -

----DOLPHIN ENCOUNTER - you stand in waist deep water and get to pet and interact with the dolphins.

----DOLPHIN SWIM - wearing a life vest and flippers in a small group you spend 30 minutes with the dolphins, pet them, get a kiss, give other commands watch them breach over your group etc.

-----SNORKEL OR SCUBA WITH THE DOLPHINS - available on selected days to very experienced snorkelers and Scuba divers with good buoyancy control. YOU go into the open sea beside the Seaquaruium and their captive dolphins are let out to join you and interact with you. A great experience.

NOTE - the price of general admission is included in Dolphin Academy admission - give your name at the box office - they will let you in. Make reservations by phone a few days in advance is safer. The Academy will photograph and film your event and offer you the opportunity to buy the results.

3. ANIMAL ENCOUNTERS like the Dolphin Academy operates as a separate entity at the Seaquarium. You get three choices:

----- Snorkel or dive with the sea lions. Snorkel is disappointing, as you won't keep up. If you must - dive.

----- Snorkel or dive and feed the fishes/sharks. Select dive. You do not need to be qualified, the instructor will accompany you - it will be like an introductory dive. That is the one to select (great enhancement over the snorkel which is also interesting). Accompanied by a dive master, you get a basket of fishes and get in a large pool with debarbed sting rays, 400 lbs. goliath groupers, many other fishes and you get to hand feed them. On two sides of the pound you will find glass walls with small slits. Through these you get to feed lemon sharks, giant sea turtles and nurse sharks - I rank this one high. See http://www.narin.com/curacao/ (bottom of the page - Curacao - feeding the sharks) for some photos - NOTE that web site is full of useful information for you. You will be photographed.

THE OSTRICH FARM is probably Curacao's largest agriculture enterprise. It offers a tour, an African restaurant featuring Ostrich meat and eggs and a souvenir shop that can compare with good African Arts Galleries. The tour is in the back of a cargo truck, lasts about 45 minutes and in our visit the commentator was informative and entertaining. The highlight is at the hatchery with the babies. Out of the way - we enjoyed it.

THE ALOE FARM would be fascinating to anyone who is dying to see rows and rows of green plants sticking out of the ground. The tour is informative and you can buy a variety of their products on site. Close to the ostrich farm.

The herb Garden - at least they have different plants. Hard to find. If that is what rings your bell - arrange for a guided tour.

Klein Curacao - this small uninhabited island is a two-hour sail from Curacao. Different boats offer the daylong excursion. I posted a report of the Mermaid's trip in early January. Worth going once - not my priority for a two week stay. No credit cards - if you go, bring cash.

There are many day or sunset boat trips available from the town or the East - I think Insulinde is the prettiest. Check curacao.com/ActivitiesEvents/…

Bakkeput Mei Mei - it is actually a restaurant - I list it here because it has a different theme every night - opens at 6PM - reservations makes sense. It is in an old plantation house (used to be the Shell Co. recreation area. If you stay on the east side of the island it is worth a dinner.

MAMBO Beach near the Seaquarium is well known as the young set's party beach. There are many beaches and dive sites on that side of the island - for pictures look at www.curacao.com

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MAP - see experiencecuracao.com/maps/images/CuracaoIsl…

http://www.experiencecuracao.com also offers much info/videos and pictures

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Part 3

Now we come to my favourite part of the island - Banda Bou

This is where my wife and I are spending our fourth winter and where we will be next year.

BANDA BOU is less developed. It covers an area about 20 miles by 10 on the West of town. In my view it is a place to best enjoy the beaches and the countryside in pretty and quiet surroundings. Yet it is within 30 to 40 minutes from town and all it has to offer.

The area is hilly with a small cliff alongside the coats. The sea has carved over a dozen coves within these cliffs. These are the beaches of Banda Bou. A large part of the centre is occupied by St CHRISTOFFEL PARK - a nature preserve. There is a good choice of activities.

LANDHUIS were plantation houses. Many are preserved and can be visited. They are shown on the map "Drive and Dive"

1. Grotte Santa Marta - in Soto would be high on my list. It is in the hands of a foundation that caters to provide employment to people with employment disadvantages. Santa Marta is the closest you will come to a working plantation - enough to allow you to imagine how it was back then. They have a working animal farm, a tannery, and leatherwork, doll making/sewing, pottery and furniture repairs. You can wander through the large property and see the old wells, salt flats, indigo baths etc. Guided quest boards for young people and others. The landhuis itself is in good shape and well furnished with genuine articles. Open each day except Sunday, entrance is about $2. Self guided - 1/2 day.

2. Landhuis Knip. A small but interesting museum dedicated to Tula the leader of the one slave revolt the island has known and reflecting on the lives of the slaves opened last year. Worth the hour it takes to tour. Hire a guide (less than $5) all artefacts are in papiamento - entrance is about $3. Close to many great beaches - make a day of it. The small kitchen will serve a three-course krioyo meal for $6.

3. Landhuis Assuncion - opens on the first Sunday of each month - a bit of a bazaar if that is what you like.

4. Landhuis Doktorstuin can be visited for free; it is also a krioyo restaurant open for lunch.

5. Landhuis Daniel is a restaurant and hotel - not a visit attraction - the gardens are nice and the restaurant is good. Getting pricier - main course for diner is about $20.

CRISTOFFEL Park offers variety and is interesting. Admission is about $10. The park is on both side of the road - check in is on your right if you are driving from Willemstadt to Westpunt. http://www.carmabi.org/

Click on the park.

1. You can visit Landhuis Savonet

2. Many hiking well-marked and maintained hiking trails are available to cover all choices. You should have a 4 wheel drive for the orchid trail.

3. You can drive the road on the Mount Christofel side. It is like a roller coaster with interesting vistas.

4. You can climb Mount Chritofel the highest mountain at 375 meters (1400 feet) (with a guide or on your own (bring a buddy). Start early, good shoes, water, a camera and company. Takes three hours return. Reasonable fitness is sufficient. Great view and bragging rights.

5. Carmabi is the nature preservation organisation - they have many lectures and seminars - interested check the program. They have also sponsored the publication of 5 interesting illustrated books - our birds, our trees, our butterflies and moths, our animals, our coral reef. They are illustrated and are in Papiamento, Dutch and English - the three official languages of the island.

SHIETE BOCA (7 bays|) aka BOCA TABLA is a must. Entrance is just past (1KM) the entrance to Kristoffel Park. IT is a sea battered volcanic landscape mixed with coral. You can hike or drive it. Entrance is $2. Bring water.

The site is y shaped. Walking the complete site (2 hours in the heat and sun) is challenging and for the sturdiest. WE usually drive to the right for Boca Pistol where the small inlet (boca is mouth) is shaped to allow the waves to cause a spectacular geyser like spray - good photo opportunity and a chance to get a bit wet. Look for interesting shapes in the rocks. You won't be able to avoid seeing small lizards and if you are lucky you'll see an iguana (vegetarians and shy. Returning from Boca pistol we go to the other bay on the right. The bay is nice - what is interesting is the path from that parking space to the bay - you walk under a spectacular mangrove canopy.

We return to the entrance parking lot and walk to the cave and that small bay then on to the natural bridge following the coast. If you feel romantic and you name is short enough you can do as others do and write your name on the shores of the bay using the many rocks available. Most practical if the love of your life has a short name!

On weekends the reception centre operates a small canteen serving local Krioyo food.

WESTPUNT is an interesting village to explore on foot or by car. The other villages (Lagun, Knip, Barber, Terra Cora, St Willibrodus, San Juan, Soto) all have some interesting sites to offer - even if it is only to drive the back streets and see the houses. The churches are very nice.

KAS DI PALI MASHI (house of corn wood) you can visit that traditional house just past Landhuis Assuncion - just continue on that road. These were the houses used by the slave and their descendants. A skeleton of one is also at landhuis Knip.

HATO Caves. less than one mile from the airport - airport exit you would turn left - tour every hour - nice cave, Path on the site leading to cliffs with faded Arawak Markings. Nice short tour.

BUTTERFLY GARDEN is a new attraction between Soto and San Juan - it is shown as a star on your Dive and Drive map. It also has a nice restaurant. The tour includes a lecture on butterfly - they claim 300 different species - varies as lifespan is 2 weeks.

HOFI PASTOR is a small park beside the church in Barber. It hosts the oldest tree on the island. I guess they'd have to cut it to count the rings!!! Nice short walk.

WATAMULA at NORDPUNT - past the Kura Hullanda Lodge -impressive rough landscapes - same type as Shiete Boca.

Sunday Market at Barber. Barber is the commercial centre of the West of Banda BOU. On Sunday mornings the village gathers at the market. The main feature is that housewives will set up canteens and offer their cooking. Local colour - chance to meet someone. From noon to 9PM on Sundays, there is a BBQ at the Fourth of July café beside the bank .

FLAMINGOES - you can see them at three places - One or two at the Seaquarium. Wild ones on the way to Vaarsenbaaie past the entrance to blue bay or the best spot is in the flats along the road leading to St Willibrodus.

If you are near Westpunt on a weekend - drop in at Sunshine for a meal or a pizza - nice.

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NOTES

Most tours and activities are listed at www.curacao.com under the sub-headings of "activities and events" and on other sites I mentioned.

Restaurants in Banda Bou –

We like:

Sol Food in Westpunt – great hosts, nice setting, pizzas are popular but Sunshine also offers great meals based on what she found at the market on Thursdays. Open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from noon.

Discover Diving Café – great dishes well presented by Bob a Belgian chef. Tuesdays to Saturdays 9 to 9. Sundays 9 to 4:30. Closed on Mondays.

Butterfly Garden, Daily 9 to 9. Good food at good prices. Nice décor and friendly atmosphere. Singer on Thursdays and band on Sundays.

Yaanchie’s – worth a visit to see the owner perform as a talking menu. Reasonable food. You can mix specialties on one plate. Iguana soup is available – imagine squirrel soup.

Porto Mari, Grotte Knip and Kas Abao have decent beach restaurants/snacks.

In case you wandered... We stay at Lagun Blou overlooking Playa Lagun - that is the bay you often see on tourist sites with the fishing boat on the shore. We love all about it. We love it and repeat as many others do.

Wander what the next part will cover????

Stay tuned.

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This is not part 4 - just to add another novel idea to #3

You can adopt and plant a tree at Christoffel Park through Carmabi. You get guided to the site, talk with the guide, get a drink and snack, have a nice outing, get a certificate, feel good and best of all you have a reason to come back - you'd want to visit your tree would you not? A family outing - why not?

http://www.carmabi.org/page.asp?page_id=169

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Part 4

While Curacao has much to offer – many think that the most beautiful part of the island is underwater. It is a beautiful strange and fascinating new world. Hopefully you dive, if not…. hopefully you snorkel, if not – at least take the Atlantis tour http://www.atlantisadventures.com/curacao.cfm Allow yourself to be tempted with the view from that semi-submersible. Actually if you do not snorkel, Curacao is the place to start and … yes… it is also the place to get an introductory dive.

REMEMBER THAT THE SALT WATER BUYANCY IS HIGH. ADD A MASK FULL OF AIR AND FLOATING FINS - A SNORKELER WILL EASILY FLOAT. Snorkelling is good exercise but does not require a strong swimmer with great endurance. You can stop and float at will. No effort required.

You do not have to depend on my opinion – Jack Jackson has produced a great book – “the dive sites of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao” – he describes and rates each site – available at Amazon and elsewhere. The beaches, dive sites and snorkelling sites are shown on the “Drive and Dive” map. Many beaches and most dive sites are described on www.curacao.com - activities and events. They are indicated on the side of the road by the red/slash white diver flag painted on rocks along the road. Better, since last year the island has installed on the side of roads some 3 meter/10 foot high markers with brown signs indicating all beaches and dive sites and many other sites of interest. Look for them.

It is not necessary to go to San Francisco to see a sex change – the Parrotfish and many other species do that regularly. You don’t have to join NASA to experience weightlessness – SCUBA will do that for you. – You don’t have to die to go to heaven – just explore a reef on a good day.

Don’t worry we will also cover the beaches. Have too since in Curacao most dives can be accessed from shore – that’s where beaches tend to be.

Lets deal with the hotels first:

Most seashore hotels – Breeze, Marriott, Hilton, Royal Sea Aquarium, the new Renaissance, and Sunset Waters etc have placed artificial barriers in front of their beaches. These form quiet protected lagoons. Many reasons, where they are the open sea can be a bit choppy, defines their area to discourage people from going too far, and allows swimmers to better enjoy the sea and some sea sports. These beaches offer full service. They are enhanced with additional sand and are raked and swept daily. They are kept clean.

Many hotel beaches adjoin public beaches. That is the case of the Marriott, the Breeze, and Royal Sea Aquarium. These get crowded on school holidays and weekends. You can enjoy them yourselves and, if you try, meet local inhabitants. Litter can be a problem in Curacao as it is elsewhere in the Caribbean and, to a varying degree, throughout the world. ALL PUBLIC BEACHES IN CURACAO ARE CLEANED EVERY WEEKDAY MORNING BY A GOVERNMENT EMPLOYED CUSTODIAN. Garbage cans are available.

WHEN SNORKELING AND DIVING BE AWARE OF THE CURRENT> THERE ARE MANY AREAS WHERE THE CURRENT IS NEGLIGEABLE BUT OTHERS CAN BE TRICKY AND THE CALM ONES CAN HAVE BAD DAYS. Start your dive/snorkel against the current, this way you will have an easy go on the return.

Most hotels have full service dive centres, there are also many other PADI certified centres throughout the island – you will have a great choice. – You can rent equipment (if you snorkel often bring/buy your own and save) have a safe introductory dive accompanied by a professional, take all PADI certification and specialty courses and arrange for boat dives and excursions. ADVICE – if you are a certified diver – rent your tank from the site where you will dive – this way you get to use their facilities (shower, equipment rinse etc) without additional charge. Snorkelling within the lagoons formed at the hotel beaches is nice but does not compare with what you’ll see in the coves of Banda Bou. The protective barriers offer shelter from the waves, they are a great place to learn and get familiar with snorkelling. Have a go!

As I said before, I am not as familiar with Banda Riba but I will start there.

Jan Thiel beach is a concrete pier – your call…..

Barbara Beach, Caracasbai Beach, Seaquarium and Mambo Beach are what I would call standard beaches with fairly long strands of sand and good entry. Mambo Beach has a full calendar of activities mostly centred on boy meets girl to the sound of loud music.

The sunken tugboat at Caracasbaie is a good snorkelling and diving site.

There is an underwater park – read marked diving and snorkelling route in Banda Riba. I have never done it – it may be out of date – check around if interested.

Lets include the beach at Klein Curacao – it is a beautifully long strand of sand – facilities will depend on the tour ship that you select – I think Bounty has the largest facilities on shore. Snorkelling is good once you have swum far enough to be out of the sandy bottom area. Most tours will have a dive master on board. They will offer two dives - these can be good. One is usually at the cave – you may not get as deep as you want or enter the cave – lowest common denominator of qualification among divers in the group applies. The second is usually a drift dive at the end of the day – good. While there you will want to take a look at the 3 wrecks that have hit the shore during storms.

Before we leave Banda Riba I should mention Playa Canoa – it is on the rough North side – advanced divers with a qualified guide can get an exiting dive. Trunk Dive at Daniels is such a guide. There are sharks and manta rays on the North side. The rest of the island is virtually shark free.

For the Willemstad area, I have already mentioned the hotel area but I need to mention Superior Producer as a favourite dive site. This large and fairly recent wreck is spectacular. Right in town near the Cruiser Pier, it can be accessed from shore but is better as a boat dive.

You can also do an archaeological dive in Sint Annabaie in the middle of town. The dive master at Landhuis Daniel is the one licensed to take you there. Don’t expect great visibility.

Banda Bou is the West part of the island. I think it offers the best beaches, snorkel and dive sites.

Lets first deal with what I call standard beaches – long strands of sand. I would class Grotte Knip, Kas Abao and Porto Mari fit that description. They are well serviced. The last two have an entry fee of a few $$. Santa Cruz could also fit in the strand category but is not serviced as well. Each of these offers reasonable snorkel and diving.

Lets go to the North West extremity and Wattamula. It is a narrow cove hard of access. A nice place to see from shore but it is really a boat dive – current is there – better treated as a drift dive - many operators go there. They usually a Wattamula dive with a second one – the mushroom forest, another boat dive is often the other one.

Playa Kalki (Alice in wonderland dive site) is the home site for the Kura Hullanda Lodge but it is also a public beach. Full service, sand is good, swimming can occasionally be choppy and with a bit of current. Very good dive and snorkel.

Playa Forti on the bay in Westpunt. Beautiful view from the cliff – picture opportunity. (We avoid the restaurant but many go). The beach has large pebbles. Swimming is good but you can do better elsewhere. Snorkellers and divers could encounter the bigger fishes – Barracudas often abound further out. They are majestic in their ugliness. They can be intimidating to the uninitiated but they are not dangerous. The barracuda usually swallows his prey whole – he knows you wont fit. I like watching them.

I have already mentioned Grotte Knip – a beautiful grand bay – weekends can be crowded with some boats in the afternoon.

Klein Knip, Jeremi and Lagun fit the same category. They are small coves, usually not crowded and extremely picturesque. I will describe my home beach – Playa Lagun – much applies to the other two.

The cove at Lagun is often used as a trademark beach for Curacao. If you see a photo of a cliff sided beach with a one or more fishing boats on the shore – most likely its Playa Lagun - (http://www.atlantisadventures.com/curacao.cfm ) offers an example. It is not as crowded with boats as shown on the photo. . The bay has been carved into a 7m or 25-foot high cliff. It is rectangular and has the dimension of a football field. By the way there are many interesting coral fossils in the rocks walls of the bay.

The beach itself is of coral sand. That’s the way it should be because normal sand will drift into the sea and may suffocate the coral. Amenities include a dive centre and beach café ( www.discoverdiving.nl ) (great pictures on this site) – it also has a beach snack bar. Chairs can be rented. Shade is available from trees or shelters. There is ample parking.

The Bay is usually very clear and calm; the bottom is of coarse sand with some large boulders and some coral fragments.

Snorkelling is delightful.

Playa Lagun is a great place to learn. The bay is very sheltered.

Within the bay there are some coral formations and marine life abound particularly close to the rocky walls. Within the bay we have seen many different species - parrotfish, damsel fish, small octopus, turtles, snooks, squids, flying gunard, porcupine fish, blue head, moray eel, spotted eel, brown chromis, wrasse, spotted drum, high hat, goat fish, jack, trunk fish, and many others.

We usually swim out of the bay. We go about 20 meters out and gauge the current. Then we head against it along parallel to the shore. At the mouth of the bay the bottom is sandy. Along the shores – left or right the bottom is a mix of sand, coral and rocks. The fish variety is greater, the same fishes as in the bay are present but you have a good chance to see a gorgeous spotted eagle ray, scorpion fishes, barracudas, yellow fin tunas, groupers, snappers, crabs, stingrays, … and yes occasionally dolphins. Last January a pod of 15 to 20 swam between my wife and I. It is a rare occurrence but an unforgettable one.

MARINE LIFE IS NOT AGGRESSIVE - SOME FISHES AND OTHER ANIMALS HAVE EFFECTIVE DEFENCE BUT WILL USE THEM ONLY WHEN UNDER ATTACK OR HARRASSED. THAT INCLUDES RAYS AND MORAY EELS. The eels are nearly blind. They usually spend the day in holes (sometimes you can see their head or tail protruding). They appear to be threatening as they are constantly opening and closing their mouth. That is how they breathe.

If you Scuba you can get a guide through Discover diving or go on you own (with a buddy) you can also arrange for a discovery dive or a certification course.

Lagun is a shore dive. Divers swim out of the bay. The reef is about 80m/90 yes out of the bay. It is a gradual drop off. Coral is great and sea life excellent. It is also a wonderful place for a night dive.

Fishermen (about 5 small boats) leave each morning at about 6AM and return around noon. You can buy fresh fish right off the boat.

Lagun is a small fishing village about 1 km long. There are 3 streets – one along the shore, one at the base of the hills and one in the middle. There are two resorts overlooking the bay and the sea – Bahia and Lagun Blou. There are other apartments for rent to tourists in the village.

What I have said about Lagun applies very much to Playa Jeremi and Klein Curacao. Neither of these have facilities. They are pleasant and offer great snorkel and diving opportunities.

I have already mentioned Playa Santa Cruz. The bay is larger and the sand finer. There are shade structures. Captain Good Life operates a water taxi and can take you to nearby usually deserted beaches that are difficult to access by car. He’ll pick you up later. From Santa Cruz you can snorkel to Santa Petrus, a black volcanic sand beach. Out to sea from Santa Cruz you will find the Mushroom Forest – one of the greatest dive sites in the Caribbean – it is a boat dive. It can be snorkelled but from a boat. Beside Mushroom forest there is the Blue Cave.

Sunset Waters is a hotel resort. It is fairly isolated. It has a sheltered beach that is partitioned by a wall to provide the only nude beach on the island. The sand is good and snorkelling and diving are great.

Blue Bay is another great resort on a golf course with a good beach and interesting snorkelling and dive site. Further down you will find Vaarsenbaaie. It is a small beach with a dive centre, café and some chairs.

It is a popular dive site. You can access the sunken barge and the car pile (its cargo) from shore but a boat dive will save you much swimming. The left side of the beach offers a shallow coral area full of interesting fishes, many juveniles and some sea horses. The remainder of the bay is nice but less interesting.

Sunsets in Curacao are spectacular. People actually line up on the beach or along the cliff to watch and photograph. We eat dinner on our balcony while watching.

I think I am done. I am sure I have forgotten things but let me say that Curacao is a wonderful destination. After three winters we are still looking forward to the next one which we are sure will offer pleasant occasions to revisit what we like and discover new things to like.

If you have a chance get to know someone. Say Bon Dia (morning) or Bon Tardi (afternoon) or Bon Nochi (night) and smile.

And it all started with a question about the weather in August!!!!!

--------------------------------

One last thing

Money changing

Curacao's currency is the Netherlands Antilles Florin (Naf) also known as the Guilder- it is a hard currency fully exchangeable. It has been pegged at 1.77 Naf per US$ for years.

Curacao banking is modern and reliable. The island has a good ATM network.

The US$ is accepted everywhere. Change may be in Naf as they may not have the $ in the till.

No need for traveller’s cheques - they are a bother. Draw your money as you need it from a nearby ATM.

Credit cards are accepted everywhere. The transaction is in US$. The exchange rate is often calculated at a 1.75 exchange rate, but if the price is shown in US$ that's the charge.

Banking is actually the largest industry on the island. It has the largest number of banks per capita but most are large offshore trusts or commercial banks. The retail bank network is good. The two most common retail banks are Canadian controlled – MCB is Scotiabank and RBTT is Royal Bank of Canada.

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21. Re: Curacao long report - 2009 update

bumped up

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22. Re: Curacao long report - 2009 update

bumped forward

lasalle canada
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23. Re: Curacao long report - 2009 update

A great read!!!!!

We (husband and I ) are thinking of spending 10 days in July 2010 here. We have been to Aruba 3 times and love the area, but, thought we might venture over to your island.

We like 4-5 star hotels but would prefer one with a full kitchen (suite or condo style) to do some cooking , so we may eat on a balcony watching the sunset.

We are in our 50's (young fifties!!!) and love the sun, beaches, touring and fine dining.

Can you help us out ???

accomodations ???

Thanks

robin

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24. Re: Curacao long report - 2009 update

The Kura Hullanda lodge offers the quality you seek and has cotages.

It is at teh West end of the island near the small picturesque village of Westpunt. Great environment for nature, diving, snorkeling and beaches. The city Willemstadt is 30 minutes away by car.

Hyatt is opening a new luxury resort at Sta Barbara beach in January - by July one woul;d expect all opening problems to be behindm them. That is at the East end of the island. I understand that they will have cottages and utility units. Nice area for beaches, golf course on site, some divng and snorkeling, boating is also popular. Willemstadt is again about 30 minutes away.

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25. Re: Curacao long report - 2009 update

Thanks for the update...........

TONS of good info here...........

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26. Re: Curacao long report - 2009 update

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27. Re: Curacao long report - 2009 update

thanks much for the detailed post on Curacao. My fiance and I are looking to get married on Curacao in spring of 2010. Some of the places we are looking to have a ceremony, party, and have guests stay are the Lodge Kura Hulanda, The Habitat Dive Resort & Coral estate villas, or Blue Bay Resort. Any advice on these places? We would essentially be choosing our wedding location site unseen (just web pics) and would appreciate any advice. Thanks! Hendrik & Kelley

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28. Re: Curacao long report - 2009 update

Lodge Kura Hullanda is wonderful and luxurious. It is near the small village of Westpunt but is otherwise fairly isolated. It would be a very good choice. A car woudl be a must to appreciate more of the island.

Habitat has just been purchased by the Coral Estate group, this should be good for its future development. There are wonderful and quite luxurious villas for rent at Coral estate. The property is very large and sits on the side of a large slope. Cars are needed ands access to the beach would require transportation. Isolated but depending on teh choice of the villa could provide an excellent setting.

Blue Bay is closer to town. I cannot comment on the main afcility but have been at the villas. they are nice but they do not all necessarely offer great view. The beach is nice. It is downwind from the refinery. Occasionally emissions can cause an unpleasant odor. Not very often but if it is on The Day ... it could be a problem. Nice golf course.

There could be other choices - Marriott, the new Hyatt to open in January, the Renaissance, Breeze.

Curacao is a good choice

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29. Re: Curacao long report - 2009 update

Thanks for such a great report! We will be coming to Curacao over Christmas and New Years this year.. with 2 boys, 14 and 12. Can you tell me if anything special goes on during this time of year? fireworks on new years perhaps? also do you have any info on activities on the island that might be attractive to "tweenager" boys? ATV riding? stuff like that? Thanks again!

We are staying at the Marriott. Is there any place better??

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30. Re: Curacao long report - 2009 update

Fireworks are allowed for sale in Curacao only in the last days of the year. Steel containers with "No Smoking" signs sprout all over the island at taht time. I believe that more explosive power will be released on New Years eve than on any one day in Hiroshima in 1945. Its crasy - all over the island. You cannot avaoid it.

The Marriott is a good hotel at the edge of town - the Renaissance (also a Marriott brand) is new and in the center of town. Not a great place for water sports. The Hyatt opens only on 1 January. Kura Hullanda Lodge is also high level - it is at teh Western end of the island.

Eric's ATV tour is popular and the dune buggy tours could be fun.

yellowpages-curacao.com/categories/…

Snorkel is a must - do see my suggestions yesterday. At 14 and 12, if they are mature and concentrated enough, the boys could take a SCUBA course - it would eat a big chunk of your holidays. They could take an accompanied introductory dive. The dive shop at the Marriott is reputable.

Are you up to climbing Mount Cristofel - 3 hours - leave very early to avoid mid-day heat - lots of water, good shoes and camera.

There is go carting and many water sports.

Look at "family Fun" and "Adventure and Sport" at Curacao.com

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