Author: Elizabeth Williamson
Date of Trip: November 2012
Two months ago my boyfriend broke up with me after a two year relationship. As part of my healing process I decided it was necessary to get off the grid and leave the country for a few days so I booked a flight to sunny Curacao. Since the 1500’s the island was known as Ilha da Curação (Island of Healing), and it is believed that the name is derived from the Portuguese word for heart (coração). My destination of choice was more appropriate than I realized as the purpose of this trip is to clear my head and heal my heart.
Curacao is not very well known by Americans even though it is very close to Aruba. It is mostly visited by the Dutch and South Americans, however this made it even more appealing to me. As a solo female traveler I also liked that the island does not have a lot of crime and the islanders are very fluent in many languages (including Dutch, Spanish and English).
Flying from the United States, American Airlines offers the best flight options. From Columbus, Ohio to Curacao I had one (2-hour) connection in Miami. My flight landed at about 3:30 PM local time. Customs took about 20 minutes and then I was off to get my rental car. I highly recommend a rental car. Even though the city of Willemstad is rather populous (130,000 approximately), the island is so beautiful you will want a car to explore.
Car theft is a problem on the island. The Toyota Yaris I rented had no fog lights as they had been previously stolen. Apparently spare tires are popular with thieves too as they checked to make sure it was still there when I returned the car. I don’t normally pay for extra insurance, but I went ahead and purchased the $25 insurance for theft through my American Express card based on the reports I had read. This was much cheaper than what Budget had offered. Luckily I didn’t have any problems.
Make sure you get directions before you arrive at the island. I did not have a map and most of the streets do not have street signs. However, it was a pretty straight shot from the airport to my hotel, the Renaissance. Throughout my stay there were times when I missed a road, but the island is only 37 miles by 6 miles so it’s not very hard to find your way back if you need to.
I stayed at the Renaissance Curacao Resort and Casino. The hotel was beautiful. I had a room with a balcony with a view of the ocean. I had a room on the second floor which is very convenient to the business center and the pool. A room on the fourth floor would have a slightly better view, but I think I preferred the second floor. The ocean view rooms are definitely the best room choice if you are going to spend any time in your hotel room. November is rainy season and it rained on a Sunday when nothing was open on the island so I was very happy to have the balcony and view that I did where I could enjoy a glass of wine with cheese and crackers until the sun came out.
The infinity beach at the Renaissance Curacao Resort and Casino is beyond amazing. It was absolutely gorgeous. The water was warm and the view was phenomenal. The water is pumped up from the ocean and flows over the edge back into the sea. To me it is all that is wonderful about the ocean without the jellyfish, sea urchins and other sea life that scare me (I was stung by a jellyfish when I was a child and pinched by a crab as a young adult so I have some fears.)
The location of the Renaissance Curacao Resort and Casino couldn’t be better. It was directly next to RitFort, a fort that has been turned into an outside shopping mall of sorts with stores, restaurants and bars. It is very safe as it is patrolled at all hours by security. Once you walk through the fort you have a few more restaurants to choose from and you come across the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge where you can cross the water to the Punda Side.
Punda reminds me of a little piece of Amsterdam that was moved to the Caribbean and painted pastel. The European influence is immediately noticeable. In Punda there are numerous shops and cafes to explore. You could easily spend a day here doing so. In the afternoons vendors set up for the floating market where they sell their crafts and food.
When it comes to nature there is really something for everyone at Curacao. Whether it’s scuba diving, snorkeling, hiking, strolling along a beach or climbing Mt. Christoffel the options feel endless. I choose to hike Mt. Christoffel. If you go, get there early as they won’t allow you to hike the mountain after 2:30 PM. It took me two and a half hours to from start to finish to climb the mountain. I wore pants to protect my legs from the cactus and brought gloves to help me climb the rocks. Neither were necessary, but if I were to do it again I’d do the same. The first half of the hike was not any more difficult than what I’ve experienced in Ohio at Hocking Hills. However, by the time was at the last quarter of the hike I was literally climbing rocks. There were times I relied on my upper body strength to pull myself up as I could not find a footing. Getting down wasn’t much easier as there were times I slid down the rock. But the view and the sense of accomplishment made everything worth it.
The highlight of my trip was the Ostrich Farm. The farm strives to be very ecological in all that they do. Nothing is wasted. The tour was very informative, entertaining and interactive. I was able to feed an ostrich, stand on an egg and even ride an ostrich. After my tour I walked around the beautiful grounds where I could observe the other animals on the farm. I expected I would enjoy the Ostrich Farm, but the staff was so wonderful and the tour so interesting that it was one of the most amazing experiences.
I spent four days in Curacao and it was not long enough. I could have easily kept myself busy for seven to ten days exploring the island’s beaches, parks, museums and cities. I fell in love with this island. The people were amazing, and the island is the perfect mix of relaxation and things to do. I felt as if I were at home within minutes of my arrival.
Tourism is yet to be Curacao’s main economic driver, but I feel it is on its way. The country is doing much renovation to the historic buildings in Willemstad. In another year to five years this island could be a hot spot in the Caribbean as it really offers something for everyone. It was very exciting to be here before it is well known with Americans.
I came to Curacao with the goal to clear my head and heal my heart. Every morning I was there I woke up with a smile that stayed with me until I fell asleep. Curacao is truly an island to be experienced. I can’t wait to go back.