Summer has certainly come and gone here in Salt Lake. And although there is not much I love more than fall colors and pumpkins, our summer was so sweet it’s still got me reminiscing. We missed part of the change in seasons. Our final adventure of the summer was a beach get away to Curacao, a tiny Caribbean island 40 miles off the coast of Venezuela. What was supposed to be a 6 day trip turned in to an 11 day trip for reasons soon to be told. When we left it was summer, when we returned fall had arrived.
I don’t know where to begin to describe the time we had in Curacao. It’s an amazing little island full of beautiful beaches, bright colored houses, and delicious eats. The people are friendly and the island is easily explored. We spent part or all of everyday at different beaches snorkeling with tropical fish and sea turtles. As mentioned before, our trip ended up being a little longer than anticipated. Hurricane Irma hit Miami the weekend we were there shutting down the airport in Miami for several days. We didn’t experience any weather effects of the hurricane, except some intense humidity and a couple hours of rain, but since all flights to the U.S. flew mostly in and out of Miami our flights were cancelled twice, extending our trip by 5 days. We were supposed to leave on Monday we didn’t get home until Saturday. Needless to say, we got to know the island pretty well. I’m sure the number one thing to do in Curacao is go to the beach. The island has over 30 beaches with a wide variety of appeal. You can find any preference of beach. Beaches connected to resorts, beaches you hike to, beaches with locals, beaches with no one. Most of the beaches are prime spots for snorkeling and scuba diving and the Caribbean blue and turquoise waters never get old. The best beaches were Kleine Knip, Grote Knip, Directorsbaai, and Playa Grandi. There’s also Tugboat beach where you can snorkel a sunken tugboat. They fish are plentiful and don’t seem to be near as scared of people. On Sundays there is a small food market in the tiny town of Barber. People venture to the market to sample some local fare like stewed chicken or beef and home made lemonade or Tamarin soda and then head to Playa Grandi to watch the locals fish and swim with the sea turtles that come closer to shore to check out what’s going on.My absolute favorite beach was Playa Gipy. It’s on the very northern tip of the island and takes a short hike to get to, but it’s beautiful and rarely filled with other people. We went twice and the second time we were there for about half a day and had the whole beach to ourselves. We swam, drank wine, and built sandcastles. It was amazing. We also went to the Blue Cave. It’s an underwater cave that you hike about a mile or so to from Santa Cruz beach. You jump in and time the waves right to dive under and get in to the cave. The light from the water makes the whole cave sparkle with a blue tint. Unfortunately, my underwater camera died before that day, but it is burned in my memory because it was so beautiful!We spent part of a day in one of the two national parks on the island, Christoffelpark. We made it to the park in enough time to start the climb of Christoffel Peak, the tallest peak on the island (1,220 ft.). The park has a cut off time of 11am to start the hike due to the high heat, humidity, and the trail being exposed. Luckily, we hit the trail on a cloudy and overcast day which made it a bit cooler, but the humidity was still rough. You can see the whole island from the top of the peak. The trail is steep, but short and the views make it worth it. The island has a unique terrain of tropical jungle like trees and desert looking cacti intermixed everywhere you look and iguanas are easy to spot all over the island. I got to check off a bucket list item while on the island. I spent a morning snorkeling with dolphins at the Curacao Dolphin Academy. Getting to actually swim with dolphins and not just splash around a bit has always been a dream of mine. It was a surreal experience. To get to dive, swim, and play with 4 dolphins (two were babies!) was spectacular and the best part was I had the whole excursion to myself. No sharing!The capital city of Willemstad and it’s brightly colored neighborhoods are also highly worth exploring. The island hosts a port which separates two neighborhoods Punda and Otrabanda (literally “the other side”). The floating Queen Emma bridge connects both sides and when ships need to come in to the port the bridge moves and opens like a gate to let the ships in. If you time it correctly you can “take a ride” on the bridge and stay on it as it moves. Both sides of Willemstad have color splashed buildings and street art in various places. At night the city and the bridge light up with more beautiful colors everywhere. Curacao is certainly colorful in more ways than one!We feasted on meals that often included plantains, rice, and beans. We tried lionfish at Seaside Terrace overlooking the ocean and Asian/Caribbean fusion at Ginger in the hip Pietermaai district, right next to Punda. The most memorable dining experience was stewed iguana from Jaanchies where there are no menus and the owner actually comes over, sits at your table, and goes over what they have until your ready to order. If you clean your plate you get a bowl of homemade peanut ice cream for dessert. We had Jamaican food at Cool Runnings, the portions were so large we ate on it for a couple of days. We also dined on goat burgers at Williwood, which mimics Hollywood with a similar sign across from the restaurant. We visited Curacao Brewery twice to sample locals brews and did a tour of Landhuis Chobolobo, which is home to the distillery that makes Blue Curacao (as well as Red, Orange, Green, Tamarin, and Coffee flavored). Curacao also has a decent food stand and food truck scene throughout the island. We made sure to stop at one and try some traditional Dutch food. And of course, Derek made his traditional McDonald’s stop. He eats McDonald’s in every foreign country we visit!There are so many other wonderful sights to see! Like the Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue, which is the oldest surviving synagogue in the Americas. It’s beautiful on the inside and the floor is covered in sand which makes it even more unique. Punda also hosts a floating market where vendors sell all sorts of fruits, veggies, and other local goodies. The cemeteries and churches are also worth stopping to visit. The multi-colored tombs and churches catch your eye all throughout the island. There’s also a flamingo park, an aloe vera plantation, an ostrich farm, and tons of art galleries. Something for everyone! I came home with a piece from local artist Nena Sanchez and also enjoyed seeing all of the Chichi’s (which is Papiamentu for big sister) at Serena’s Art Factory.Curacao is a constituent country of the Netherlands and the Dutch influence is still very prominent on the island. Almost everyone on the island speaks at least four languages-Dutch, English, Spanish, and the local language of Papiamentu. In this language, the word Dushi is used very frequently and you’ll see it all over the island on t-shirts, souvenirs, and a big statue in one of the squares (see above). The word essentially means “sweet” or “good”. It’s the perfect word to describe Curacao!