Our Trip to Curaçao
As promised, here is a follow up to that “Carribean Color” post I put up last week that had all of the colorful photos I snapped on our recent vacation to Curaçao. I wanted to include some words about our trip, in case any of you were looking for information on the island or are considering Curaçao for your next trip.
Prior to booking the trip on a whim a couple months ago, I hadn’t even heard of Curaçao. A friend had been talking about the island and when I later googled it and saw the photos of the super colorful Dutch-influenced buildings I was immediately interested. I didn’t do much research or planning prior, however, I did read a few articles from a great blog I found called 91 Days in Curaçao. Despite the brief research and google image searches, I really didn’t know what to expect, which made it all the more exciting.
We were planning to meetup with two other friends for the first few days, so we booked the first half of our trip in the downtown Willemstad area. We stayed at the Scuba Lodge which is one of Curaçao’s most idyllic and colorful boutique hotels, located in the Pietermaai district of downtown. With an ocean view, colorful buildings, beautiful landscaping, and an infinity pool overlooking the ocean, the hotel is basically a blogger’s dream.
Since Curaçao is a port for cruise ships, the main downtown area of Punda is fairly touristy and hosts a fair share of overpriced shops, but there are still some gems to be found. I loved the colors and the patterns, architecture, and textures that filled the downtown streets, however, the touristic nature of things made it feel superficial and, well, a bit too touristic for my liking. It’s definitely worth a day trip or two…I just wouldn’t recommend staying in downtown for the duration of your stay.
My favorite downtown sight was the “floating” fruit market where fruit and fish vendors from Venezuela bring their boats in to sell their goods. I found the sellers to be very friendly. It also felt comforting to be able to communicate in broken Spanish.
Curaçao is interesting in that it is so insanely beautiful, but it does have some noticeable harsh (and depressing) sights too – such as a large oil refinery or the multiple massive drilling rigs that can be seen at a couple of the beaches. Perhaps because the island is so colorful, the refineries stuck out a little more to me. But aside from those, the beauty is truly unreal. We quickly discovered that the downtown scene wasn’t our favorite, so each day we would drive around the island, exploring a new area before finding a beach to spend our day at. Each day led us to a new beach that was equally as beautiful as the one we had visited the prior day. I had no idea how dry and desert-like the terrain would be and the juxtaposition of the colors amongst the dry landscape was really cool to see.
I don’t know why I had assumed it would be another lush tropical-plant filled island. Despite my photos, there actually weren’t a lot of palms or lush greens…I guess the Californian in me just had to photograph the few I saw! One day we ventured out to the eastern side of the island to Ascencion which has a completely different look from the western side. And by different, I mean that it looks like Mars or some crazy other-worldly terrain. It is so insane! This side of the island definitely isn’t a swimming coast, as massive waves crash into the cliffs and tidepools and from our vantage point, there was no beach to be seen, but it is a definite sight to see regardless! We went to over 15 beaches during our stay and absolutely loved them, especially those at the northern (top) end of the island. They are all so beautiful, but to name a few favorites we loved the San Juan Beaches (especially Playa Mansaliña), Playa Lagun, the Knip Beaches, and Playa Portomari.
Playa Portomari was one that we had initially been avoiding because it was touristy, complete with a bar/restaurant and lounge chairs for sale, but we ended up loving it! Having cold beers while laying out on a nice lounge chair wasn’t that bad! We also found it to have incredible snorkeling. And aesthetically, Playa Portomari was incredible…my favorite beach by far. It had these bold red, yellow, blue, and green lounge chairs all laid out on it’s perfect white sand beach.
Playa Lagun had a great local vibe to it. It also had an array of wild animals, which was a highlight for me. Groups of chicks would come up to us for food and water, which was absolutely adorable. There were also a few iguanas and kittens! There’s a great bar/restaurant that overlooks the beach which is a great spot for a mid-day snack. One morning we got to the beach early – Chad went out for a snorkel and I stayed with our stuff. While I was sitting out on the beach, I got to watch a group of locals take part in what seemed to be their weekly water rehabilitation class, which was very heartwarming to see. There were some children helping out with the class and as the instructor would lead each individual into the water, the little boys would help them get in and out of their wheelchairs. It seemed like everyone involved was pitching in and I don’t exactly know why, but it really made me happy.
The north beaches were the true highlight for us. The snorkeling was incredible! We saw turtles, an octopus, eels, stingrays, and hundreds of tropical fish varieties. My favorite were the parrot fish – they have the most beautiful iridescent colors and these hilariously huge mouths that look like they’re puckering up for a kiss. We didn’t have an underwater camera with us, but do yourself a favor and give “parrot fish” a google.
For the second part of our stay we stayed at a bed-and-breakfast called “Blenchi BnB” that was absolutely amazing. We booked it through Booking.com, but you can also book it on AirBnB (just search Blenchi Curacao). Lucy, our host, truly made this place what it was for us. She was so welcoming and introduced us to the other guests, most of whom were German or Dutch. We became very close with the other guests during our stay – we’d all come back from our daily adventures and congregate back at the pool for hours, swimming and sharing stories from the day. We had initially been planning on finding another accomodation for the last two days, but ended up extending our stay at Blenchi because we loved it so much. And, best of all, it was about $50/night…much more affordable than our $300+/night stay at Scuba Lodge. And the very relaxed atmosphere at Blenchi made it more enjoyable as well.
Blenchi sits behind an abandoned beach resort that shut down years ago, so there’s just a parking lot between the BnB and the beach. The beach is also referred to by locals as the ghost beach because there’s rarely anyone else there. Chad found it to have the best fishing as well. And yes, my boyfriend travels with his fishing pole (ha).
One other touristy activity I’d recommend is checking out the flamingo sanctuary. It’s pretty cool to get to watch flamingos in the wild, just doing their thing. We’d also see groups of flamingos flying over the beach at times, which was such a sight to see!
Curaçao was, by far, the most colorful place I have ever been and we loved our stay on the island. And now I’m craving another trip!