The island of Curaçao is known in connection with the deep blue liqueur used in cocktails that gives them the bitter flavouring of the orange peel.
Although part of the Netherlands Antilles congregation of islands - and a former Dutch colony itself - Curacao is relatively unknown in North America, compared to St.Maarten or Aruba.
The island is located off the coast of Venezuela and boasts a rich and varied history, Dutch and Spanish colonial style architecture and beautiful blue seas of the Southern Caribbean with an amazing underwater life.
Tropical climate of Curaçao is a major attraction for tourists. Dry in the months of January to September, and wet season between October and December, the island's temperatures are relatively constant throughout the year. January is the coolest month with the temperature dropping to an average of 26.5 °C (80°F). September is the warmest month with an average of 28.9 °C (84 °F).
White sandy beaches and azure waters - what more can a tourist want? There is an amazing underwater flora and fauna that attracts scuba divers. Even snorkeling is fun in the crystalline waters of the island. South coast is considered the most calm for those activities. If you've never done snorkelling before, this is the place to start.
Curacao has a rich history and had been inhabited by Arawak Indians, Spanish colonists, Dutch, Sephardic Jews and many other cultures that contributed to its unique mix of languages, architecture, traditions and food.
You can find all sorts of restaurants on the island: Indonesian, Chinese, Dutch, Italian and, of course, traditional "krioyo" cuisine of Curaçao itself. The staple here is rice, plantains, coconuts, fries and seafood! Sample authentic food at Curaçao's famous old market, Marsche Bieuw in Punda.
Try pastechi for breakfast - pastry with fillings of tuna, cheese, or ground meat with coconut water. Funchi is a cornmeal paste similar to polenta served with main dishes such as stewed goat or freshly caught fish.
The locals also like cooking iguana soup that they believe, has aphrodisiac qualities. It looks just like chicken noodle soup albeit with a slightly green tinge to it. It also tastes just like chicken although not as plump - and full of small bones.
Willemstad is the capital of Curaçao. It's a vibrant cosmopolitan city. The island boasts one of the highest standards of living in the Caribbean, and ranks 46th in the world in terms of GDP per capita. It's a bustling financial centre with an amazing historical sites. Visit Punda - one of Willemstad's districts - it has 16th century street protected by UNESCO. Strolling the old street while the sea winds tussle the hair makes the ambiance very special.
Queen Emma's pontoon bridge connects Punda and Otrobanda districts, swinging open to allow the passage of ships. When it's closed to pedestrians, you can take a small boat across to get some shopping done and gaze at the architecture.
Willemstad boasts 8 forts built by the Dutch in an attempt to protect the island from the French invasion. There is also the oldest synagogue in the Americas. Simple, beautiful, majestic, it looks somewhat austere from the outside, but full of light and white sand on the floor on the inside. The story has it, that the early worshippers from Spain and Portugal put sand on the floor to muffle their steps, when they went to service, to avoid being caught. There is also a museum in the same courtyard that shows Jewish household items and personal items of the notable Jewish citizen of Curacao.
Curaçao has been a major trade center for centuries so it's not surprising that stores are full of goods from all over the world. Since the island is a cultural melting pot, people are bilingual or even tri-lingual. Everyone speaks Dutch, Spanish, Papiamentu, and English.
Heerenstraat and Madurostraat are open to pedestrians only. Bredestraat and Roodeweg are famous for discount buys. Go to the Plaza Jojo Correa for the small artisanal items and local crafts.
Just around the corner from Handelskade is a floating market where Venezualan traders display tropical fruits and vegetables in their boats they bring each morning from across the coast.
Curacao’s also renown for its huge Harbour Duty Free Zone. It is the Caribbean’s largest trade zone. However, goods purchased there must be shipped directly to your home address or transferred to your flight. You won't get to see them until you get home.
As you can see there is plenty to be done on the island, and this description is far from being complete. One can talk at length about the things to do, places to visit, and people to meet. No wonder this place is called "the best kept secret of the Caribbean". Hopefully you can visit one day!