Where is Curacao? Here’s everything you need to know about this incredible Caribbean island.
Situated among the ABC islands in the Caribbean Sea, Curacao is home to about 160,000 people. In addition, it’s a favorite vacation destination among tourists from the Netherlands, Europe, the US, and Canada. Read on to learn all the basics about this island country!
Where is Curacao?
Curacao lies among the Lesser Antilles islands in the southern Caribbean Sea. It belongs to a group of three islands called “the ABC islands” (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao). Located about 37 miles north of the coast of Venezuela, it is the largest island in the Netherland Antilles.
Government of Curacao
Curacao is a self-governing country in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It gained autonomy from the Netherlands in 2010. The government of Curacao is classified as a constitutional monarchy. Executive power is held by a governor, elected by the monarch of the Netherlands, and a prime minister. The government and parliament exercise legislative power.
Languages of Curacao
While Dutch is the official language of Curacao, Papiamentu is widely spoken. It is a creole language, which means that it is based on several languages, including Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, and some African dialects. It has been used in the ABC islands for over 300 years.
Other common languages used are English and Spanish. Many citizens of Curacao know and speak two or more languages.
How to pronounce Curacao
How to pronounce this country’s name is a common question among those who aren’t too familiar with it. You can even find various videos on the internet with “official pronunciations” that seem to contradict each other. The acceptable American pronunciation is “kur-uh-sow”, with the British alternative being “Kyuor-uh-sow”. Locals who speak Papamientu tend to blend the first two syllables together and say “Kor-sou”, with emphasis on the “sou”.
The official currency of Curacao is the Netherlands Antillean Guilder. It is also called the florin. In addition, you can use US dollars in many establishments.
Things to do
There is plenty to do on the island, so you’ll need ample time to take it all in! Curacao is known for its rugged coastlines with mysterious coves, gorgeous turquoise water, and rich coral reefs. Sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving are all favorite activities of residents and travelers alike.
However, if lounging at the beach all day just isn’t your thing, you can visit many sites of historical significance. For example, the historic part of Willemstad, the country’s capital, has been designated a World Heritage Site. While there, make sure you visit the Curacao Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in the Americas. Other interesting sites include the Otrabanda neighborhood, Queen Emma Bridge, St. Anna Bay, Scharloo, the Chobolobo plantation, and Spanish Waters.
It’s possible to simply walk around the city by yourself, but you may learn a lot more by booking a guided city tour. Or, you can even hop on a curious-looking vehicle called a tuk-tuk for a tour around town!
While in Willemstad, take advantage of the duty-free shopping zones. These sell everything from designer products to handmade souvenirs. In addition, the floating market is a seaside vending area where you can purchase fresh produce and seafood. In addition, you won’t want to miss the famous Queen Emma Bridge. Known colloquially as “the swinging Old Lady”, it is the oldest permanent wooden pontoon bridge in the world.
Lastly, be sure to stop in at the Curacao Public Sea Aquarium. There you’ll be able to see examples of Caribbean Sea life, as well as a dolphin, sea lion, and nurse shark shows.
Of course, Willemstad isn’t the only place to spend your vacation. Head to nearby Jan Thiel, on the island’s southwest side, to visit the famous white-sand Jan Thiel beach. Bahia Jan Thiel is a prime spot for watersports, including kayaking, diving, and sailing. In addition, you’ll find plenty of lovely villas in the area available for rent.
Blue Bay beach is the biggest beach on the island, and according to many, it’s the best for snorkeling. You can even rent snorkeling equipment right on the beach for $15. Northwest of Willemstad, Blue Bay has an 18-hole golf course and plenty of hotels and villas.
Sint Willibrordus is home to Cas Abou beach, which is listed on National Geographic’s registry of the top 21 beaches worldwide. It has dazzling white sand, lovely rugged rock formations, and palm trees to offer shade. In addition, the water is transparents enough to see colorful fish clear as day while snorkeling. There’s also a flamingo reserve in Sint Willibrordus where you can observe these majestic birds in their natural habitat.
Check out other fantastic things to do in Sint Willibrordus here!
Banda Abou contains many hidden treasures that many travelers to Curacao overlook. Located on the island’s northern coast, the region is home to historic sites and homes, secluded beaches, and interesting museums. Sites worth checking out include the Kas di Pal’i Maishi Museum, the Santa Martha plantation house, and the Tula Museum. Get all the details on this picturesque region here.
Getting to Curacao
Curacao is becoming more accessible with each passing year. In fact, United Airlines just announced that they will be offering nonstop flights to the island from Newark, New Jersey, beginning December 7th, 2019.
Otherwise, you can catch a direct flight from Miami, Amsterdam, and Caracas, Venezuela. All flights land at the Hato International Airport. Otherwise, you take a charter plane or ferry from one of the neighboring islands, such as Bonaire, Aruba or Jamaica. Here are some of the airlines that provide service to Curacao:
- Air Jamaica
- Aeropostal Alas de Venezuela
- American Airlines
- United Airlines
- Martin Air
Ready to take a trip to Curacao? Find out everything you need to know about preparing for a Caribbean vacation here!