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THE VACATION REPORT INTO THE BLUE

The paradise island of Curaçao in the Caribbean is rich in beautiful beaches and multicultural cuisine. Here’s our guide to taking the plunge.

Words by Monica Mendal.

With neighbouring islands such as Aruba and Bonaire, Caribbean island Curaçao is the oft-overlooked little sister of the Leeward Antilles, otherwise known as the ABC islands. Its capital Willemstad, a UNESCO World Heritage City, with its colonial architecture, floating market and bustling nightlife aren’t the only reasons warranting Curaçao its long-overdue spotlight. Curaçao’s beaches, both the touristy ones in Jan Thiel and the rustic beaches on the west side make for a relaxing getaway. What makes Curaçao especially unique, however, is its richly diverse culture with four native languages spoken on the island (Dutch, Papiamento, English and Spanish). When you’re deciding on the aesthetic for vacation – South American warmth, European style, African history and laid-back Caribbean vibes – Curaçao has it all.

STAY

Escape into a Balinese-inspired oasis at Baoase Luxury Resort (baoase.com). A beachfront resort nestled in a modest, natural landscape with its palm-lined path and stone walls guiding you from one serene corner to the next, there is nothing modest about Baoase. Its 23 units (many of which have their own plunge pools), only offer one option: luxury. The sole restaurant lines the resort’s private beach, serving international cuisine and fresh fish caught by local fisherman, and the resort’s garden and pool are all about tranquillity. Covered in Buddha sculptures, the property maintains constant reminders of the meditative powers of nature, as a tropical escape should.

SEE

The heart of Curaçao is in the colourful streets of its capital city. Explore the historic architecture and shop the floating market that sells local fruits and vegetables and fresh fish. Each of Willemstad’s districts – Punda, Otrobanda, Scharloo and Pietermaai – possess a unique charm. A day exploring each will give you insights into the culturally rich history of the island. For an idyllic beach day or for some diving in translucent blue water, take a drive to the rustic west-side beaches in Banda Bou. Among the best to visit are Grote Knip and Cas Abao. Stop in the nearby beach club, Karakter (karaktercuracao.com), for lunch or book an appointment at the spa. If it’s a no-frills beach day you crave, chill on a lounger at one of the many hotels in Jan Thiel. To escape the city, take a catamaran out to the uninhabited island of Klein Curaçao (Little Curaçao). Klein Curaçao is known for its breathtaking, deserted beach and its scenic pink lighthouse. With the exception of local fishermen, you’ll likely be alone on the island, creating a perfect day of tropical solitude.

EAT

Start your day with coffee or matcha (the best on the island) at Curaçao’s coolest café, Number Ten (numbertencuracao.com). Then head to Koko’s on Jan Thiel beach (janthielbeach.com), which has a laid-back boho feel, with rustic beach décor, fresh juices and healthy eats. The island’s international population of more than 50 cultures makes Curaçao a melting pot for international cuisine. When Susan and David McHugh, owners of Kome (komecuracao.com), moved to the island, they felt immediately welcomed by its diverse community. This cultural immersion influenced their menu, which offers local food with a twist in an atmosphere that is both warm and inviting. For international-style tapas and a cool, local crowd, visit Mosa (mosarestaurant.com) before heading to its recently opened cocktail bar next door, Caña Bar & Kitchen.

DRINK

By day, the Pietermaai District, with its historic, unrestored monuments, colonial homes and seaside hotels, is as charming as any seaside town can be. By night, the restaurants and bars turn it into a lively hub for nightlife. At its heart is Mundo Bizarro (mundobizarrocuracao.com) – a two-storey house with an old-fashioned, Cuban-style interior – that serves up live salsa performances weekly. When you’re danced out, head next door to Miles Jazz Vinyl & Cigars for some laid-back jazz music in a cosy setting. If it’s sunset cocktails you’re after, Saint Tropez Ocean Club (sainttropezcuracao.com), with its stylish, sleek décor and unbeatable mojitos, is the ideal spot to kick off your night out in Pietermaai.

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PHOTOGRAPHS: 4 CORNERS, ALAMY.

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