Deep Blue Curaçao
South of Willemstad, the Curaçao Sea Aquarium is a great stop for families. The shallow waters of adjacent Mambo Beach are perfect for small children, and kids of all ages will enjoy exploring the aquarium, watching live feeding shows, and handling some sea creatures in the touch tank—an aquatic version of a petting zoo.
At the nearby Curaçao Dolphin Academy, visitors can swim, snorkel, or dive with coastal bottlenose dolphins in the enclosed waters of the lagoon. During open-water dives, dolphins meet divers on the other side of the marine wall and accompany them during the descent to one of the island’s fascinating coral reefs.
A gently sloping reef composed of magnificent coral formations surrounds most of the island and is part of a protected underwater park. There are 40 different dive zones covering more than 65 individual sites, some of which can be accessed from the shore.
However, on Curaçao, the phrase “diving into the blue” does not always refer to the ocean. Sometimes, it means imbibing a cocktail with blue curaçao, a spirit made from the brightly colored rinds of local laraha oranges. The Valencia oranges transplanted to the island by the Spanish did not thrive in Curaçao’s dry climate, and arid soil turned the sweet Valencia into a bitter new variety of oranges known as laraha. Infusing the laraha peel with spices resulted in the birth of curaçao liqueur in 1896.
Visitors to the island can learn more about the spirit during a tour of the factory in Willemsted. Build in the 1800s, the factory, known as Maison Chobolobo (a landhuis, or country house), sits in the very center of a two and a half acre plot of land on the waterfront.
As for local cuisine, the dining options are as diverse as the local population, which is comprised of people from 55 different nations. For an authentic meal, visit Marshe Bieuw, the old market in downtown Willemstad, or stop a a Truk’i pan (a roadside sandwich truck).
For a more refined experience, consider one of the fine-dining establishments in the historic districts. Native dishes make good use of the locally available seafood, imported Dutch cheeses, and fresh Venezuelan fruits and vegetables. Menus often feature island specialties such as iguana stew, fried cactus, and cactus soup.
Board a trolley for a historical tour through Willemstad. Start at Fort Amsterdam, then see Scharloo’s picturesque homes built during the 1880s. Continue to the Mikve Israel Emmanuel Synagogue, the oldest in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere.
Visit the historic Curaçao Winery, the Caribbean’s first vineyard, and enjoy a wine-tasting experience featuring locally produced vintages. Discover the unique differences between European and Caribbean vineyards with an experienced guide, followed by a scenic stop at the Rif Fort.
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