How to spend 36 hours in Curaçao, with Sea Traditions at Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort as your base camp.
5 P.M. | HURRY TO EQUUS
Don’t expect a menu or cutlery at this horse-stable-turned-restaurant in Jan Theil. Just the best chicken and beef kebabs on the island, grilled on three-foot-long skewers and then hung in the rafters above the communal tables for patrons to help themselves. And don’t expect daily hours either; Equus is open on Friday nights only. Get there early to beat the line.
9 A.M. | EXPLORE HATO CAVES
There’s no special gear or spelunking required to visit these 200,000-year-old caves, located just a few minutes from the island’s airport – just easy walking through various lit chambers lined with petroglyphs from ancient inhabitants and limestone stalactites and stalagmites that form dramatic shapes. Tours depart every hour starting at 9 a.m.
11:30 P.M | WALABOUT WILLEMSTAD
Curaçao’s capital city is divided into two main sections: Punda and Otrobanda. Start in Otrobanda to explore Kura Hulanda, a restored eighteenth-century village home to Dutch Colonial architecture and a comprehensive museum that documents the transatlantic slave trade (of which Curaçao played a central role). Then, cross the famous swinging Queen Emma Bridge to Punda, the main shopping area in the city (think European clothing, Irish crystal, French perfumes) with scenic pedestrian-only streets and lots of local color.
5 P.M. | PRIVATE SUNSET SAIL
A luxury yacht with an open bar and stunning sunset views are all yours when you book a private two-hour evening excursion with Adrenaline Tours Curaçao in Jan Theil, 20 minutes north of your resort. This coastal cruise departs from Caracas Bay and heads to the Spanish Water lined by luxurious homes and resorts, then into the super blue waters of undeveloped Fuik Bay.
8 P.M. | DINNER AT ZANZIBAR
P.izza and the beach – that’s what this open-air restaurant on Jan Thiel beach is known for. While the menu features African and Caribbean cuisine, the pizza is cooked in a traditional stone oven, which gives it a smoky flavor and crispy crust. Try their “Zanzibar Fruits De Mer,” a seafood pie that boasts a smorgasbord of local shellfish.
9 A.M. | LOUNGE ON THE BEACH
One of Curaçao’s largest beaches is located right outside your guest room: Santa Barbara Beach. This 1,500-foot white-sand stretch with ample lounge chairs and shaded spaces is set on one of the island’s calmest, glassy blue lagoons, where you can float with a mimosa – served from the resort’s Splash bar – in hand.
Like A Local
Quirky, under-the-radar highlights only a local could recommend.
The Blue Room
An off-the-beaten-path underwater cave lies not too far away from the popular beaches of Westpunt, tucked in a cliff between Santu Pretu and Santa Cruz (to get there, book a trip with resident character Captain Goodlife). Called the Blue Room for its brilliant sapphire hue that reflects off its limestone interior, the cave is a snorkeler’s wonderland home to all sorts of tropical fish.
The Netto Bar
One of the oldest bars in Curaçao (having opened in 1954), this small, hole-in-the-wall spot in the Otrobanda district of Curaçao’s capital city of Willemstad is famous for a unique homemade spirit: Ròm Bèrdè, aka green rum. Several signature drinks are designed around the green concoction, including the popular no-frills Koko Bèrdè – rum on the rocks with fresh coconut water.
Tee off Tafelberg
Tafelberg is a 700-foot mountain that overlooks the Pete Dye–designed Old Quarry Golf Course at Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort. But not many people know of the secret tee box located near its summit, where you can hit your ball onto the green of the 13th hole among expansive views of the bay known as “Spanish Water.” Ask how to access it at the pro shop.
Located 11 minutes north of the Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort, this herb garden is overseen by the world-famous “witch doctor,” Dinah Veeris, who specializes in traditional plant-based medicine. Here, some 300 different plant species make up the garden, aiding everything from stomach aches and fever to lovesickness.
Plasa Bieu is where hungry locals go at lunchtime, and where you’ll find true krioyo (the Papiamentu word for “local food”). Located next to the Central Market in Punda, the spot is like a food court lined with half-a-dozen food stalls, serving authentic homemade Caribbean cuisine to be eaten at the communal tables. Recommended dishes: kabritu (stewed goat) and karko (thinly sliced conch cooked in garlic and butter).
The Floating Market
Located on the Punda side of Willemstad, this open-air market gets its name from the fact that all the produce and fish comes in on wooden boats from Venezuela, 40 miles away. Expect yucca, bananas, sugar cane, key limes, passion fruit, avocados, peppers, and other produce that would be impossible to grow in the island’s arid conditions.
Genuine Curaçao Liquer Distillery
Willemstad’s historic Landhuis Chobolobo mansion houses the family-run distillery, where the authentic Curaçao liqueur (most notably blue but also comes in other colors) is made from the dried peels of the island’s bitter Laraha orange. A self-guided tour walks you through the history (how the Spanish actually brought the orange here in the fifteenth century) and the production process, as well as provides samples of the liqueur that dates back to 1896.
MAX & BEE Juicery
Located in the Dominguito neighborhood of Willemstad, this establishment specializes in cold-pressed juices, handmade nut milks, smoothies, salads, and sugar-free treats. Feeling jet-lagged? Try the Boost with A C blend (grapefruit, lemon, and orange) for some much-needed Vitamin C oomph. A chest cold? The Spicy Carrot blend features cayenne pepper and coconut water to help cleanse the lungs.
The first winery on the island grows four varietals across two acres – and saw its first harvest in October 2015. Located a stone’s throw from the Hato Caves on one of the island’s oldest plantations, the family-run winery offers tours, wine tastings, and small plates.
Featured Adventure: Your Own Desert Island
Eight to 10 miles off the southeast shores of Curaçao lies a miniscule islet, known as Klein Curacao (klein meaning “little”). Save for a few passing fishermen who stop here and a few beach huts for shade, the island is totally deserted. So, if you can stomach the often-choppy two-hour boat ride out there on the open sea, the white-sand beach that is longer than any other on Curaçao proper is all yours (Mermaid Boat Trips offer tours on its sturdy sea-going vessel). If you’re not the idle type, an abandoned lighthouse and rusting hull of a shipwrecked oil tanker makes for eerie exploration, while crystal-clear waters give way to underwater caves and coral formations for snorkeling.
Cliff Jumping | Playa Forti Beach
JUMP RIGHT IN!
Surrounded by postcard views, cliff dive off a 40-foot cliff (with a jumping platform) into 16 feet of deep crystal-clear waters. After your adventure, explore the nearby restaurants visited mostly by locals for an authentic taste of Curaçao.
Hiking Curaçao’s Highest Point | Mt. Christoffel
A MUST SEE FOR EVERYONE!
Mt. Christoffel Park, the largest national park in Curacao, is home to eight unique jungle-esque hiking trails, some of which ascend the 1,220-foot mountain summit. As you scale the mountain, keep your eyes open for the abundance of local wildlife, including the Curaçao white-tailed deer (of which there are only about 250 left).
Open Water Dolphin Dive | Dolphin Academy
Swim with the dolphins in an open-ocean setting (diving certification required) or in a spacious enclosure where you will receive an informative and intimate encounter. Dolphin Academy's mission is to provide an unforgettable experience in an educational and humane manner.
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Sea Traditions, Santa Barbara Plantation, Porta Blancu, Nieuwpoort, Curaçao P: +5999-840-1234 Toll Free Reservations: (855) 590-2266