Are you thinking of how great life could be if you retire in Curaçao? Or maybe just looking to book a relaxing family vacation or romantic weekend getaway?
This guide to Curaçao offers a brief history of the island, and gives information and tips about when to go, how to get there, traveling on the island, banking, passport requirements, phone service, taxes, where to stay, where to eat, beaches, nightlife, shopping, and outdoor activities. Consider this your concise one-stop shop for all things related to those looking to travel, snowbird, or retire in Curaçao.
If you feel there is something I have missed, please let me know. If it will be valuable for other readers, I’ll add it to this page.
Curaçao is the largest of the islands in what is known as the Dutch Caribbean. Located just off the coast of Venezuela, Curaçao’s 150,000 people live on a island that is is 38 miles long and 7 1/2 miles wide at is widest point. The capital city of Willemstad is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is known for its colorful waterfront town houses.
The first Europeans to discover Curaçao were the Spanish in 1499, on an expedition led by Alonso de Ojeda. The Dutch came to the island in 1634 via the Dutch West India Company, and are responsible for building the capital of Willemstad. Over the years, the city built fortresses to defend against attack from England and France. A few of those ramparts exist now as house restaurants and hotels.
In 1651, twelve Jewish families arrived from Amsterdam. By 1732, a synagogue was built. The current Mikvé Israel-Emanuel Synagogue is the oldest in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere.
Tourism is growing rapidly in Curaçao, with year-over-year cruise passenger growth among the highest in the Caribbean. This is partially due to a recent massive pier expansion project. The government and private sources have invested in the restoration of some of the island’s colonial buildings, and the hotel development in recent years has increased to support the tourist demand.
Many years ago, my wife and I had a discussion about Curaçao when she mentioned that one of her high school acquaintances spent the summer there at an uncle’s house. That conversation was probably the first time I thought that I might be able to do that too. If her uncle could own a second home there, why couldn’t I?
While doing some research recently, I came across a video created by the Curaçao Tourist Board that I thought you might like. For your convenience, a transcript follows as well.
Over. Under. It’s well within your reach, yet wonderfully out of the ordinary. Left of center, but just right. So close. So very close. Yet beyond. Beyond your every expectation. There is a difference, and this is your destination.
Curaçao is an island paradise nestled between Aruba and Bonaire, easy to reach with daily direct flights from the U.S., Europe, and South America. Here, the skies are tranquil and placid, the seas are crystalline and warm.
Located outside of the hurricane belt, the island enjoys favorable weather virtually year round. The capital, Willemstad, offers the ambiance of a cosmopolitan European city, with the breath-taking beauty of an island locale.
You’ll see constant reminders everywhere of the Dutch, African, and Latin people that combine to create one of the most interesting cultures in the Caribbean.
The dramatic Queen Juliana bridge presides over one of the most active waterways in the Caribbean. It’s also the water that’s made Curaçao a true Caribbean treasure, dotted with ivory beaches and remote, rocky coves.
Curaçao’s semi-arid climate contributes to the island’s crystal-clear seas that offer visibility up to 150 feet, and a year-round perfect temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s no wonder that Curaçao is often named one the best scuba diving and snorkeling destinations in the world by scuba diving magazines and by divers.
The island’s reef system is rich, vibrant, and pristine. Divers find magnificent star coral, frog fish, huge sponges, and one of the most spectacular collections of sea anemone in the world.
Unexpected inland bays provide for other water sports as well. You can water ski, wake board, kayak, and boat to your heart’s content. The waters of Curaçao provide days of sublime pleasure. It’s no wonder Curaçao is so popular with visitors from Holland, the Americas, and even its Caribbean neighbors.
Lounge on one of the many picturesque beaches, each with an ambiance of its own. Some feature beach side bars, restaurants, dive shops, showers, even massage. Others cater to families, offering umbrellas, bar-b-cue grills, and enough water activities to keep you busy from the first ray of light to the brilliant sunset and beyond. So why not stay and host your own private beach party beneath the twinkling starlit sky?
Just as the waters hold countless wonders, the island itself features cultural discoveries for every interest. No other Caribbean destination provides such a rich and colorful concentration of Dutch architecture as Curaçao. Willemstad’s entire downtown area has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These gem-colored buildings create the most surprising cityscape in the Caribbean.
A short walk across the Queen Emma floating bridge takes you to Otrobanda, where you’ll still feel like you stepped back in time to a 17th century Dutch provincial town. Indeed, the entire island’s colorful history is well-documented, with many museums, attractions, and monuments. The Kura Hulanda Museum details Curaçao’s critical role in the slave trade, with rare artifacts and relics. The maritime museum documents the island’s history as both a strategic military location and a vital commercial center.
In the countryside, there are close to 100 land houses that dot the landscape, each one lovingly restored. As in Willemstad, these beautiful structures live on today as offices, shops, galleries, museums, and residences. There’s really no place quite like it.
The spirit of the island can also be seen at Mount Christoffel. It’s namesake park is an opportunity to experience nature while having fun outdoors.
Nearby, Shete Boka National Park is home to Boka Tabla with its ocean-carved caves, spectacular sprays of sea water, and natural bridge.
If you prefer a more sporting experience, take a swing at one of Curaçao’s golf courses in a picturesque setting by the sea.
For families and nature enthusiasts, a visit to the sea aquarium is a must. Touch tanks allow you to hand feed sea turtles, sting rays, and even sharks.
For a more hands-on experience, be sure to visit the Dolphin Academy where you can learn about and interact with these intelligent creatures.
Or take a dive 1,000 feet below the surface to see what few people have seen before.
Curaçao’s accommodations are designed to fit every mood and taste. Whether you’re seeking a cozy bungalow or a grand hotel with an exciting casino, you’ll find warm hospitality along with diverse and delicious cuisine.
With so much to do, your stay will be as fascinating as it is relaxing. From the sparkling beach to the top of the mountain. From sun-drenched days to glamorous, romantic, moonlit nights. Colorful architecture and natural splendor. A Caribbean designation like no other, Curaçao is everything you’d expect from an exotic locale, with all the comforts that make you feel right at home.
There is a difference, and this is your destination. This is Curaçao.
I sometimes dream of retiring to an island and basking in the romanticism of the Caribbean. I currently live in south Florida, in a location that many of my friends up north think of when they are planning their vacations. In fact, this past February I knew five different families who spent a week vacationing in the warmth down here. I’m lucky enough to live within a few minutes drive of world-famous relaxation destinations, yet I still covet what I don’t have. I guess when you want to retire in the Caribbean, the grass is always greener…
My wife and I have talked many times about where we would like to visit, or eventually retire to. Although I’m not ready to say I want to retire to an island yet, I would like to spend some time exploring different Caribbean locales to get a feel for what island retirement might be like. I plan on using this space to document and share my research, in case it might help you when you’re planning your own visit. I’m going to cover touristy/vacation-type of information here, since that is stage of life I’m currently in. The learnings I gain here will be used to plan future vacations, where I’ll be able to share more first-hand knowledge about the snowbird life in the Caribbean.