When a pastel-colored open-air school bus with turquoise seats picks you up at the airport
with reggae music playing, you know you’re in for next-level relaxation. This how JAX FAX started a four-day exploration of the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao. Now an autonomous country within the Dutch kingdom, most Americans still have not discovered this destination. With 60-70 percent of tourists to the island still coming from The Netherlands, the crystal-clear and turquoise waters and myriad activities available on Curaçao offer the American market a new opportunity for adventure in the Caribbean.
Luxury for the Whole Family
As you pull into the entryway of the Corendon Mangrove Beach Resort
(www.hilton.com), the first thing you notice is the 49 ft. King Cobra water slide. The resort has clocked the time it takes to get from top to bottom at around 7 seconds. There are a total of six waterslides at the resort’s Aqua Park (including King Cobra). You also notice a bar with tables and chairs for lounging at the base of the Aqua Park, an ideal vantage point for a parent to keep watch while sipping a tropical drink featuring the island’s signature Blue Curaçao liqueur.
The check-in process is as easy-breezy as the resort’s vibe would suggest. Before you know it, you’re carrying your blue and green welcome cocktail, with floating maraschino cherry and orange slice, up to your room.
There is a designated swimming area, bracketed by a wave-breaker wall, to ensure the waters stay calm. There is a platform that even a low-level swimmer can make it to, where you can catch your breath, sunbathe and watch fish swimming just beneath the surface. On the first day of JAX FAX’s visit, the water was so clear that small yellow and black-striped fish, and large gray ones, were clearly visible from the surface. The following day, from that same platform, sea turtles were seen lifting their necks out of the water.
Closer to the beach, there are two swings suspended so that the seats hang just below the water. If you pump your legs back and forth, you won’t lift into the air, but you’ll swing in time to the current, see-sawing forward as the tide comes in. It’s fun and makes for an Instagram-worthy photo.
In the afternoon and early evening, at the Coco Pool Bar, there is live music, and some days, dance performances that give guests a chance to experience the local culture.
The resort has six restaurants (Breeze Main Restaurant, Food Street, Dushi Sushi Club, Ristorante Siciliano, Cor & Don’s BBQ Restaurant, and Tavern Seafood Restaurant) as well as five bars (Aquabar, Coffee and Smoothie Bar, Flamingo Beach Bar, Coco Pool Bar and Pera Lobby Bar and Patisserie) that are part of the all-inclusive package.
Breeze Restaurant is buffet-style with enough variety from day to day that you never have to eat the same meal twice.
On the first night, JAX FAX enjoyed a dinner at the resort’s Tavern Seafood Restaurant, seated on an open-air platform over the water, covered only with one of the resort’s many tropical-style straw roofs.
Cor & Don’s BBQ restaurant offered a memorable experience, dining beachside on chicken, ribs and Argentinian beef fresh off the grill. Along with the sumptuous meat were great Sangria cocktails.
While restaurants and bars on the resort property are all-inclusive, there are opportunities to experience more for an additional charge. Those opportunities include the The Don Cigar Lounge, water and diving sports activities, the on-site hair salon, spa services and VIP cabana services, among other add-on options.
A Truly Colorful History
A walking tour through Curaçao’s capital, Willemstad, is well worth it. Located 10-minute walk from the resort, or a short car ride, most of Willemstad is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You can begin your tour at Rif Fort, which dates back to 1828. Along with a wide-scope view of the water, and most of the original structure to explore, there is now a shopping center and restaurants on the site.
Featuring well-preserved Dutch colonial architecture, you immediately notice the beautiful colors of the buildings in Willemstad. Turquoise, pink, yellow and green are just a few of the colors buildings are painted in place of white. Even more eye-catching than these colors are the murals painted on the sides and fronts of many of these buildings. A stroll through the center of Willemstad feels like walking through an open-air art museum. Indeed, the well-known late artist, Nena Sanchez, has a gallery and shop near the center of town.
With so much beauty to see, it can be hard to remember that there is also a sad history in Curaçao related to the slave trade. Museum Kura Hulanda is located at the city-center harbor of Willemstad, where the Dutch once traded and transshipped enslaved Africans. The museum features artifacts like African tools and drums, among many other items, that tell the story of the enslaved who were brought to the island.
On & Under the Water
A sunset sail around Curaçao gives visitors a chance to see both the beauty of its natural resources and the cityscape of Willemstad lit up, and also can sometimes show off the island’s vibrant and welcoming culture.
As much as there is to see above water, there also is a world to explore just beneath the surface. The perfect accompaniment to a high-level resort experience is time spent snorkeling on a natural beach. What looked like larger versions of the same yellow- and black-striped fish seen at Corendon Mangrove Beach Resort were seen swimming among the sea turtles. The richness of the underwater life of Curaçao comes as no surprise given the richness of experience across the island. The colorful buildings and artwork of Willemstad, and the prime experience available at a resort like Corendon Mangrove Beach Resort, makes this a great next destination for the American traveler in search of a fresh Caribbean adventure.