When you picture your dream vacation, does it involve sand or snow? For me, a perfect winter escape consists in getting as far away as I can from cold weather. I think of the Caribbean as the extreme opposite of all of my winter doom and gloom, offering warm climates, sunshine, and relaxation, even at the height of our cold season. Nonetheless, December, January, and February can often mean big crowds of so-called “snowbird” visitors in this area of the world. To experience a warm winter vacation without a flood of fellow tourists, I recommend Curaçao.
Where is Curaçao?
As I chatted with friends about my upcoming trip to Curaçao, I couldn’t believe how many people had never heard of this candy-colored island. Curaçao forms part of the ABC Islands (along with Aruba and Bonaire) and is located just north of Venezuela in the Caribbean Sea. It boasts pristine beaches, a very Insta-worthy capital (Willemstad), and year-round sunshine.
Temperatures don’t tend to fluctuate much throughout the seasons. While January is Curaçao’s coldest month, its average temperature during this time of the year is 80 °F (26.5 °C). Due to its location below the hurricane belt, it is rather rare for Curaçao to encounter any weather that would mess with your vacation. I was shocked that my hotel lobby was located in an open-air area, indicating how unusual it is for Curaçao to experience rain. Furthermore, my American readers may be interested to know that U.S. currency frequently circulates the island. Thus, it’s possible to visit without even having to exchange money. Most restaurants and shops will advertise their prices in both the Netherlands Antillean guilder (abbreviated as Nafl) and the USD.
Curaçao’s rich history
Curaçao is currently a constituent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Nonetheless, it has its own diverse culture, which blends Dutch, Papiamentu, Portuguese, Jewish, Spanish, and English traditions. Papiamentu is recognized as an official language, as well as Dutch and English. Thus, American visitors to the island can easily get by with their native English. Papiamentu, the most widely spoken language in Curaçao, is a beautiful blend of African languages, Dutch, French, Spanish, Portuguese, English, and Arawak. The society as a whole is multilingual, meaning that most Curaçaoans can speak multiple languages.
How can I get to Curaçao?
While Curaçao is undoubtedly a hidden gem, it is actually quite accessible. The international airport is located just 7.5 miles from Willemstad (this amounts to about a 10-minute drive). Plus, there are frequent direct flights to Curaçao from North America, Europe, and South America. If you’re one of my American readers, the most comfortable option for you is most likely to fly with American Airlines out of Miami or Charlotte. JetBlue also offers direct flights from NYC to Willemstad. Even if you don’t live close to one of these cities, flying to the island can still be super affordable. For example, I’m based in Atlanta, Georgia. I had a short two-hour flight to Miami from Atlanta, followed by a three-hour flight from Miami to the Curaçao International Airport. This was all for approximately USD 400!
Pro tip: Make sure to fill out your embarkation card here to skip the long immigration line upon reaching Curaçao. You will need to fill this out at least 24 hours before your trip.
Where should I stay in Curaçao?
I stayed at the Hilton Curaçao during my 6-day visit to the island. After arriving at the airport, it only takes about 15 minutes to reach this hotel by taxi. In particular, I chose the Hilton because it offers two private beaches and a bright blue sea. It’s the prime location to relax and get in some fun in the water! The Hilton features an infinity pool complex, on-site water sports, and a PADI diving center. If you’re hoping to explore the city center too, make sure to take advantage of the hotel’s daily roundtrip shuttle to Willemstad. I found the location of this hotel to be perfect because we were able to enjoy Curaçao’s beaches as well as the historic downtown area. After spending the day exploring the famous “floating market”, we were able to relax on the beach and watch the sunset.
Popular spots and activities
- The Floating Market: Venezuelan traders travel to Curaçao to sell their fresh fruit and seafood products from their boats.
- The New Market: Located near to the floating market, this market offers both foods as well as souvenirs and other handicrafts.
- Pietermaai: Curaçao’s up-and-coming artsy neighborhood. Take a stroll to see pastel historic homes and trendy places to eat.
- Queen Emma Bridge: This floating bridge opens during the day to let boats pass through the harbor. Make sure to check the times indicated on the side of the bridge so that you can have the experience of riding along when it opens!
- Diving opportunities: Although Curaçao is a lesser-known destination, it’s extremely popular with those looking to advance their diving skills. You can find dives for all levels on this island.
- Aquafari: An underwater expedition for those of us who aren’t divers. You’ll be able to explore the ocean on a motor scooter that operates underwater.
Between Curaçao’s vibrant and diverse culture and its warm weather, I hope that you will consider it for your next winter getaway.
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The Hilton Curaçao sponsored this post in exchange for a 5-night stay. Nonetheless, all opinions are my own.