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Where Is Curacao? The Best-Kept Secret in the Caribbean

When talking about a recent trip to Curaçao, I realized many of the people I spoke with had the same question: where is Curaçao? This precedes the next most common question: how do you pronounce Curaçao? As it turns out, the correct pronunciation is “cure-uh-sow,” by the way! I was surprised to find that tons of people had never heard of this Dutch Caribbean island. So, to spread the word about this lively vacation destination, let’s talk about Curaçao and its location! We’ll also cover the island’s climate, the best time to visit, and its language and currency. If you have any other questions, please drop them in the comments.

So, where is Curaçao in the world?

Here’s the quick answer: It’s in the southwestern Caribbean. Curaçao forms part of the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao) in the Dutch Caribbean. Fun fact: the islands in geographical order would actually be “ACB.” Thus, Curaçao lies between Aruba and Bonaire. Measuring approximately 38 miles (61 kilometers) in length from its northwest to southeast edges, it’s also the largest of the three sister islands. Here’s another fact you may not have known about this country: Curaçao actually includes two islands. First, there’s the main island of Curaçao as well as Klein Curaçao, a 0.66 square mile (1.7 sq km) uninhabited island about six miles away.

Approximately 150,000 people live in Curaçao. The majority of these individuals live in the capital, Willemstad, located on the southern coast. Furthermore, this city is also a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. You may have seen photos of its colorful buildings, street art, and the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge! The western section of the island mainly falls within Christoffel National Park, while the eastern end is secluded with rough coastlines.

By air, Curaçao is only 70 miles (113 kilometers) from Aruba and approximately 49 miles (79.1 kilometers) from Bonaire. Therefore, traveling between the ABC islands is quick and easy by plane! It only takes 30-40 minutes to fly from Curaçao to Aruba, and you can find flight options with Aruba Airlines, Divi Divi Air, Winair, EZ Air BV, and more. Additionally, the journey from Curaçao to Bonaire lasts approximately 30 minutes, and Divi Divi Air mainly operates this flight. Outside of the Dutch Caribbean, Curaçao is also very close to South America–it’s just north of Venezuela. In fact, it’s only 40 miles from the Venezuelan coast. Surprisingly, Puerto Rico would be the next closest territory to Curaçao in the distance, followed by the Dominican Republic.

What country does Curaçao belong to?

Curaçao is currently a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and previously the Netherlands Antilles. As a result, the King of the Netherlands holds the role of Curaçao’s head of state, and a local governor represents him. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister of Curaçao acts as the head of government. There are actually four constituent countries that make up the Kingdom of the Netherlands: the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten. Additionally, Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba (also Caribbean islands) are special municipalities within the country of the Netherlands.

Does Curaçao get hurricanes?

Hurricane season in the Caribbean islands typically runs from June 1 to November 30. However, due to its particular location in the southern Caribbean Sea, Curaçao is an ideal vacation spot no matter the time of year. While many tourists fear booking a trip during hurricane season, this particular island won’t pose a problem. As Curaçao is actually below the Hurricane Belt, it’s rare for the island to encounter any weather that would ruin your vacation. For example, the Dow Jones Island Index ranked Curaçao as the Caribbean island least likely to be affected by a hurricane.

The last major storm to directly hit Curaçao was Hurricane Felix in September 2007. However, it’s extremely rare for a hurricane to make landfall here. To specify, the United States National Hurricane Center began tracking hurricanes in 1965. During its over 50 years of operation, it has yet to see a hurricane make landfall in Curaçao. Apart from the country’s convenient position outside of the Hurricane Belt, it also has another form of natural protection. Luckily, a narrow fringing reef surrounds Curaçao, protecting it from possible damage due to storm waves. 

What’s the weather like in Curaçao?

Curaçao is 837.84 miles (1348.37 kilometers) from and only 12 degrees above the equator. Therefore, regarding its climate, temperatures don’t tend to fluctuate much throughout the seasons. Indeed, the average temperature in Curaçao is 85°F (27°C), making it a perfect sunny vacation spot. Even January, Curaçao’s coldest month, boasts an average temperature of 80°F (26.5°C). Although the island has a rainy season, this time of year is nothing like the rainy season in other parts of the world. For example, from October to December, there is frequent and intermittent rainfall for short periods of time. However, all in all, the total average annual rainfall in Curaçao is only 22 inches (570 mm). Thus, Curaçao is a rather dry island, and you’ll notice some desert-like vegetation.

When traveling to Curaçao, it’s essential to keep in mind that it’s a very windy destination. Although the wind can feel refreshing on a hot day, you’ll want to remember to keep an eye on your hat or umbrella while at the beach! Thanks to a constant stream of trade winds that blow through Curaçao, you’ll most likely encounter strong winds throughout the island. However, the official windy season on the island runs from January to July. Don’t worry, though–this feature makes Curaçao the ideal place to learn how to windsurf!

Read More: Aruba vs Curaçao: Which Island Should I Visit?

What is the best time of year to go to Curaçao?

As we previously mentioned, the weather in Curaçao tends to be ideal during any time of year. However, like most popular tourist destinations, the island does have a high, low, and shoulder season. Peak season runs from December to April, as people in the Northern Hemisphere search for a warm place to escape the winter. Thus, you can anticipate the highest hotel and flight prices during this period of time. However, you can also expect fun events like the Curaçao Carnival! 

Curaçao’s shoulder season begins in May and ends in August. Although you’ll still encounter a fair amount of tourists–after all, it is summer in the Northern Hemisphere–beaches, attractions, and hotels will be far less busy than during the high season. If you’d like to save money and avoid the crowds, you’ll want to plan your Curaçao vacation sometime between September and November (low season).

What language do they speak in Curaçao? 

The official languages in Curaçao are Papiamentu (also called Papiamento), Dutch, and English. According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook, Papiamento is the most widely spoken language on the island. Plus, this language has influences from Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, English, French, and even elements from certain African languages and Arawak. The name “papiamentu” most likely comes from the Portuguese verb “papear”, which means to speak or converse. 

To understand how this language came to be, you’ll need to review Curacao’s past. In fact, the island’s original inhabitants were Arawak and Caquetio peoples who had migrated from South America. However, the Spanish later settled the island, followed by Dutch colonists beginning in 1634. Subsequently, the Dutch West India Company made the island a center for the Atlantic slave trade. Therefore, the island’s unique history as a melting pot of different cultures and languages has led to the creation of a multilingual community. Most Curaçao locals are bilingual, if not trilingual.

What’s the currency in Curaçao? 

Interestingly, Curaçao shares a Central Bank with St. Maarten, which is in charge of one currency: the Netherlands Antillean guilder. Nonetheless, the bank has proposed replacing the Antillean guilder with a new currency called the Caribbean guilder. This new currency is currently set to go into circulation sometime during 2021 and will be pegged to the U.S. dollar.

However, if you’re visiting Curaçao from the U.S., you don’t have to worry about exchanging money. Most restaurants and stores on the island accept the U.S. dollar. Nonetheless, be aware that you may receive your change in guilders. Additionally, ATMs in Curaçao offer you to option to withdraw dollars or guilders. If you want to make things really easy, just bring your credit card! Both credit and debit cards are widely accepted throughout the country.

Check out some fun activities in Curaçao below!

 

This post was originally published in June 2019 and has since been updated.

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