Curaçao has its own brand of island spirit and style: friendly people, lively casinos and warm breezes mix with a Dutch flavor and a dry landscape reminiscent of the American Southwest.
A charming capital city rich in architectural
style and a diverse national park brimming with flora and fauna further
enhance this intriguing island.
The logical place to begin a tour of Willemstad
is at the Queen Emma Bridge, at the corner of Breedestraat and Handelskade.
This floating pedestrian bridge swings open several times per day to admit
ships to the harbor.
In the distance, spanning the bay, is the Queen Juliana Bridge, which cost $30 million and is known as the highest bridge in the Caribbean: vehicles cross the harbor 193 feet above the water. Tours of the harbor depart regularly from the bay side of Handelskade.
The picturesque Floating Market, on Sha Caprileskade,
is where schooners and sailboats from Venezuela tie up to sell produce,
meat and fish. At the end of the market is the Wilhelmina Drawbridge,
which connects the shopping district called Punda with the oldest residential
section of the city, Scharloo, once home to Curaçaos Jewish merchants.
Returning to the drawbridge, head down Columbusstraat
and youll come to the stately Mikve Israel Emanuel Synagogue, at
the corner of Hanchi Snoa. It is the oldest activesynagogue in the Western
Hemisphere: the congregation was founded in 1651 by several Jewish families
from Amsterdam, and this synagogue was consecrated in 1732.
The yellow-and-white section of the fort,
just inside the main entrance, is the Governors Palace, noted for
its striking double staircase. Across the courtyard is the renovated Dutch
Reformed Church. Although there has been a church on the site since 1635,
the present structure was built in 1742 and restored in 1763, 1903 and
1991. Because space within the fort walls was limited, part of the church
was built over a military magazine, which at the beginning of this century
was being used, ironically, as a government-bonded rum warehouse.
Scenic lookout points are scattered throughout
the park. There are also several caves, located along the northern coast
of the island. The Visitors Center has books, brochures and information
about guided tours and bird watching, as well as souvenirs and refreshments.
Before you leave this end of Curaçao, stop by Boca Tabla, situated just beyond the entrance to the national park. This magnificent cove is an excellent place to stop for photos of the islands rugged north coast; you can climb among the rocks and cliffs for a variety of perspectives. On the western side of the cove, youll be able to see and hear waves crashing into a stunning grotto.
attraction is the Hato Caves, just east of the airport.
A walkway leads through the various rooms
of these impressive limestone caverns, which are formed
of fossilized coral. Inside, youll see stalactites,
stalagmites and, of course, bats. The caves are open
daily; the small admission fee includes a tour. Theres
also a souvenir shop, and food and refreshments are
available on the terrace.
There are two small restaurants nearby, offering
refreshments and pleasant views of the coast and the small fishing boats
that dot the bay. If you follow the road around from West Point Bay toward
Willemstad, youll see a sign for Knip Bay. Two tiny coves comprise
this public beach, each reached by a divergent trail from the main road.
Either branch will lead you to a wonderful
setting, but if you try the trail that curves to the left, youll
end up in an intimate, simply magnificent spot--Klein Knip, or Little
Knip Bay. The area around the base of the cliffs
abounds with colorful marine creatures that are easily seen through the
shallow, transparent waters. Little Knip has virtually no shade or facilities;
but there are changing rooms and refreshments available at the other cove.
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