Exploring Curaçao Beyond the Beaches

Before I arrived in Curaçao, I received a manual that detailed safety. I was worried because it said cars such as Kias and Hyundais were more prone to being stolen or highjacked for the car parts. Well my ass had already reserved a damn Hyundai. They went as far as saying to keep my glove compartment open and emptied to show that nothing of value is left in the car while I’m not occupying it. They even offered portable safes for beach days because it was common for locals to steal valuables while people were swimming. I just knew that I was going to get robbed at the beach.

Thankfully, I was never robbed and never felt in any sort of danger. Otrobanda, the neighborhood I stayed in, was very quiet and I rarely saw anyone loitering on the street. I didn’t take any valuables with me to the beaches, so the risk there was already mitigated.

The first thing I did was the Otrobanda Art Walking Tour, established by Avantia Damberg, a local visual artist. Our group of eight ladies strolled the historic neighborhood learning about its history and discovering the latest art murals and sculptures. There were a few homes in the neighborhood that were abandoned and in need of repair. According to Avantia, many of them were homes passed down to descendants who no longer live in Curaçao and/or cannot afford to repair them. The government has decided to provide significant financial assistance to those families that invest home updates.

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The next day, I made it to the Kura Hulanda Museum. Kura Hulanda translates to “Dutch courtyard” in Papiemento, the native language of Curaçao, which is a mixture of African languages, Spanish, and Dutch. The focus of the museum is the Trans-atlantic Slave Trade, and is located where former slaves were held until they could be sold. For whatever reason, I was never educated on the Dutch’s role with the Trans-atlantic Slave Trade until I visited Amsterdam. Maybe it was because I’m from Louisiana, and educators focused on the French’s role instead. Or maybe it was because the Dutch tend to have a difficult time accepting their role in it.

The guide, whose name I fail to remember, was passionate and brilliant with her knowledge of the museum’s artifacts and the history behind it. One notable artifact on display at the museum is a lion-skin covering that once belonged to Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, considered by Rastafari to be the messiah. It seemed to be something that should have been well-preserved behind a glass protector, but it was out in the open for anyone to touch.

Haile Selassie lion cloth

The museum didn’t showcase as much history related to Curaçao, but I learned a bit of history from the landuizen. These country houses were former plantations, and many of them have been converted to museums, art galleries, and distilleries. Landuis Knip was the most thorough as it was the location of the slave revolt of 1795 led by Tula, and houses the Tula Museum. Although Tula was later captured and executed, he continues to be a significant figure in Curaçao’s history. Tula Monument is located in the area close to Willemstad where he was executed.

Tula slave revolt

Renting a car was great because I got a chance to drive to Shete Boka National Park one morning. Shete Boka translates to “seven mouths” in English, and I visited Boka Wandomi, Boka Tabla, and Boka Pistol. I spent the entire time being wowed by how utterly beautiful this earth is. It was visually stimulating, and the weather felt nice. There is a dark slippery cave near Boka Tabla, but I was too chicken to go inside.

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Jaanchie’s Restaurant was a cool lunchtime spot on the west side of the island. There were no menus, but a nice man came to the table with a notepad, described what was available for the day, and got a sense of what I liked. We agreed on rice, fish in a creole sauce, and salad with grilled shrimp. He finished it with some peanut ice cream. When I stood to leave, he kissed me on my cheek and sent me away with a gift. It was the most memorable meal I had in Curaçao.

Jaanchie's Curaçao

Restaurant Gouverneur de Rouville was another great lunchtime spot. Located just down the road from Kura Hulanda Museum, it was the perfect place in Otrobanda for viewing Punda across the St. Anna Bay.

Unfortunately, I can’t say much about the nightlife in Curaçao. There is Punda Vibes on Thursday, but I showed up at 9 pm hoping I wasn’t too early, and it turned out that I was too late. Punda was already dead except for a few restaurants serving tourists. Curaçao felt more like a sleeper island than the wild a craziness that can happen at night on an island like Jamaica.

On my to the airport at the end of my visit, I made one last stop. The Hato Caves were located close to the airport, and thought it would be a worthwhile visit. It wasn’t until then that I realized caves creeped me out. Our tour guide was great; he had a gold tooth and reminded me of Juicy J. Still, I will decline any other cave tour experiences from now on.

Hato Caves

Because I spent so many days at the beach, there were quite a few interesting things I missed on the island. If I ever return I would love to visit the ostrich farm and liquor distillery, as well as climb Mt. Cristoffel and view the flamingos.

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