Journal

Dushi Kòrsou

A little piece of the Netherlands in the Caribbean. That’s how Curaçao often gets described by popular tour operators to lure Dutch tourists. True, Dutch is widely spoken, the famous bitterbal is on almost every menu and you can buy a bag of licorice at the supermarket. But Curaçao is so much more than that. A young country with its own identity and rich history.

It is cloudy when the City of Lima starts its descent to the airport of Curaçao. A drizzly-cloud sky covers the island, like the ones you would like to get away from in the Netherlands. But when the door opens after a 9-hour flight you feel the cabin getting warmer by the minute. Where in the Netherlands we whine about the muggy weather in the summer, the humidity here immediately evokes a nostalgic feeling. I am far away from home.

I stay at the beautiful holiday villa Sol y Viento in the Jan Sofat district, just northeast of the famous Jan Thiel beach. A great base to explore the rest of the island, which is slightly larger than Texel. Renting a car is recommended, public transport is limited. During my road trips, I also used the Maps.me app, which offers free offline maps and navigation! Very handy if you don’t want to buy a foreign SIM card or when you are in an area without mobile coverage.

Holiday villa Sol y Viento, Jan Sofat.

Soho of Willemstad

My first stop is Punda, the picturesque old town of Willemstad. Since 1997, the centre, together with the historic districts of Otrobanda, Pietermaai and Scharloo, has been rightly included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Colourful, cheerful facades alternate, where they once were largely white. There are several stories about why the houses are coloured. The strong reflection of the sun, eye problems of the population and migraines of the then governor, who subsequently enacted a law to colour the houses. Guess who owned the paint factory?

Street art made by Francis Sling in Otrobanda.

Although you can easily discover the old centre on your own, it is strongly recommended to do other parts with the help of a guide. Residents are very fond of their privacy and some parts are still a no-go area. Dushi Walks Curaçao, under the charming guidance of Shirley, takes you past places where you would otherwise pass by or, in fact, be turned away by locals. There are two (photo) walks, one through the renovated working-class neighbourhood of Scharloo and the second through Otrobanda, the "other side" of the centre. Shirley tells the story of the residents and their neighbourhood. What immediately stands out is the fair amount of street art where social issues are illustrated. In addition, in Scharloo, a boom is happening: studios, art galleries and other creative companies are establishing themselves in this emerging "Soho" of Willemstad.

Ròm bèrdè

When home, Francis Sling, a prominent artist and responsible for various painted houses and walls in Willemstad, welcomes you to his "art-cave". Mister Diels lives across the street. He proudly shows you his authentic building, which was formerly owned by Dutch merchants. He loves showing you all the prizes he has won by singing and might even sing a song for you.

Tatiana is perhaps the youngest entrepreneur on the island. While still attending school, her mother makes soap from natural ingredients and her father takes care of the marketing part of their shop Integra Natural.

Francis Sling in his art-cave.                         The building of mister Diels

When you say Willemstad, you say Mister Chu and his famous Nettobar. Many celebrities have visited his bar on the Breedestraat. A great stop for a refreshing drink during your walk through Otrobanda. Don't forget to try a shot of Ròm bèrdè, a Caribbean green rum with spices, which he produced himself.

Mister Chu in his famous Nettobar.

Pistol sounds

About an hour's drive from Willemstad, you will find the Shete Boka National Park, or Seven Mouths. Where the south coast is the scene of the beach resorts and Ibiza-like bays with azure blue water, on the north coast you come face to face with the fury of mother nature. The Caribbean Sea hits the jagged lava rocks with all its force, leading over time to these boka (inlets) and natural bridges.

The natural bridge at Boka Wandomi

On the Leeward Antilles you’ll notice a breeze of wind around 3 or more on the Beaufort scale. The wind takes some of the heat away but does not block the powerful UV radiation, so you think you can walk in the sun longer than your skin would like. Apply sunscreen regularly! 

Four of the seven bokas are accessible through the National Park. I started with the northernmost, Boka Wandomi, and the nearby natural bridge. All bokas are accessible by car and have a parking lot. The adventurers descend and climb the steep stairs to get a closer look at the natural bridge. For the disabled, there is a platform directly opposite. From there I continue to the southernmost cove, Boka Pistol. The mouth here is so narrow that the water is pushed up like a geyser, resulting in gun noises. Accessible to all, a nearby platform offers fantastic visibility, shade and seating.

Boka Kalki is perhaps the least impressive of all sea mouths, but the road towards it is very special. You could imagine yourself walking through a fantasy-like forest, where you expect to see a figure from GOT or LOTR emerge at any moment.

At Boka Tabla, you first walk through the estuary to a viewing platform. There is a small passage between the rocks. It feels like you've found the secret way to a pirate treasure. The scent of seaweed surrounds you and the rocks are warm and clammy. A small staircase carved into the rock takes you to a balcony under the rocks. The waves ravage this natural bridge "in the making". The platform is nothing more than a grid, full of seaweed, the waves regularly flood the grid. Standing upright is only possible for children and the smaller ones among us. But entirely at your own risk. I just glanced at it from the stairs.

Beaches and snorkeling

A visit to Curaçao is obviously not complete without a visit to one of the beautiful beaches on the island. I visited quite a few and listed my five favourites. It is recommended to use water shoes, broken coral is sharp and you don't want to stand on a poisonous stonefish or sea urchin. On the artificial beaches of Jan Thiel and Mambo you can walk barefoot.

Playa Grandi

Fish waste from the local fishermen attracts a steady number of sea turtles to the crystal clear waters.
Surface: White sand, coral pebbles and rocky plateaus.
Facilities: A small beach bar that sells some drinks and snacks. Beach beds, umbrellas and toilets against a fee.
Access: Free, park downstairs and walk directly up the beach or park upstairs and take the stairs down.

Grote Knip

Instagram-worthy views from the parking lot on this rocky, idyllic beach. Don't forget to visit the nearby country house Knip, where the slave rebellion broke out in 1795 under the leadership of national hero Tula.
Surface: White sand, coral pebbles and rocky plateaus.
Facilities: A small beach bar that sells some drinks and snacks. Beach beds, umbrellas and toilet against a fee.
Access: Free, stairs or sloping walkway from the car park.

Playa Santa Martha

This beautiful beach with a man-made lagoon forms the backdrop of an abandoned resort. It is said to have been bought by the owner of the well-known Avila Beach resort, so take your chance for some desolate photos. Before you know it, the resort is under construction.

Cas Abao

A bumpy dirt road leads past the abandoned country house Cas Abao (Fuji moment!) to the beach that was used as the setting for the Dutch soap series “Bon Bini Beach”. Dazzling white sand, coconut palms and azure water. You’ll understand why!
Surface: White sand, coral pebbles and rocky plateaus.
Facilities: Beach cot against a fee. Shade of Palm Trees and Palapas (A palapa is an open space with a roof of dried palm leaves above it, on wooden stilts.). Showers and toilets. Snack bar and diving school.
Access: NAF 10 for a car with a maximum of 4 occupants. Beach is directly behind the parking lot.

Palapas offer shade at op Playa Cas Abao.
Playa Kanoa

The only beach on the North Coast where you can swim reasonably well in the corner of the bay. However, you don't go here for swimming but for surfing!
Facilities: A small restaurant and a surfschool.
Free access

LGBTQ

Through a mutual friend in the Netherlands, I met Allan Hoekman, a former participant of  Holland's Got Talent. Recently he and his partner exchanged the Dutch countryside for a life at their favorite holiday destination. I couldn't wish for a better guide to the nightlife.

Jan Thiel Beach, setting for the most popular weekend get-togethers on the island, is our first destination. For a moment you imagine yourself at a beach party on a sultry Dutch evening in Bloemendaal. The beach is the domain of both local youth and almost every intern on the island. The atmosphere is pleasant, the music international. With a cocktail in your hand and dancing on the beach, people jump into the sea from luxury boats. With a night-time temperature that doesn’t fall below 26 degrees, you’ll be dry again in no time.

We decided to move our evening to another spot and set sail for Willemstad, where you can park for free in the large parking lot at Waaigat. There appeared to be an LGBTQ+ party for the first time at  the Bar Restaurant Timeless, beautifully situated on the water with a view of historic Pietermaai and Punda by night. Because we are a little early, Allan first takes me to the cosy Nieuwstraat in Pietermaai. Coloured facades and strings of lights, hookahs on terraces and delicious spicy scents from the kitchens of restaurants form a romantic decor for a pleasant stay.

The colourful Nieuwstraat in Pietermaai, Willemstad

Around the corner is the famous 27 Bar, named after the famous "27 club" (artists who died at the age of 27). It is pleasantly crowded. People are chatting outside in the cooling breeze while enjoying the live performance of a rock band inside.

The party in the Timeless, which we see from the 27 Bar, seems to have gotten a bit busier, so we decide to head back.


As always with first parties and especially in the LGBTQ scene, only by going there you get to know the vibe of the party. The location is beautiful but perhaps a bit too big for a first time. Out of sympathy, we stayed the rest of the evening, enjoying the twerking moves of both men and women. Allan points out the weekly Friday afternoon drinks at the Floris Suite Hotel called the Rainbow Lounge.

What an island, if only I had more time!...

Useful

Fly
Both KLM and TUI fly directly from Amsterdam to Curaçao.

Entry
Arrange your online ED Card in advance, saves time at customs.

Stay
I stayed in the holiday villa Sol y Viento.

Drive
Offline route planner Maps.me, a lifesaver when there’s no internet

Walk
Explore Scharloo and Otrabanda with Shirley from Dushi Walks Curaçao. Part of the fee goes directly to the community.

LGBTQ
For a colourful party with similarly colourful crowd: Rainbow Lounge Curaçao.