Curacao (pronounced KEWR-E-SOW) is a Dutch island in the Caribbean, among the group known as the ABC islands alongside Aruba and Bonaire. Located just off the coast of Venezuela the island features a unique multi-cultural mix, playing home to no less than 150,000 residents who hail from over 55 different countries. The island offers visitors; ample opportunity to sip through cocktails spiked with Curacao’s iconic blue liqueur, sun soaked white sandy beaches, underwater adventures via top rated scuba diving sites and the colonial charms of its capital Willemstad.
Those looking to uncover the secrets of Curacao while loitering in the lap of luxury have ample opportunity to do so at the islands premiere property, Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort. The 366-room property is a short 30 minute drive from the airport and situated between the Caribbean Sea and Spanish Water Bay. Escape to paradise and embrace Curacao’s magical sea, sky and sun on Santa Barbara’s 27 acres of rare natural preserve. The resorts sprawling property features an 18-hole championship golf course designed by Pete Dye, intimate spa, tennis courts, bike rental, 120-slip marina, five restaurants, three pools and inviting beach.
Santa Barbara’s Premier Water View Suites offer unobstructed views of the Caribbean Sea best enjoyed from your very own private balcony. Decorated with natural wood, stone and earth tone colours and inspired by the Caribbean landscape, each room offers 410 square feet of living space featuring a comfy king sized bed, deluxe bath amenities, plush bathrobe and flat screen plasma television.
Sips and Nibbles
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are offered up each day at Santa Barbara’s Medi, a full service Mediterranean inspired restaurant. Sun soaked guests pop up to the bar in the evening, sipping through endless glasses of chardonnay while nibbling crispy bitterballen and crunchy cob salad. The ideal spot to grab lunch is at Swim poolside grill and bar where fish tacos and hearty cubano sandwich offer the perfect break for tan fans.
Those looking for a light and nonchalant dinner should move no further than the hotel’s spacious lobby where Jun’s Sushi serves up classic maki. If romance and haute cuisine is more your thing be sure to make a reservation at Shore, an American-style grill and seafood restaurant serving up the very best surf and turf.
Under the Deep Blue Sea
In 2013 Scuba Diving Magazine ranked Curacao as One of the Worlds Best Dive Destinations. Those looking to adventure through a lively underwater world can do so with Ocean Encounters, which has a petite office set up at the end of Santa Barbara’s beach. The last time I scuba dived I was swimming through stalactite caves while keeping a safe distance from an eerie school of sharks in Belize’s infamous Blue Hole.
My dive instructor that day was an enthusiastic gent from Argentina who spent the morning touring us through popular local dive sites: Director’s Bay and Newport. I had the opportunity to swim with a giant sea turtle while a school of several hundred bright yellow fish descended along a colourful coral wall.
Those looking to hop off the beach and indulge in an afternoon of rest and relaxation are offered a perfect sanctuary at Atabei Spa. The inspiration for the Santa Barbara’s luxury spa stems from the ancient culture and rituals of the Arawak people, the original inhabitants of the island. Spa guests enjoy a co-ed relaxation lounge featuring complimentary refreshments and spa bites before being escorted to their very own private suite which includes a personal vanity, rain shower and outdoor relaxation patio. Enjoy Atabei’s signature treatment, the Stemps Massage which incorporates classic hands-on-technique with sachets of locally grown herbs dipped in warm organic oil.
Picturesque Willemstad is the capital of Curacao and its historic centre can be found on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. “Town” is divided into two neighbourhoods Otrobanda and Punda which are located on either side of the canal. One can easily explore the area on foot: stroll across the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge, snap photos of the pastel coloured colonial merchant houses lining Handelskade, shop at the Floating Market where farmers from South America and the West Indies sell fresh produce and seafood, visit the oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere Mikve Israel-Emanuel and grab a sip and nibble at an al fresco restaurant in the old Waterfort Arches.
Blue Curacao and BLVD
Learn about the history and production of the islands famous Blue Curacao liqueur at Landhuis Chobolobo. The spirit has been produced on the island since 1896 and is flavoured with the peel of Laraha oranges, the stepchild of the Valencia orange which arrived on the island shortly after the Spanish discovered it in 1499. After sipping through a rainbow of colourful liqueur bottles we drove to newly opened BLVD, a hip strip that offers shopping, dining, entertainment and a relaxing beach. We stopped here for a a Lebanese lunch at Greenhouse where I of course insisted on starting with a turquoise thirst quencher made from the islands favourite Blue Curacao.