Curacao: A Bright Little Star

Curacao: A Bright Little Star

I think of Curacao as a bright little star floating just outside the more familiar constellation of the Caribbean.

It sits only 35 miles above Venezuela, well outside the hurricane belt, a location that explains the island’s near constant year-round sunshine.

This breezy, dry island is outlined with a rugged, rocky coastline, offering incredible snorkeling and diving – some of the best in the Caribbean - and plenty of wondrous adventures both in and out of the water.

The Dutch Colonial architecture of the capital, Willemstad, with its rows of red-roofed town houses, makes the waterfront look like an Amsterdam canal, but with the buildings all done up in playful Caribbean colors.

This historic port city is so appealing that the city and its deep natural harbor Schottegat, have been inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. A couple years ago Curacao was rated #7 on AOL’s top-10 list of hottest destinations worldwide.

Abundant fresh food is sometimes hard to find on any island, but Curacao features a fully stocked green market. The Floating Market, as it’s called, is at the north end of one of Willemstad’s the main avenues, Handelskade Street. Boats arrive daily from Venezuela and Colombia, as well as other West Indian islands, to dock here and sell tropical fruits and vegetables. Scores of fishing boats also tie up alongside the canal, a few yards from the main shopping area.

Guides and boat operators abound who will take you to the many diving sites around the island. I was on a quest to find a mysterious cave, one easily missed if you don’t know where to find it. I’d been told that schools of bright, silvery Glassy Sweepers like to hang out just inside, past the cave’s camouflaged entrance. The Blue Cave, or Blue Room, is only accessible by boat.

My quest began at Playa Santa Cruz, a local beach where you can hop a water taxi operated by a local celebrity named Captain Goodlife. Characters are abundant in the Caribbean, but Captain Goodlife is a real card. He sunk is own boat just off shore to provide fish and diving to his guests.

Once in the water, I managed to slide into the cave between swells without incident, but my partner, only second after me, was lifted by the swell and hit his head on the low jagged opening in the rock. Once in it was worth the effort.  Abundant fish swam in wonderful patterns illuminated with striking shafts of lights. 

Captain Goodlife and his Colombian wife do business under the name, Let’s Go Watersports, and when you come back from the amazing Blue Cave, or Lovers’ Beach (a secluded sandy bay) you can have dinner on the balcony that overlooks the beach.

There is one last feature of this island you should know about that makes it so unique. Everyday, over and over again, the Queen Emma swinging pontoon bridge opens up to allow ships into its incredibly deep harbor. I could sit in one of the many cafes along the waterway and watch the "old swinging lady" all day!

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