The best way to experience the real Curaçao is at Plasa Bieu (Old Market) in the heart of Willemstad. Plasa Bieu, located next to the central market in the Waaigat section of the city, is a food court frequented by locals. It is the perfect way to sample authentic Curaçao cuisine (Krioyo), including fresh fish and goat stew (stoba), offered by local chefs.
From the days of bartering for goods to today’s currency and modern system of banking, the Numismatic Museum takes a look at money on the island. This delightful museum, owned and operated by the Bank of the Netherlands Antilles, is conveniently located in the Scharloo section of Willemstad and a short walk from popular attractions such as the Queen Emma Bridge.
Queen Juliana Bridge, or Koningin Julianabrug in Dutch, is said to be the tallest bridge in the Caribbean. The bridge, connecting the Punda and Otrabanda sides of Willemstad, opened on April 30, 1974, and is named in honor of Juliana of the Netherlands, Queen of the Netherlands from 1948 until she abdicated the throne 1980. On Nov. 6, 1967, during construction of the bridge, a portion of the structure collapsed, killing 15 workers.
Queen Emma Bridge is a floating pontoon bridge across St. Anna Bay connecting the Punda and Otrobanda quarters of Willemstad. The bridge, formerly a toll bridge, was first built in 1888 and renovated in 1939. The bridge, nicknamed “Our Swinging Old Lady,” regularly opens to allow ships to enter the bay. When open, ferries transport people from Punda and Otrobanda and vice versa.
Since 1994, Shete Boka Nationa Park park has protected 200 hectares of land along the northern coast of Curaçao. The coast sees some of the roughest seas on the island. The park is home to more than 10 inlets (bokas), including Boka Kortalein, Boka Plate, Boka Mans Alina, Boka Djegu, Dos Boka and Boka Wandomi, which features a natural bridge. Boka Tabla is perhaps most famous inlet and features a cave that is accessible during lower tides. The inlets are also protected nesting areas for sea turtles. The park makes for a great place to watch the massive waves crash against the coastline.
The Curacao Ostrich Farm may seem like one of the most random attractions on Curaçao, but it is actually one of the more interesting destinations on the island. Located on the road to Groot St. Joris in Santa Catharina, the farm is home to roughly 200 adult ostriches. Guests can take a tour of the grounds, feed an ostrich and even ride one. There is also a restaurant on site that serves up food made from ostrich meat. Of course, the gift shop sells souvenirs made from ostrich bones and eggs.
Simón Bolívar’s two sisters lived in this octagonal building while Bolívar worked in a house on a hill overlooking Willemstad’s harbor. The Curacao Monument Foundation and the Avila Beach Hotel restored the building, which is today part of the hotel. The building is home to a museum highlighting Curacao’s connection to Simón Bolívar.
The Hato Caves were once located beneath the sea, but as the ocean levels lowered, they emerged from beneath the waves. The caves, made of marine coral limestone, are located on the northern coast of Curaçao. Caiquetio Indians are the first humans to inhabit the area, but they apparently did not venture too far inside the caves. Later, they served as a popular hiding spot for runaway slaves. Interestingly, the caves are hot caves, and the tempature inside is not cooler like many caves.
Christoffelpark is the largest national park on Curaçao and features a variety of local flora and fauna, including wild orchids, the Palabrua, the rare native barn owl and the Curaçao White Tailed deer. The park, which was officially handed made a national park in 1978, is home to eight hiking trails.
One might not expect to find a large Jewish population in the middle of a Caribbean paradise. But Curacao is home to the “oldest synagogue building in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere,” and the Mikve Israel Emanuel Synagogue & Jewish Museum chronicles the congregation’s history.
In a picturesque mansion located on the Waaigat inlet and dating to 1729, the Maritime Museum features an incredible collection of artifacts and stories about the island’s inextricable connection to the sea. Curacao was “discovered” in 1499 and has been an important shipping center throughout its history.
Though Klein Curaçao is uninhabited, it is one of the most popular destinations for travelers who visit the main island of Curaçao. Today, aside from a few huts on the beach, the only building on the island is an old lighthouse. There are two shipwrecks on the island, including the remains of the Maria Bianca Guidesman. The island is also the final resting place of slaves who did not survive the trip from Africa. Several charter companies offer excursions to the island. But, be warned: The water between Curaçao and Klein Curaçao is quite choppy and many people find themselves sea sick.