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Loc: originally NY/now Tennessee
Trip report Curacao Oct 28-Nov 7, 2017 (long)
      11/09/17 07:14 PM

We will start out with a disclosure that we were supposed to be in St. Maarten during this period, but Irma dramatically changed our plans. Uncertain of where to go and after doing a lot of homework, we decided upon Curaçao. We had tried Aruba last year and didn’t care for it. This was our first visit to Curaçao. We went knowing it would not be SXM and determined not to make too many comparisons. That didn’t quite hold up, as comparisons always become inevitable.

We left the US on a Saturday afternoon via an American Airlines 7 am flight from Charlotte, with a too-long layover of almost 4 hours in Miami. The CLT Airbus-319 flight was uneventful and arrived in Miami on time. Our AA connecting flight out of MIA was delayed twice, along with a double gate change (one from a different terminal altogether). There was a problem with our original plane, so they had to get another. We finally got underway and arrived in Curaçao around 4:50 pm, an hour late. There was no movie, on this flight and the screens for the TV shorts they had were the ones that dropped down from the ceiling every few rows. The Boeing-737 seats felt small and cramped. We didn’t care, we were just happy to be on our way. The FA's were nice enough and the flight was smooth. We were starving by that point, so we bought the expensive food offerings and slept and read. We dislike connecting flights, but it was the only way to get there. Our AA flights back home, again connecting in Miami, were uneventful. The renovated departure hall is nicer than arrivals, though not many food choices and only a few souvenir shops. It is well air-conditioned, along with huge modern ceiling fans and adequate seating.
Suffice it to say that we are not fans of American Airlines. We normally fly Delta, but they don’t go to Curaçao, so there wasn’t much choice. We dealt with it.

Arrival in Curaçao was easy enough. We had filled out the embarkation cards online and so we just whisked through passport control by using the e-gates. We highly recommend doing so if you’re traveling there. The airport arrivals hall is nothing to write home about, but it wasn’t hard to navigate. We did carryon only, so didn’t have to deal with picking up checked luggage. We rented from D&D car rental, one of the locals by the name of Daniel. You can google it. He came highly recommended on TripAdvisor. The local rentals are not allowed on the part of the airport property where the major rentals are, but it was just a short walk to the right when you exit the arrivals hall. We were met by Daniel's rep and driven by van to their office 2 minutes down the road. You pay by cash, there is little paperwork, and in literally 5 minutes, we were on our way. Daniel is a joy to deal with; very responsive via email and gives detailed instructions on the cost, how to find him and how to pay. There are absolutely no hidden fees. We paid $400 for the car + $5/day for the Garmin in cash for 10 days, which included all insurance, zero liability, and the Garmin came pre-loaded with just about every place you’d want to visit or explore on the island. Daniel had it all under ‘Points if Interest’. This was EXTREMELY helpful and we strongly suggest use of a garmin if you travel here. The roads are good, traffic isn’t bad, but it can be confusing if you don’t know the lay of the land. There are lots of one-way streets and some roads are not marked that well.

We stayed at the Avila Beach Resort in the newer Octagon building with an ocean-view room. One can feasibly walk to downtown from the resort (probably 20 minutes), though we didn’t attempt it. The resort is quite nice, though it was a bit sedate for us at times. A little music or some activities would be welcome. It is very European with a mostly Dutch clientele. Everyone was friendly, but guests kept mostly to themselves. There was some minor construction going on in the hotel lobby, but other than a slightly disheveled appearance, this didn’t impact us in any way. The room itself was equipped with a small refrigerator, coffee maker, and a 2-burner stovetop, but no microwave or toaster. There were a few dishes, pans, and utensils, but this is basically a hotel room so it had pretty basic equipment. There was no ironing board or iron in the room, but the room info sheet said you could contact the front desk for one if needed. There was a hair dryer in the room, but no outlet by the mirror, which was strange.
Bed was quite firm, which one of us loved and one of us hated. We have a similar problem at A small balcony with 2 chairs overlooking the grounds towards the beach. A/C worked VERY well and the free internet was quite adequate throughout the resort. We had no problems at all quickly connecting anywhere in the resort. Daily maid service was fine, though we never did have a top bed sheet. Not sure if that’s a European thing or not? It didn’t matter, the duvet was soft and comfortable. Pillows were quite firm. Neither of us cared for them. Outside on the grounds there is an infinity-like pool with loungers and umbrellas. The pool water temperature was enjoyable. There are also some umbrellas and papalas on the beach area. More on that in a minute. There is a workout room, though we didn’t use it (or even see There are 3 restaurants on site, along with a beach bar. Food was very good, especially in the Blues Restaurant. We ate there several times throughout our stay. There is a nice breakfast buffet each morning, but the cost is $20 pp extra. There are several excellent restaurants within easy walking distance. Security at the hotel is good and there are also security guards outside the gates when folks are walking to and from the nearby restaurants. We used the usual common sense, but never felt unsafe anywhere on the island. Never.

Most of the resorts and hotels on the island (including Avila) have man-made beaches which look like lagoons. This was the first (and main)thing we didn’t care for. They look nicer in pictures than they do up close. The purpose is to make calm swimming areas. They do this by building a wall of rocks around the hotel beach and filling the bottom with sand. There is a small open area in the middle of the rock walls to allow some sea to flow in and out (think of the letter ‘C’ with the opening being toward the ocean). This creates a calm area with little surf and a gradual sloping entrance into the water. It is great for kids or non-swimmers because there is little to no surf within the rocked-off area. One can also swim outside the walled-in area in the open ocean, where there is generally better snorkeling, but stronger surf. The problem is that these man-made areas can get a little 'icky' (for lack of a better word). Because there is little water flow or actual hard surf, the ‘lagoons’ tend to be somewhat still and get some silt, which makes them appear cloudy. Some have algae in them, which made us hesitant to swim in them. Though most algae won’t hurt you, it doesn’t make us feel comfortable or enthusiastic about swimming through it. Some were better than others, but you have to make your own call about it at various places. A lot of people simply swam in them (and loved them). Some stuck to the pool, but we can do that at home.

What we absolutely fell in love with were the natural beaches on the west end of the island. Oh my! Places like Cas Abou and Kenepa (Playa Knip) and Daaibooi. Stunning turquoise water and open sea surrounded on the sides by small cliffs and rocks (there is a great jumping cliff at Knip, if you’re daring). There are other natural beaches too, some more hidden than others. You have to rent a car and go and explore. Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path. You will be rewarded with some of the prettiest white-sand beaches and startlingly blue water. These alone were worth the trip. Some have facilities such as bathrooms (don’t be surprised if you have to pay a guilder to use the restrooms), small snack bars, and snorkeling equipment. Some have loungers and umbrellas or papalas (get there early for the best selection, as the sun here can be very intense). The beaches on Curaçao tend to be smaller, they are not your typical mile-long extended beaches, but they are very beautiful. There are a few where you could be the only ones there if you time it right. Some are more basic and don’t have facilities, but are still stunning to spend some time on. Bring some food and water, throw down a blanket or towel and enjoy. Don’t miss these west beaches - to us, they were the highlight of our trip and worth every penny it took to get here and where we spent most of our days.

Restaurants: We ended up eating most of our meals at the Avila Resort restaurants, just due to general laziness after spending the day at the beaches, but also enjoyed a couple of others. Rozendael's is just down the block from Avila and was fabulous. We went downtown twice (don’t miss doing so) and had one lunch at the lovely Gouvernour de Rouville Restaurant and another delicious light lunch at the Royal Dutch Cheesery in the Rif Fort complex. Make sure to visit the floating market (it doesn’t really float) and the walkable Queen Emma Bridge (which does float). It’s quite pretty lit up at night. Lots of restaurants and stores to explore downtown. Fun. We also had a nice afternoon at the Mambo Beach area. Lots of little shops, along with many connected beaches (man-made, but not too bad here), and a Starbucks so I was able to get my caramel Frappuccino fix. Haha, there are priorities. We had lunch twice at the Greenhouse Restaurant on the Mambo strip - very good chicken or lamb shawarmas, among many other choices. A word of caution: while it varies from place to place, overall service on the island tends to be slow, so patience is needed. Everything is on island time. But that’s why we’re here, right, to slow down? An added note: the local currency is the Dutch guilder, but American dollars are accepted just about everywhere. You might receive change in guilders however.

We truly enjoyed our time on this island. It definitely wasn’t St. Maarten, but it was a good second option for us. YMMV. As for a quick rundown of those inevitable comparisons to SXM we mentioned earlier? Driving was easier here on Curaçao. There aren’t as many crazy scooter/motorcycles cutting in and out among the cars. Traffic was less, roads generally better overall in most places. The garmin was easy and convenient to use and, more importantly, got us where we needed to go. Gas stations were abundant and easy to use. Some of the beaches on Curaçao were just as pretty, if not more so at a select few, but we missed Orient and Anse Marcel beaches a great deal. They’re livelier and more fun than anything we found on Curaçao. None had multiple cute little beach bars like Orient. Most had one small snack shack with limited snacks and beer. And, as we said, we disliked the man-made 'lagoons'. Visit the natural west beaches instead. The food is generally better in SXM - it’s not called the gourmet capital of the Caribbean for nothing - and there are many more choices on SXM. We found Curaçao a bit too sedate to spend an extended period of time, though there’s more to do than what we saw in just 10 days. We think SXM has more activities and nightlife, better resorts, and overall a livelier vibe. While the locals in Curaçao are very friendly, they aren’t as open as those we’ve found on SXM (perhaps because there is more of a European clientele on Curaçao). Of course, it’s only fair to point out that there is also a familiarity factor in play. We’ve been traveling to SXM for 12 years now and have made many friends there, both locals and repeat visitors. This was our first trip to Curaçao and we were feeling our way around. There wasn’t anywhere near the comfort level we have attained on SXM. With that being said, we have to also admit that we felt safer in Curaçao than we've felt in recent years on SXM. We weren’t looking over our shoulders or worried about driving around the next bend. There’s something to be said for safety. We hope SXM gets its increasing crime under control, but that’s another discussion.

So would we return to Curaçao? Absolutely. It’s a good island with friendly people and clean facilities. Well worth the time and money invested. Do we like it as much as SXM? The easy answer is 'no', or 'don’t be silly', or 'of course not'. But isn’t that what travel is all about? To experience new places and new people and find the places we want to return to again and again? SXM is that for us. Curaçao, however, is now on the backup short list and there’s something to be said for that.

Sorry for the length of this report. It tends to get wordy when one does it all at once, rather than day by day.

P.S. - Really, really wanted to post this report with pics, but since PB isn't helping any longer, I cannot for the life of me figure out how to do so -- even after reading the instructions. Too bad, the visuals would have helped.

Robin & Ed

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Subject Posted by Posted on
* Trip report Curacao Oct 28-Nov 7, 2017 (long) irish1223 11/09/17 07:14 PM
. * * Re: Trip report Curacao Oct 28-Nov 7, 2017 (long) The_Lurker   11/12/17 02:56 PM
. * * Re: Trip report Curacao Oct 28-Nov 7, 2017 (long) irish1223   11/13/17 11:18 AM
. * * Re: Trip report Curacao Oct 28-Nov 7, 2017 (long) GettingThere   11/16/17 09:35 AM
. * * Re: Trip report Curacao Oct 28-Nov 7, 2017 (long) thesimpsons   11/11/17 10:59 AM
. * * Re: Trip report Curacao Oct 28-Nov 7, 2017 (long) fabila   11/10/17 11:03 PM
. * * Re: Trip report Curacao Oct 28-Nov 7, 2017 (long) irish1223   11/16/17 08:35 PM
. * * Re: Trip report Curacao Oct 28-Nov 7, 2017 (long) GettingThere   11/16/17 10:43 AM
. * * Re: Trip report Curacao Oct 28-Nov 7, 2017 (long) fabila   11/22/17 10:37 PM
. * * Re: Trip report Curacao Oct 28-Nov 7, 2017 (long) irish1223   11/12/17 01:30 AM
. * * Re: Trip report Curacao Oct 28-Nov 7, 2017 (long) LBI2SXM   11/11/17 12:58 PM
. * * Re: Trip report Curacao Oct 28-Nov 7, 2017 (long) irish1223   11/12/17 01:43 AM
. * * Re: Trip report Curacao Oct 28-Nov 7, 2017 (long) islandgem   11/10/17 03:39 PM
. * * Re: Trip report Curacao Oct 28-Nov 7, 2017 (long) irish1223   11/12/17 01:21 AM
. * * Re: Trip report Curacao Oct 28-Nov 7, 2017 (long) pat   11/10/17 11:26 AM
. * * Re: Trip report Curacao Oct 28-Nov 7, 2017 (long) irish1223   11/10/17 11:47 AM
. * * Re: Trip report Curacao Oct 28-Nov 7, 2017 (long) SXMFOX   11/09/17 08:48 PM
. * * Re: Trip report Curacao Oct 28-Nov 7, 2017 (long) irish1223   11/09/17 09:02 PM
. * * Re: Trip report Curacao Oct 28-Nov 7, 2017 (long) Carol_HillAdministrator   11/09/17 10:06 PM
. * * Re: Trip report Curacao Oct 28-Nov 7, 2017 (long) irish1223   11/10/17 11:48 AM
. * * Re: Trip report Curacao Oct 28-Nov 7, 2017 (long) LBI2SXM   11/10/17 12:55 PM
. * * Re: Trip report Curacao Oct 28-Nov 7, 2017 (long) Carol_HillAdministrator   11/09/17 08:34 PM

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