By land and by sea, the Caribbean island of Curacao offers a unique blend of family adventure. Whether interacting with dolphins, spending a week at Sea Camp or just chilling out on the beach, you'll be sure to find something that sparks your interest.
Just imagine swimming in the blue Caribbean Sea off of the largest island in the Netherlands Antilles, laying your hands on the dorsals of two majestic dolphins that carry you across the waters and with the precision of an ice skater heading towards the boards. Suddenly, the dolphins magically come to a halt just short of hitting the dock. The dolphins then kiss your cheeks, making you forget that you were thinking with terror for a moment that if they didn’t stop you’d be sent airborne onto land.
This is just one of many memorable family adventures to be had on the island of CuraÃ§ao.
Discovering the Sea & its Creatures
If swimming with the dolphins is your idea of a great holiday, then you will be enthralled by the CuraÃ§ao Sea Aquarium (5999/461-6666). The aquarium has 40 aquaria, an underwater observatory, and a tidal pool where you can hand feed stingrays, small sharks and turtles. There is also a 3D theatre and museum.
At the aquarium’s Dolphin Academy (5999/465-8900), tourists can enjoy an acrobatic dolphin show and then have an on-land encounter, dive, swim or snorkel with the very same amazingly trained mammal stars of the show. The staff at the aquarium teaches you commands that have you interacting with these sea creatures directly.
In the summer, children can enroll in Kids Sea Camp (800/934-3483), held at the aquarium by Florida-based Caribbean Adventures/World Dive Adventures. Each session runs one week and introduces youngsters from 4 to 15 years of age to what the sea has to offer. The standard Kids Sea Camp package includes 7 night’s accommodation, daily camp program from 8:30 am–3:00 pm with a selected amount of snorkeling or diving, daily lunch, dolphin and sea lion encounters, Kids Camp T-shirt, a copy of Sports Diver Magazine, and other goodies. A variety of programs and packages with different levels of inclusiveness are available. Space is limited, so book ahead online for summer family programs at http://www.kidsseacamp.com/.
CuraÃ§ao by Land: History, Healing… Ostriches
CuraÃ§ao has a multi-racial population of over 160,000. Dutch is the official language, but English and Spanish are widely spoken. At home, CuraÃ§aoans speak a blended language called Papiamentu.
CuraÃ§ao offers a plethora of family activities and attractions. The capital of the island, Willemstad, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From Willemstad’s centrally located Wilhelmina Park, you’re a short walk from historic forts, a floating market and shops selling souvenirs, arts and crafts and fine jewelry. Little Switzerland
(5999/416-2111) is an especially popular store.
A must see for older children and adults alike is the KurÃ¡ Hulanda Museum (5999/434-7701) in Otrobanda, owned by Dutch philanthropist Jacob Gelt Dekker. In 1998, Decker turned a re-gentrified neighborhood into a quaint colonial village hotel complex. When he learned the area was once a major slave port on the West Africa/South America trade route, he built an impressive museum dedicated to this shocking period in history, as well as to the anthropological and cultural heritage throughout the Caribbean.
On the eastern side of the island is Den Paradera (5999/767-5608), meaning Herb Garden. Here, visitors learn about the folklore of CuraÃ§ao and the healing that can come from nature. After touring the garden, where you get to brush your teeth using plant material, you are ushered into a gift shop that sells aromatic herbal remedies for almost every ailment.
Smelling not as good as Den Paradera, but equally as interesting, is the CuraÃ§ao Ostrich Farm (5999/747-2777). Aboard an open-back truck, the tour introduces you to these fine-feathered friends. If you dare, you can even feed these creatures from a big bowl, but beware—they have no manners and food flies everywhere. Other animals at the farm include baby crocodiles and Vietnam potbellied pigs. Our tour ended with a member of the group being asked to step on top of an ostrich egg—the egg was so strong it held the persons’ full body weight!
Resort hotels that cater to children include the Hilton CuraÃ§ao (800/GO-HILTON; 5999/462-5000) and the CuraÃ§ao Marriott Beach Resort (877/223-6388, 5999/736-8800), both a la carte and very nice modern facilities. The budget-minded, all-inclusive SuperClubs Breezes CuraÃ§ao (877/GO-SUPER) is known for its Camp Breezes, chockfull of activities suited to the entire family.
The locally owned Avila Beach Hotel (800/747-8162; 5999/461-4377) called La Belle Alliance two hundred years ago, served as CuraÃ§ao’s Governor’s residence, and has operated as an elegant hotel since 1949. It is a great place to enjoy top-notch local music at their hot nightspot, Blues.
Getting to the Dutch colonies is easier than it used to be. Throughout the year, flight connections can be made through Miami on American Airlines or via Atlanta on Delta.
For more information online about transportation, attractions, accommodations, and general travel concerns, visit Curacao Tourism.
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