Travel (virtually) to the island of Curaao through these photos – USA Today 10Best

Photo courtesy of iStock / texpan

The island of Curaao, one of the Caribbeans ABC Islands (along with Aruba and Bonaire), feels like a corner of the Netherlands was dropped into the Caribbean. Colorful Dutch colonial architecture, stunning beaches, underwater coral walls and a UNESCO-listed capital make this island a favorite in the Southern Caribbean.

Photo courtesy of Eduardo Gato / Curaao Tourist Board

This green building in the Scharloo District, a neighborhood once inhabited by wealthy merchants, is known as the Wedding Cake House for its tiered structure and intricate architectural detail. Scharloo is one of four districts in Willemstad, along with Otrobanda, Punda and Pietermaai.

Photo courtesy of Eduardo Gato / Curaao Tourist Board

A cross between a milkshake and a smoothie, a batido ranks among the most popular ways on the island to cool off after a day at the beach. Youll find this combination of fresh or frozen fruit, milk and sugar sold at roadside trucks around the island.

Photo courtesy of Eduardo Gato / Curaao Tourist Board

Blue Curaao is distilled and bottled in Curaao (and has been since 1896). During the distillation process, dried peels of Laraha oranges are mixed with eight different spices. The resulting liqueur is clear, but blue coloring is added, giving it its distinct look.

You know you have the real thing from the round glass bottle, which has a rough texture resembling a Laraha orange peel.

Photo courtesy of Eduardo Gato / Curaao Tourist Board

Its easy to see why this submerged cave in the cliffs of Curaaos west coast is named the Blue Room. Only accessible by sea, the cave exhibits electric blue water, a phenomenon of sunlight refraction. Go snorkeling inside for the chance to spot schools of fish and lobster.

Photo courtesy of Eduardo Gato / Curaao Tourist Board

Sun seekers can choose from more than 35 beaches on the island, including the popular Cas Abao. This white sand beach has calm, clear waters ideal for swimming, plus a reef just offshore for snorkeling and scuba diving.

Photo courtesy of Eduardo Gato / Curaao Tourist Board

Dutch influence is evident throughout the island, including in its cuisine, where seafood is always a star. Lawyer-turned-chef Helmi Smeulders teaches Caribbean cooking classes to visitors, one of many delicious local food experiences on the menu in Curaao.

Photo courtesy of Eduardo Gato / Curaao Tourist Board

Chill Beach Bar & Grill at LionsDive Resort is known for its tropical cocktails, beach barbecues and lively happy hours. Settle into a hammock to sip on a coconut-infused libation, or tuck into fish and meat skewers hot off the grill. This toes-in-the-sand spot is particularly lively on Friday afternoons.

Photo courtesy of Eduardo Gato / Curaao Tourist Board

Head to Playa Piskado, a tiny fishermens beach, to watch the fishing boats haul in their catch. Once ashore, you can see the fishermen clean the fish right on the beach; keep an eye out for sea turtles, who come toward shore to eat the scraps tossed into the water.

Photo courtesy of Eduardo Gato / Curaao Tourist Board

Locals and visitors alike gather at Playa Forti to experience the adrenaline rush of cliff jumping into the clear turquoise water. This 40-foot cliff behind Restaurant Playa Forti gets particularly busy on weekends around sunset.

Photo courtesy of Eduardo Gato / Curaao Tourist Board

Its well worth tearing yourself away from the beach to visit one or two of the islands excellent museums. Pictured here is the Museo di Tamb Shon Cola, where a local musician demonstrates how to stretch a tambu drum.

Photo courtesy of Eduardo Gato / Curaao Tourist Board

Handelskade, a stretch of pier in the Punda District of Willemstad, ranks among the most photographed spots on the island thanks to its brightly painted Colonial Dutch buildings on the water of St. Anna Bay. Set aside some time for a drink at one of the outdoor cafes as you watch the floating Queen Emma Bridge swing open and shut.

Photo courtesy of Eduardo Gato / Curaao Tourist Board

No trip to Curaao would be complete without a meal at Jaanchies, one of the islands most popular local restaurants. Instead of a formal menu, Jaanchie often takes a seat at the table to share the days options. The leafy outdoor dining area is a hot spot for birds.

Photo courtesy of Eduardo Gato / Curaao Tourist Board

The Mikv Israel-Emanuel Synagogue, the oldest continually used temple in the Western Hemisphere, was first dedicated in 1732. The sand-covered floor is said to symbolize the sand used during the Inquisition to muffle the sounds in houses of worship, as well as the 40 years the Jewish people spent wandering the desert.

Photo courtesy of Eduardo Gato / Curaao Tourist Board

Punda, Willemstads first colonial settlement, is also one of its most colorful. Many of the preserved colonial buildings now house art galleries and studios, like the Nena Sanchez Gallery. Sanchez was a self-taught local artist known for capturing the bright colors of the island in her work.

Photo courtesy of Eduardo Gato / Curaao Tourist Board

Shete Boka means "seven mouths" in Dutch, even though there are more than seven coves in Shete Boka National Park. Come watch the waves crash against the rocks and underground cave at Boka Tabla, or watch for nesting sea turtles along the small beaches.

Photo courtesy of Eduardo Gato / Curaao Tourist Board

For some of the best oceanfront views, spend an afternoon or evening sipping cocktails at St. Tropez Ocean Club in Willemstad. This sleek seaside lounge, a go-to on Friday nights, features a large swimming pool, private cabanas and a DJ spinning during happy hour.

Photo courtesy of Eduardo Gato / Curaao Tourist Board

Curaao enjoys one of the most colorful street art scenes in the Caribbean, with murals dotting the streets of Willemstad and beyond. For the best concentration of street art, talk a stroll through the streets of Otrobanda, or take an art tour to hear more about the stories behind the art.

Photo courtesy of Eduardo Gato / Curaao Tourist Board

Dinner in Curaao doesnt have to be a formal event. For a relaxed, al fresco meal, head to a late-night truk di pan. These food trucks serve barbecue dishes and typically open after 9 pm. Popular options include grilled chicken or steak with fries, served with spicy onion relish and peanut sauce.

Photo courtesy of iStock / Flavio Vallenari

While flamingos dont breed in Curaao, they do gather in the islands salt ponds to feast on brine shrimp. You can often spot flocks of wild flamingos in the ponds of Jan Kok, about 30 minutes west of Willemstad, as well as in Salina St. Marie.

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Travel (virtually) to the island of Curaao through these photos - USA Today 10Best

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