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To Plan A Trip

June 2024
1min read

For information on the island’s attractions and hotels, call the CuraÇao Tourist Board in the United States (1-800-332-8266). From a variety of accommodations—ranging from guesthouses to j large resorts and even including a converted landhuis (Cas Abao)—I selected two. Each turned out, in its way, to be the perfect choice.

The Avila Beach Hotel, on a pretty, if small, strip of beach on the outskirts of town, is built around an eighteenthcentury governor’s mansion. A string of newer beachfront villas in a traditional Dutch style features larger, more elegantly furnished rooms, but nothing could be more pleasant than my thirdfloor room in the old wing, opening onto a loggia and open too to the sights and sounds of the sea just below. It was clear right away that the Avila Beach is the hotel of choice for the Dutch tourists who fill the island in search of winter sun and in some cases come to CuraÇao to explore family histories (Oil 5999 614377).

I spent one night in the heart of town at the Otrabanda Hotel (Oil 5999 627400), known as a stopping place for business people and for tourists on frugal budgets. A charming peaked-roof, pale blue structure edging the water on the Otrabanda (which translates as “other side”), the hotel is a great place for enjoying all the best views the town has to offer. From the picture windows of my small but comfortable room I could spy the lineup of buildings on Handelskade that is CuraÇao’s favorite image, and I could watch its endlessly active Queen Emma Bridge, which spans the harbor. Five hundred feet long and built on pontoons, the bridge was an 1888 design of the U.S. consul L. B, Smith, who made an enormous impact on the island. The Maine native was the first person to import ice, and he modernized CuraÇao’s water distribution and brought electrification. The bridge, rebuilt in 1939, is powered by two ship’s engines. Many times a day it swings on a ninety-degree arc from the Punda side to latch onto the sea wall on the Otrabanda side, opening the channel to allow ship traffic of every kind in and out of the harbor. When the bridge isn’t open, a free ferry transports people back and forth.

Thirty years ago CuraÇao was a major stopping place for cruise ships, and in the last few years the port has started to make a comeback. From the Otrabanda Hotel’s terrace I watched the huge Seawind Crown nose her way down the bay and out to open seas. I wondered who had the better deal: the passengers, who packed the decks for a last look at what a travel writer of 1908 described as a “little Dutch village,” or those on shore, who saw them off while relaxing in waterfront cafés, with CuraÇao days still to come.

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