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When my husband and I started to get the travel itch in 2016, we knew we wanted to see an island relatively close to the US, but we also didn’t want to spend a boat-load of money. We were new parents and money was, well, tight. Recommendations came pouring in from our friends and coworkers. You name the island, they suggested it. Aruba came up an ungodly amount of times in our chats with people… And because I am stubborn, I started looking for anywhere that WASN’T Aruba.
Aruba is one of three Dutch Caribbean islands known as the ABC islands, which includes Bonaire and—wait for it—CURAÇAO. Doesn’t the name sound bad ass and exotic? (I will 100 percent admit to myself and anyone who asks that the “ç” in Curaçao was what won me over. I am a sucker for places where I can make do with the language situation, and as a native Portuguese speaker, Papiamentu—a Portuguese creole with African, Dutch and Spanish influences—was bound to make me feel at home).
Best of all, Curaçao has been sometimes referred to as the “working class Caribbean.” BOOM. Sign me up for an affordable time!
To Off-Season? Or Not to Off-Season?
My number one rule of thumb when traveling is to visit places during off-season. One, you avoid the hoards of tourists, but two, you save MAAAAAAD loot. Tons of green. Lots of Benjamins. You get the idea.
I know what you’re thinking. “Saving money is great and all, but doesn’t off-season in the Caribbean translate to hurricane season?” Not necessarily! Curaçao is outside of the hurricane belt. ::CAN YOU HEAR THE ANGELS SINGING!?:: Rainy season is from October to February, but their spurts of rain are typically at night and on the shorter side, according to all the online travel guides. As for the average temperature, how does mid 80°s F sound?
Booking the Trip
With the location decided, Travelzoo was our next step. I have yet to go wrong with anything they have recommended. They know their stuff! I scoured my inbox for their daily travel deals and found one that led to CheapCaribbean.com. Let me be clear from the get-go. I had never before used CheapCaribbean.com, but the idea of a one-stop shop to book flights and the resort was appealing. Plus, there are added perks to booking through them…
- …like the fact that if you find the same vacation on another US-based travel site within 24 hours, they will beat that price and give you $150 towards another vacation with them. Say what!? That did not happen in our case, but you can’t make that type of promise without some confidence that their rates are going to be low, right?
- …or their split deposit program, where you can make a deposit at the time of your reservation and make your final payment 21 days before departure. For folks who do not always have that type of money upfront, it is a nice to have that option. Not all booking sites provide that.
I found CheapCaribbean.com to be fairly priced and have enough booking variety that I could decide between an uber luxurious trip and one where I could save a few bucks. I combed through the site and found a deal of the day room at the Sunscape Curaçao Resort, your average run-of-the-mill all-inclusive.
Total cost for round-trip flights, accommodations, and unlimited food and drinks for 4 nights (2 people): $1,713.52 USD
Why the Car Rental is Very Much Worth It
We declined the transport to-and-from the resort through CheapCaribbean.com, mainly because we thought we could find better pricing. I am SO glad we were that confident in ourselves, because we stumbled upon a thread in TripAdvisor that referred us to D&D Car Rental (www.ddcarrentalcuracao.com). It was important to me and my husband to have a means of getting on and off the resort. We get a bit stir-crazy if we are in one place for too long and we wanted to be able to explore the island. Navigating the island is damn near impossible without a map. Enter D&D Car Rental and their $5 a day GPS. They had the best pricing by far, unlimited mileage and someone met us at the airport to pick up the car.
Total cost for 4 day car rental (including GPS): $172 USD
Having a car opened up the possibilities to see ALL the places below.
Curaçao Things to Do
If you buy any sort of souvenir from Curaçao, it will likely feature the Handelskade, the island’s colorful and historic waterfront that is also a UNESCO world heritage site. The view of the strip is vibrant and a must-see if you’re looking for the ultimate photo-op.
Fun fact thanks to curacaotogo.com: “One of the first Dutch governors decreed that all houses should be painted in colors other than white, because the reflection of the sun supposedly caused headaches and could even lead to inflammation of the eyes [and,] ultimately[,] blindness!”
Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge, Willemstad
And if the Handelskade is not on your souvenirs, the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge will be. Definitely a fun site to see during the day, but far more impressive at night with the colorful lights! This was the one photo-op I knew I could not leave the island without.
Shete Boka National Park
Crashing waves against the rocky north coast of the island make Shete Boka National Park quite the natural treasure. Check out some of the photos from our visit.
Total cost of entry to the park: About $6 USD
What You CAN’T Miss
My favorite part of the trip—HANDS DOWN—was exploring the island with ATV & Buggy Tours (www.atvbuggytours.com). Arnaldo and his staff were incredibly kind, safety-conscious (you know, for klutzes like me who drive into thorny bushes) and knowledgeable of the island and terrain. They took us to a number of places I never would have seen on my own.
Make sure you wear clothes you do not mind getting dirty… Or wet for that matter.
Taking the 3-hour ATV east tour will cost you about $100 USD a person.
ATV Tour Highlights
I’ve got limited photos on this part. If you have something akin to a GoPro for this part of the trip, it would be WELL worth it.
The aloe vera plantation covers 10 acres of the island and includes a gift shop for visitors to purchase a variety of products. My husband still has the mosquito deterrent we purchased there and it works wonders.
Ever ride an ostrich before? Neither have I, but the Curaçao Ostrich Farm (http://curacaoostrichfarm.com/?lang=en) provides you the opportunity to! If we hadn’t been on our ATV tour, this definitely would have been a cool activity to partake in. File under “missed opportunity.”
We did, however, get to visit with the various animals (parrots, ducks, peacocks, etc.), stop by the gift shop, and take a gander at the Zambezi Restaurant where they serve—you guessed it—ostrich. Somehow hanging out with ostriches and then eating them didn’t seem to kosher to me. To each their own.
“Bat Cave” and “Cave of Doom”
Two caves for the price of one. First, we stopped at the cave of an old inactive volcano. We’ll call this one the “bat cave,” because of, well, all the bats. The hike there was a nice break from all of the ATV riding.
As for the Cave of Doom, it was the most fun part of the excursion. The cave is otherworldly and the experience of swimming in it is lit AF. (Yes, I just said “lit AF”). Our tour guide, Leo, was great at explaining exactly where to climb into the water and where to swim, so we wouldn’t bash our heads when the waves came in.
Again, really kicking myself for not bringing a GoPro… Speaking of missed opportunities…
Yes, we’ve already hashed out the whole “missing the ostrich ride” ordeal. I’m still bitter. Can’t you tell? But what I am most bitter about is having missed the chance to cliff jump. It is one of those items I keep forgetting to add to my bucket list, and so it fell off of my radar during the Curaçao trip. Also, beach hopping wasn’t a priority for me since we had one on the resort, so I missed Grote Knip beach. According to a few TripAdvisor reviews, the jumps at Grote Knip beach are great for beginners at around 18 feet, with the water being less than 8 feet deep. Next time!
Start tracking your travel bucket list goals with the Law of Attraction planner or through one of the resources found here.