Curacao is a tropical island just off the coast of Venezuela and is considered one of the most beautiful islands in the Caribbean. Part of the Netherland Antilles, Curacao is the largest island in the group and covers approximately 171 square miles. It is oval shaped, with an estimated population of 140,000 people.
Being just outside the hurricane belt, Curacao receives little rainfall - less than 21" - and, as a result, the terrain is arid and savannah-like. It is also flat, with the highest elevation being only 1239 feet (Mount Christoffel). The northern part of the island includes Christoffel National Park, which is home to an abundance of local flora and fauna.
The coastline is jagged, with many coves and bays. The northern area of Curacao is more rugged, with cliffs, rocks, and a strong current running offshore. However, in the south and west are many undeveloped beaches with clear, calm water.
Naturally, the main hotels, resorts, and facilities are located in the south of the island, near the beaches. There are about 40 beaches, offering the visitor variety, as well as seclusion for basking in the sun and swimming.
Most of the beaches in Curacao consist of sandy beaches and crystal blue water. However, these are not the long sandy stretches to be found on other islands but are often well hidden. They are known as "boss" in Papiamento (the local language). The secluded beaches are especially popular with honeymooners and those who wish to have a more tranquil experience, away from the resorts and hotels.
A popular activity is shore diving, as the sea floor drops sharply just off shore and visibility in the water is excellent. This is largely due to the low rainfall and absence of rivers - there are no rivers on Curacao.
The water activities available include not only deep sea diving and snorkeling but also kayaking and windsurfing. The resorts and hotels on Curacao are well-equipped to offer these options to their guests.
Tourists mostly come from Europe, South America, and other Caribbean islands, with a growing number of the United States and Canada. Of more than 500,000 visitors to the island each year, over 300,000 arrive on cruise ships.
Resort accommodation is luxurious in Caribbean hues for those who stay, and the service is friendly and obliging. Your terrace overlooks a tropical garden with palm trees, colorful flowering bushes, and many birds that come to feed.
A popular choice at the resort restaurant is a lizard dish, as lizards abound and are everywhere in Curacao.
Some of the resorts also have animal enclosures, with activities such as feeding the flamingos and a variety of sea creatures, including sharks.
Perhaps better known than the island itself is Curacao liqueur (such as Cointreau and triple sec), an orange-flavored liqueur sold worldwide. This is made from the dried peel off "Laraha" - bitter oranges (descended from the Valencia orange) that grow wild on the island.
The inhabitants of Curacao consist of more than 42 ethnic groups, mostly of African and European descent. The language, Papiamento, is a mixture of Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch, as well as the African languages brought by the slaves. English is widely spoken.
The island is a territory of The Netherlands and has had full autonomy in domestic affairs since 1954.
The capital city of Willemstad is a large port with much colonial architecture and was declared a "World Heritage Site" by UNESCO in 1997.
An especially strong element in Curacao culture is the love of music and dancing, with a major influence from their African heritage. Known as "tabu", its main foundation is drumming. The early slaves used dried goatskin over hollow containers to provide rhythms for their dancing. The partners in this dance leave their feet in place and only make contact through their hips and bodies, to the rhythm of the drums.
With its low rainfall, sunny conditions, tranquil atmosphere, secluded beaches and modern resorts, the island of Curacao has much to offer the tourist who wants to experience still pristine conditions in an exotic location; where the inhabitants are as warm and colorful as any to be found in the beautiful Caribbean.