By Allison Tibaldi, Taking the Kids Correspondent
Curacao is a Caribbean island not far from Venezuela. It is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, blending Caribbean and Dutch culture in perfect proportion.
The local language, Papiamentu, is a polyglot’s delight. This patois is a lyrical mix of languages including Dutch, Spanish, French, Portuguese and English.
Dutch is the official language and everyone on the island speaks English, so communication is easy. During our recent visit, we found the locals to be incredibly friendly, welcoming and open-minded. If your family is of the non-traditional variety, chances are you will feel right at home.
The Dutch arrived in Willemstad, the country’s culture-filled capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in the 1630s. Dutch colonial architecture in a palette of candy colors adds plenty of panache.
Street art is vibrant in Willemstad and strolling around the town is the best way to view it in all its creative and colorful glory.
Chichi dolls are one of Curacao’s most recognizable crafts. In Papiamentu, a Chichi is an older woman who is held in great esteem, someone who you turn to for guidance.
Families may paint their own Chichi dolls at Serena’s Art Factory for a memorable take home souvenir. The craft shop holds paint-it-yourself doll workshops on Thursdays and Fridays.
Curacao has a history of welcoming diverse cultures, races and religions. The local Jewish community is small but prominent. Fleeing anti-Semitism, the Jewish people started arriving from Europe in the 1650s.
To get a better understanding of this island’s Jewish history, visit Mikvé Israel-Emanuel Synagogue and Museum. Consecrated in 1732, it is the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere. It features an unusual Dutch-Portuguese Jewish tradition of a sand-covered floor. The sand is there to remind parishioners of their Iberian Peninsula ancestors, who used sand to muffle the sounds of their Hebrew prayers during the Inquisition, when they were forbidden to practice Judaism.
Curacao’s beaches are spectacular. Playa Knip is a local favorite and a good choice for families. It’s situated in a protected cove with gentle waves and blue-green water.
Curacao lies south of the hurricane belt so fine weather is practically a sure thing.
The local cuisine is a delectable mixture of cultures. You’ll find traditional Dutch products such as Gouda cheese side-by-side with island grown tropical fruits.
Food trucks are plentiful and inexpensive.
Batidos are fruit smoothies sold at numerous stands throughout this country. It’s a healthy, thirst-quenching beverage.
Oasis Coral Estate Beach, Dive & Wellness Resort is perched on 350-prime beachfront acres. Rooms are simple and spacious with kitchenettes for preparing snacks and light meals. Restaurants, a dive center, swimming pool and glorious beach equal vacation bliss. The property’s spa is top-notch and pampering services are reasonably priced.
If you’re looking for a large upscale resort, the Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort is a winner. Pools, a protected beach, water sports, a children’s club, a golf course and guided activities such as hiking and mountain biking, are some of the onsite options.
For more information, visit Curacao.com.