What To See
Christoffel National Park
This 1800- hectare preserve is formed from three old plantations. The main house for one of the plantations, Landhuis Savonet, is at the entrance to the park. It was built in 1662 by a director of the Dutch West India Company. It’s now an excellent museum on the colonial era. The park has two driving routes over 32km of dirt roads, and sights include cacti, orchids, iguanas, deer, wave-battered limestone cliffs and caves with ancient drawings. You can also make arrangements to tour the park by 4WD. Christoffel is about 25km north of Willemstad.
Museum Kura Hulanda
One of the best museums in the Caribbean, this is part of the boutique hotel of the same name and is housed in 19th-century slave quarters. The brutal history of slavery in the Caribbean is documented here in superb and extensive exhibits. Look for the unflinching account by John Gabriel Stedman of slavery in 1700s Suriname.
Curaçao Maritime Museum
The other superb museum in Willemstad. Engaging displays trace the island’s history, detailing how the Dutch West India Company kicked Spain’s butt to gain control of the ABCs through to the commercial boom of the 20th century, when the port was where commerce from the US, Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America met. Well worth the 90-minute time investment are the museum’s harbor tours, which take in the industrial specter of Schottegat.
Carnival is Curaçao's biggest event, starting in January and continuing on through February. People dressed in wild outfits gather in the Otrobanda district of Willemstad and then shake their way through the streets for three leg-jellying days, stopping here and there to eat, drink and dance to the music of hundreds of competing bands. On Easter Monday the Great Seú March celebrates traditional culture in song, dance and costume. Curaçao's long-standing Caribbean Jazz Fest, held in September, is a slightly mellower event that brings international jazz musicians to Willemstad.
Curaçaons do celebrate Christmas, but the big gift-giving day is Sint Nicolaas Day on 6 December. Sint Nicolaas is a Dutch Santa Claus figure who arrives in Willemstad's St Anna Bay in late November in a boat laden with candy and gifts for the kiddies. On the eve of Sint Nicolaas Day, children leave a bucket of water and a shoe plugged with hay and carrots for the horse-borne saint. Well-behaved littlies wake up to find their shoes filled with goodies.
In November, there's the chaotic Curaçao Regatta from St Barbara to St Anna Bay on Curaçao's southern coast. Competitors can enter with any sort of sailing craft, meaning wily windsurfers try to outgun sleek ocean-going sailboats.