Curacao is a small southern Caribbean island slightly north of Venezuela. It is found in close proximity to Aruba and Bonaire. The trio of islands are often referred to as the ABC islands where A = Aruba, B = Bonaire, and C = Curacao. Because the islands are so far south, they are generally considered to be out of the hurricane belt. As such they are frequented even during the fall months. This is in contrast to other Caribbean vacation destinations which are sometimes avoided due to hurricane season. Late summer to early winter is generally considered the time in which most hurricanes occur.
Lion's Dive Resort is a well known destination in Curacao. It is a moderate hotel, both in size and price, with decent accommodations, and a generally very friendly and helpful staff. The two main restaurants are Nemo's and Hemingway's. Hemingway's is open for all 3 meals, and is known for their wonderful cheeseburgers, pizzas, and sandwiches for lunch. Nemo's regularly serves dinner with a wide variety of island cuisine. The food here is quite a bit more expensive than Hemingway's, but every morsel was excellent. The food here was well worth the price if you have the money to spend. The Resort is Beachfront, and adjacent to many other shops and eateries. A beach side bar, and several other food shops are easily within walking distance for those who wish to wander away from the resort and experience other local cuisine. Also, if you're traveling on a budget, consider the local grocery store which is just a couple miles away. Store prices were more reasonable than expected on a small island. Each resort room has a small refrigerator to store your purchased items.
Lion's Dive is attached to the island's marine park. Although not large, you will see a wide variety of sea life here. You can experience up close and personal interactions with both dolphins and sea lions. Nurse sharks are another popular attraction. At certain times visitors may touch and even feed the animals with the assist of the park's staff. Upon entry the visitors are given a schedule of the park's daily events, and you can plan your day accordingly. One of the advantages to staying at Lion's dive is that admission to the marine park is free through your entire stay. All one needs is their key card to their hotel room, and unlimited access is allowed.
Lion's Dive has a reputable dive shop on site. The dive shop, Ocean Encounters, is a well equipped facility with spacious dive boats. The entire staff was very accommodating to the changing needs of our group. The divemasters were quite personable, and did a nice job of keeping all divers safe and with the group. The office staff were there to answer questions readily and politely. Be prepared to ask lots of questions upon your arrival, however, as there is no formal meeting or introduction to the facilities. This was in stark contrast to multiple previous experiences on the island of Bonaire. For seasoned divers, this may not be an issue. Novice divers, however, may find the lack of orientation a bit more disconcerting.Two dives highly recommended are the open ocean Dolphin Dive, and the Mushroom Forest dive. On the Dolphin Dive, divers are taken out to open ocean along the coastline to begin a dive. Ten minutes or so into the dive a dolphin or two from the marine park come with their trainer. There are only 8 divers allowed per experience and all are intensively briefed as to what to expect and how to have during the dive. On the dive, you observe the dolphins in their natural habitat doing the things dolphins normally do. Also, the trainer frequently brings them in for close and personal encounter with the divers. Each diver was able to touch or interact with the dolphin on four or five occasions. It was a fantastic experience, and no one seemed to complain about the $ 200 fee for the dive. The dive was captured by a videographer from the marine park, and the videos could have been purchased as a trip souvenir.
The second dive no one should miss is the 'Mushroom Forest'. The beauty of that site can not be undressed enough. It was pristine. The dive site was mushroom after mushroom of healthy coral reef with an abundance of marine life therein. This dive costs $ 40 extra to cover fuel and food costs. The site is about an hour's boat ride each way, with lunch being provided. The trip is worth every extra penny, and the extra travel time. It also had one of the most fun surface interfaces one can have on a boat dive. During the interval, divers snorkeled to the edge of the rocky shore, dove down, and came up in a cave with an air pocket where they could see and breathe above the water. It is great for those who love to explore underwater caverns.
For those who prefer a land based trip, there were many fun things to do on the island, itself. One can rent a car right there at the resort. Walk outside the front desk, and there's your vehicle. The front desk provides island maps which are of some assistance. Beware, however. One of the most difficult things about navigating the island is that even though the map is full of street names, the actual street signs are often poorly marked or absent, making getting around somewhat challenging at first. With a little help from the front desk staff, however, the difficulties can be easily overcome. Give yourself a little extra time to explore and you will be rewarded.
Particular areas of interest include the Hato Caves. Although small in comparison to others, the Hato Caves are significant to the history of the island. The tour guides give a very thorough and entertaining rendition of this history. As with most facilities on the island, staff are multilingual, and English is frequently spoken. Language is never a barrier. One important thing to note regarding the caves are that there are many flights of stone steps up to the entrance. One must be physically able to ascend and descend sometimes uneven stairs without much difficulty. The price for entry is nominal, $ 6.50 for adults and $ 5 for children. Gratuity is appreciated. It's a nice way to spend an afternoon. For the avid hikers, not far from the caves are trails which allow you to enjoy a walk seaside where you can observe natural bridges and ocean views.
The Aloe Vera Farm also provides a brief but interesting visit. There you'll see row after row of Aloe Vera plant. Inside the facility is a store where Aloe Vera items are for purchase. Items here are 90% pure aloe Vera. Aloe Vera is known for its healing properties. A wide variety of products from palatable juice, to gels to soaps can be purchased here.
The Ostrich Farm is directly next door to the Aloe Vera Farm. Here for $ 10 you can take the tour, and learn everything you ever wanted to know about an ostrich! A large World War II vehicle has been refitted with benches for the guests. The vehicle takes you around the farm where you learn facts about the ostrich. There are a couple stops on the tour. On the first one, the visitors actually can feed the ostrich. With a big bowl of ostrich food in hand, everyone takes turns backing up to the fence, and multiple long ostrich necks stretch around and peck everything they can from the food bowl. It's quite entertaining (for the adventurous sort!). Later you exit the vehicle one more time where you learn about baby ostrich and the eggs from which they come. The tourists get to hold a 3 day old chick, and stand on an ostrich egg which can hold up to 400 pounds! There is also a souvenir shop and a restaurant on site. The restaurant serves ostrich meat, if one so desires.
Finally, the quaint little downtown provides much opportunity for shopping. The brightly colored buildings and architecture are reflective of the Dutch heritage. Even small alley ways exhibit artists' rendition of flowers, butterflies etc, to spruce up the environment. There is a beautiful church here that has only sand floors which is a site you should not miss. There is a floating market where you can observe sellers selling their wares after they traverse the ocean from Venezuela. There is a bridge which allows you to cross the big downtown waterway by foot, or a ferry which will shuttle you across when the bridge is opened to allow large passenger ships to cruise through. Here you can find the uniqueness of Curacao, but some of the comforts of home, as well. Pizza Hut and Subway are easily accessible if you're missing a taste of home. An old fort is a point of interest, as well as the beautiful carvings which can be found in the trees along the city streets. The island also has good night life for those who enjoy a good party in the evenings. This is in stark contrast to Bonaire, where the evening activities are quite limited.
All in all, Curacao is a reasonably priced vacation with something for everyone. It's a beautiful island with much to see and do. Whatever you choose to lay on the beach and read a book, explore the island, or spend your time under the water, the island will not disappoint. So grab your swimsuit, your sunscreen and your passport. Your island paradise awaits.