Curacao just a short 40 miles north of Venezuela is geographically part of South America yet in terms of conversation is considered as part of the Caribbean. Making up one of 5 islands in the Netherlands Antilles, Curacao is by far the largest of the group. Situated just off the South American northern coastline, Curacao is flanked by sister island Aruba 42 miles to the west and sister island Bonaire 30 miles to the east.
Curacao is not only the largest of the so called ABC islands, (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao) but is also the most populous of the 5 islands of the Netherlands Antilles. With an island population of almost 150,000 people, Curacaos capital city of Willemstad is also home to the Netherlands Antilles government.
In 1499, Alonso de Ojeda, a protégée of Christopher Columbus, while on his first solo trip to the New World was the first European to set eyes on Curacao. In the years to follow the Spaniards settled the island and exported the Indigenous Arawack Amerindians to neighboring islands as workers. It was not till 1634 that the Dutch settled the island and with the help of the Dutch West India Company made Curacao a center for the slave trade. Willemstad, with its natural harbor became the center point of trade and commerce on the Island of Curacao. The capital of Willemstad has earned a place on the UNESCO’s world heritage list with its architecture features of Dutch and Spanish influences. In 1914, the economies of Curacao changed, with the discovery of oil in nearby Maracaibo Venezuela; the Royal Dutch Shell oil company constructed an oil refinery on the island thus providing employment for many of the island residents.
Today the island has looked to tourism, from its Dutch and Spanish architecture to its fabulous white sand beaches and crystal clear waters surrounding this island oasis, Curacao has become a travel destination.
The island of Curacao generally a long flat island, stretching roughly 4o miles from the northwest to the southeast of the southern Caribbean Sea. The island at its widest point is about 10 miles wide with the highest point being Mt. Christoffel at 1,239 feet located on the western end of the island. The southeastern end is made up of mostly flat and barren land. The southern and western coastline is pocketed with many small bays, inlets and beaches. The northern and eastern coast will find sharp cliffs carved out of volcanic and limestone formations. With northeast trade winds blowing year round the north coast tends to be rougher than the protected southern coast of the island.
Curacao at latitude of 12 degrees north receives rainfall of about 20 inches a year and for the most part is considered a dry island. With terrain that often reminds the traveler of the United States south west desert, the island has a less tropical look. Temperatures average in the low 80’s year round with the coldest month being January when the temperature might drop to the high 70’s and the warmest month being September with highs approaching 85 degrees. A constant northeast trade wind keeps the humidity down as well as the temperature pleasant. Another climate plus for Curacao is that the island lies below the hurricane belt thus sparing the island from many hurricanes and disrupting travel plans.
Curacao has become a travel destination not only for its old world European architecture, but for its beautiful beaches and world class diving. Crystal clear waters offer unbelievable scuba adventures to the many surrounding coral reefs and home to some of the largest sponge formations found in the Caribbean. Night time can be spent in the many restaurants, bars and shops that line the water’s edge in Willemstad. Curacao also offers many opportunities for nature lovers, whether looking for sea life or the many tropical birds and reptile population that roam the island. Curacaos landscape is also a big draw, from its famous Divi-Divi trees to the numerous species of cactus and aloe plants.