The "C" in the ABC islands, Curaçao features historic settlements, rugged landscapes and plenty of fun in the sun. Curaçao's main port city, Willemstad, is what an Old World European city would look like if someone dropped it in the Caribbean. The brightly painted Dutch colonial buildings reflect pinks, yellows and blues into the cerulean St. Anna Bay. Once you leave the city, the landscape shifts to a desert scene, with spiny aloe and mesquite sprouting from atop weathered limestone cliffs.
But Curaçao's real draw is the beach. Picture-perfect bays and coves flank the island, their turquoise waters lapping gently against powdery white sand. Curaçao's reefs teem with marine life, providing excellent underwater playgrounds for scuba divers and snorkelers. Best of all, the semi-arid island is sheltered from the worst of the Atlantic's hurricane season. Gentle trade winds keep temperatures in the mid-80s, so you can enjoy the outdoors year-round.
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The best time to visit Curaçao is from May to November, during the off-peak season. During these months, you'll find the lowest airfares and hotel rates, with rooms often priced up to 50 percent lower than they are in the high season. Plus, you won't be vying for beach chairs with throngs of other vacationers. What's more, Curaçao doesn't suffer the wrath of hurricane season. Curaçao's weather tends to be sunny even throughout the months that other Caribbean islands experience torrential rains. Only 12 degrees north of the equator, Curaçao's average temperature rests in the mid-80s all year. Most vacationers head to Curaçao between December and April, causing hotel rates and airfare to skyrocket.
Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center
Because of Curaçao's role in the slave trade, many of today's Curaçaoans identify deeply with their African heritage, as evidenced in their language and cuisine. Remnants of Dutch colonization are plainly visible as well, especially in the architecture in Willemstad and the countryside's Dutch plantation houses. Whether their ancestors came from Africa, the Netherlands or both, most of Curaçao's 142,000 people speak Papiamentu, a Creole language derived from Portuguese, English, Spanish, Dutch, French as well as African and Indian dialects. English is widely spoken throughout the island, but throwing a Bon dia ("Good day") or a Danki ("Thank you") into your daily interactions won't hurt.
A large portion of Curaçao's population is Roman Catholic, and holidays are taken very seriously. Carnival, in particular, is huge here, lasting for more than a month. If you're visiting in January or February, be prepared for colorful masquerades and loud processions through the streets. The predominance of Catholicism also means that most businesses on the island are closed on Sundays.
The Netherlands Antilles Guilder (ANG) — also called the Florin — is the official currency of Curaçao. One ANG equals roughly $0.55 USD, but U.S. dollars are widely accepted throughout the island. What's more, many ATMs dispense American tender. Dollars or guilders, most taxi drivers and waiters expect a 10 percent tip, but make sure to check your restaurant bill first — if you notice a 10 percent "service charge," then you don't need to leave additional gratuity.
Crime is not a big issue in Curaçao, but you should still keep an eye on your belongings. Look after your valuables on the beach, always lock your car, and stay alert for pickpockets in urban and touristy areas.
The best way to get around Curaçao is by car. Some of Curaçao's hotels offer area shuttles, and the public buses cover the majority island, but service is infrequent. If you want to explore the island on your own time, then you'll want your own set of wheels. Taxis are available from Curaçao's major airport, Hato International Airport (CUR), about 8 miles northwest of Willemstad. However, cabs can be expensive, especially if you are planning on using them frequently.See details for Getting Around
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You will need to present a valid passport to enter and leave Curaçao, and you may be asked to show your return ticket and proof of sufficient funds, as well as proof of lodging. Upon departure, you will be required to pay an airport departure fee of $39 USD — make sure to check whether it is included in your airfare. If you are continuing on to Aruba or St. Martin , you will be charged a $20 fee, or $10 if you're going to Bonaire . Some airlines, however, include these fees in the ticket price. For more information, visit the U.S. State Department's website .
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