Curaçao is the largest of the Netherlands Antilles and its capital, Willemstad, has some very fine Dutch colonial architecture painted in a variety of pastel colours, while in the countryside there are several beautiful plantation houses, called landhuisen. It also has one of the most important historical sites in the Caribbean: a synagogue dating back to 1732, which is the oldest in continuous use in the Western Hemisphere. For most of the 20th century the island's fortunes, like Aruba, depended on its oil refinery, which processes Venezuelan crude oil, but more recently tourism has increased in importance. Diving has grown very popular since the establishment of an underwater park to preserve the reef and there are dive sites all along the Leeward side of the island.
There are daily, non-stop flights to Amsterdam, the USA and Venezuela. There are also direct flights from Suriname, Colombia, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, the Dominican Republic, Bonaire, Aruba and St Maarten. Other flights connect in Miami or San Juan. Curaçao has good links with South America and it is easy to get to from Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador. The
Curaçao International Airport
at Hato is about 12 km from Willemstad and if you don't want to pay for a taxi there are buses to Punda and Otrobanda. For US military reasons, the airport has the biggest runway in the Caribbean at 3,410 metres in length and 60 meters in width, capable of handling almost any type of aircraft.
Willemstad is a great place to walk around and there are tours if you want a guide who can explain all the architecture and history to you. The two halves of the city are connected with a pontoon bridge, the
, which you can walk across when it is not open for shipping. Collective taxis and buses will take you further afield to most parts of the island; alternatively rent a car and explore on your own. There are about four car rental agencies at the airport, all the offices are together so it is easy to pick up price lists for comparison. One or two companies usually have desks in each of the major hotels. Look in local tourist literature or newspapers for news of special deals on offer, there is lots of choice. Taxis are easily identified by the signs on the roof and TX before the licence number. There are taxi stands at all hotels and at the airport, as well as in principal locations in Willemstad.
This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF