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Impressions of Curacao from a First-Time Visitor

Call us crazy, but whenever we visit a new place we always find ourselves asking, Could we live here? It's fun, we think, to try to imagine life as a local, not a tourist, even if we might never actually do that. So, after a weekend in the country, here were our initial impressions of Curacao. Could we live here? Could you?

Impressions of Curacao begin on the water

First impressions of Curacao's people

Maybe it was a fluke, but our positive impressions of Curacao were helped by the fact that we didn't encounter a single surly person while we were there. Everyone was kind and friendly. Every. Single. One. Their accent is easy to understand and their love for Curacao showed in their eagerness to help us enjoy our stay.

Further, they are obviously a very well educated people. Even our taxi drivers spoke 4 languages.

This smiling woman left us with good impressions of Curacao

Curacao's surprising climate

If you go to Curacao expecting to enjoy a tropical rainforest, you'll be sorely disappointed. This has been called “a tropical island without weather forecasts” and most of what you'll see will be cacti and other plants suitable for xeriscaping. When I learned that Curacao gets only about 570 mm (22 inches) of rain a year, this little fact totally devastated my long-held assumption that all Caribbean islands are lush, tropical gardens.

Dry climate in Curacao
Typical day, sunny, dry climate in Curacao

The up side of this is that you'll have sunny, clear skies every day. This means there will be plenty of opportunities to work on your tan and enjoy its many beautiful white sand beaches. Further, this Caribbean island lies outside of the “hurricane belt” so no worries there!
White sand beach, Hilton Willemstad

It's a pretty country, both above and below water level

If you're a photographer, Willemstad won't disappoint with so many distinctive bridges, many-hued historical buildings and cobbled pedestrian streets. Its people are just as colorful as its buildings. While there's never a shortage of interesting sights in the capital, it can be fun to sit at a waterfront bar with a cocktail while watching the sunset, or riding Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge as she opens and closes for the ships that pass her way.

Waterfront has bars and beautiful buildings

Judging from our short snorkeling excursion, the SCUBA diving in that clear azure water must be as spectacular as the brochures promise.

The Caribbean waters around Curacao are crystal clear.

Impressions of the food in Curacao

We found a wide variety of goods in both local markets and supermarkets, though many items are imported and pricey. That said, as an island nation, seafood lovers might wonder if they are in heaven. Non-fish lovers will be happy to know that we found plenty of cuisines to choose from, both spicy and not.

Unfortunately, my excessively salty dinner proved that not all chefs are created equal. Not even on an island with a population as small as Curacao's (just over 150,000 people).

What we loved

The sunny climate. The colorful buildings. The Dutch architecture. The excellent infrastructure. Pedestrian shopping areas. The cobbled streets. The pontoon bridge. The street market stalls. The people are incredibly friendly. Hearing them switch easily from one language to another. Snorkeling in the clear water and seeing all the tropical fish. Sleeping on the beach. No hurricanes.

What we didn't like

The prices, because so much is imported. The poor soil. The country has to rely on desalinization for its water supply. My salty dinner. Being sick for half of my time there.

Worth a return visit?

Yes. Most definitely. Actually, it is one of the most romantic places we have been to so far, and we've not had a chance to see more than Willemstad. Based on what we learned in the guidebooks (see below) the country deserves a week or two at the least.

Other thoughts

We were totally amazed by the ease with which everyone switched from one language to another, not to mention the more remarkable fact that they are fluent in four languages. Foreign visitors should check any We're #1 arrogance at the airport.

Would we live in Curacao?

We might consider living in Curacao for a short while, but we'd live in or near Willemstad because we like cities best. It's a small island, with a small population that relies on tourism. Plus, there's a lot to do outside of the capital city that doesn't require spending money or eating.

But long-term? Not for us. On our livability scale of 0 to 5, we'd give it a 3.

What about you?

Inspired?

Curacao - a beautiful island in the south Caribbean - is full of colorful buildings and friendly people.

Written by Linda

I’m a happily married mom with an insatiable love for food, travel and languages. I hope our photos and stories will encourage you to travel, or at least offer a brief escape to another land. Let me know what you’d enjoy reading more about, and please consider subscribing to our newsletter.

5 thoughts on “Impressions of Curacao from a First-Time Visitor

  1. Fantastic post. The photos are gorgeous and want me to just pack up my stuff and go there for a trip. Would love to bring my scuba gear to take a couple of dives in the water. Thanks for sharing!

      1. I would agree. The Airplane Wreck looks like a great place to start. However, The dive sites that are listed all look awesome. There’s probably not a single site that wouldn’t be worth a visit!

  2. Love this post! We have been to Curacao 2,5 years ago. My husband had a job interview there, so we also tried to imagine living there. We decided not to do it. In July and August it gets so hot there and the mosquitos are annoying. Also, there is lots of air pollution due to the refinery. Other than that, it is an amazing country for holidays!

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