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 and a day in Willemstad, here are our initial impressions of Curacao. Could we live here? Could you?
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!) The country has 3 national languages, Dutch, English, and Papiamentu, and Spanish is also common, as Curacao is not far from Venezuela.
We were totally amazed by the ease with which everyone switched from one language to another. Foreign visitors should check any We're #1 arrogance at the airport.
Curacao's climate is a surprise
If you travel to Curacao with the expectation that you will 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.
The upside of this is that you'll have sunny, clear skies every day. In other words, you will have plenty of opportunities to work on your tan and enjoy Curacao's many beautiful white sand beaches.
Another thing is this Caribbean island lies outside of the “hurricane belt,” so no worries there, either!
Curacao is 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.
Judging from our short snorkeling experience around the hotel, the SCUBA diving in that clear azure water must be as spectacular as the brochures promise.
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, Curacao is an island nation. So seafood lovers might wonder if they had landed in heaven. Non-fish lovers will be happy to know that we found plenty of cuisines to choose from, both spicy and not. And there is no shortage of tropical fruits!
Unfortunately, my excessively salty dinner proved that not all chefs are created equal, even on an island with such a a small population. (There are just over 150,000 people in Curacao.)
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.
Is Curacao 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 from guidebooks, the country deserves a week or two of attention, at the least.
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?
Plan your trip
- Curacao's official tourism website can be found here.
- Find lots of helpful information about living in Curacao on liveincuracao.com.
- For more sightseeing, see our Willemstad photo gallery.
- Google Maps offers an aerial view of Curacao. Zoom, scroll around and explore!
Getting around Curacao
Transportation:– This website shows how to get anywhere by plane, train, bus, ferry and car.
Where to stay in Curacao
We stayed at the Hilton Curacao. Since then, it has been reflagged and is now known as Dreams Curacao Resort, Spa & Casino.
Book a tour
If you'd like a local to show you around, Get Your Guide offers lots of affordable, custom activities and tours in Curacao. Click here to see them all.