In the early 20th century, oil was discovered off the coast of Venezuela. And Curaçao was the perfect location for Royal Dutch Shell to capitalize on the new black gold, thanks to the Schottegat: a large natural harbor capable of handling massive barges and tankers. After the 1915 opening of the Isla Refinery, life on the island would never be the same.
While we were at the Mikvé Israel-Emmanuel Synagogue in Punda, we read about Curaçao’s oldest Jewish cemetery, the Beth Haim. It sounds macabre, but we always enjoy visiting cemeteries, and what really caught our eye about the Beth Haim was its location: right on top of the island’s oil refinery. Only employees are allowed onto the grounds of the refinery, so for the rest of us, the Beth Haim is as close it gets.
A small nature preserve near the town of Barber, Hofi Pastor is best known as the home of Curaçao’s oldest tree. We spent an afternoon here, checking out the ancient kapok and exploring a couple short trails that snake through the park.
Playa Piskado’s name translates to “Fisherman’s Beach,” which is an apt description. Locals keep their tiny boats anchored just off-shore, here, and bring their daily catch to the small dock. But it’s not just fishermen that you’re likely to see at Playa Piskado; this is also a favorite haunt for Curaçao’s sea turtles.
Leaving from Boka Sami, there’s a circular hike leading around the lagoon and salt flats of St. Michiel, and up to the top of Michielsberg. It’s an easy walk, about five kilometers long, and shows off some of Curaçao’s diverse nature.
We were overwhelmed by the beauty of the underwater world we discovered at Directorsbaai. Pristine coral just a couple feet below the surface and legions of fish oblivious to our presence… if there’s better snorkeling anywhere on Curaçao, I’d be surprised. In fact, if there’s better snorkeling anywhere in the world, let us know. So far, Directorsbaai is about the best we’ve seen.
After the Tumba Festival comes to a close, the next event on Curaçao’s crowded Carnival calendar is the Horse Parade, which takes place along Breedestraat in Otrobanda. Is there a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon, than watching harlequin-costumed men and women ride horses? Well, of course there is… but this will do in a pinch.
Just off the coast of the Caracasbaai Peninsula, a small tugboat rests in its watery grave, slowly becoming a part of the sea’s coral landscape. This is one of Curaçao’s most popular snorkeling sites, and for good reason; with the sunlight illuminating its shape and schools of fish darting through its windows and doors, the tugboat is an enchanting discovery.
The first major act of Curaçao’s Carnival celebrations is the Tumba Festival, held every year in late January. This is a week-long competition to choose the official song of Carnival, during which dozens of songs battle it out to be the top jam, all performed live in front of a big crowd.
Built in 1705 on the small Caracasbaai Peninsula, Fort Beekenburg once protected the natural harbor of Spanish Waters from attacks by pirates and foreign nations. The fort has remained in excellent condition, and makes for a fun excursion.