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A Trip to Klein Curaçao

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Klein Curaçao, a small, uninhabited island found a few miles southeast of Curaçao, has become a popular destination for day trips, thanks to its pristine beach, excellent snorkeling, and atmosphere of forsaken solitude. We booked an excursion which brought us to the island on a catamaran, and spent the day checking it out.

Klein Curacao

There are a number of operators which offer trips to Klein Curaçao, but we decided to book with Bounty Adventures, on the recommendation of a friend. And it turns out that the word “Adventure” in the company’s name is no joke.

The 90-minute boat ride to Klein Curaçao was among the roughest I’ve ever endured. Over and over again, we slammed headlong into huge waves, sending the bow of the ship meters into the air, and then crashing back down onto the water. Within minutes, everyone on-board was soaked to the bone, and many weren’t able to tolerate it. If you suffer from seasickness, or even suspect that you might, this might not be the right excursion for you. Seriously. There were a lot of people racing to the railings to empty their stomachs, and not all of them made it in time.

Everyone on the ship was overjoyed when we finally reached our destination. Immediately, Jürgen and I set out to explore, wanting to get away from the ship as swiftly as possible. Klein Curaçao is less than one square mile in size, so walking to the opposite shore required just a few minutes. On the way, we passed by an old lighthouse. Since the island is so small, its lighthouse was placed right in the middle, visible to ships on either side. We climbed up inside the tower, and although the top floor was locked off, were able to enjoy some nice views.

Klein Curacao

We continued east until arriving at the shipwreck of the Maria Bianca Guidesman oil tanker, which is totally rusted and slowly breaking apart under the pressure of the waves. This tanker ran ashore in the 1960s, and about half of its hull is still standing, with the wreckage of the other half strewn across the shore. We saw another, more modern wreck a few meters up the coast. There are apparently a few other boats which underestimated Klein Curaçao, but we didn’t take the time to search these out, as we were eager to return to the beach and get into the water.

The snorkeling is supposed to be great on Klein Curaçao, but maybe we didn’t find the best spot. We didn’t see much living coral or interesting sea life, and I was just about to label it “disappointing,” until we started spotting turtles. Klein Curaçao is mostly undisturbed by humanity and our destructive tendencies, and has long been an important breeding zone for sea turtles.

We never found much coral, but there was a short period during which we saw tons of fish. After our buffet lunch on the ship, the captain and his crew tossed the remaining food into the ocean. What ensued was a massive feeding frenzy underneath the ship. We jumped into the water with masks, and had front row seats for the crazy free-for-all.

Once we had finished swimming, eaten lunch, and cooked our bodies in the sun, it was time to head back to Curaçao. Given the rough outward journey, I was worried, but the return was a totally different experience. This time, we were moving in the direction of the waves. The captain even turned off the motor and foisted the sails, and we cruised back in style, stretched out on the catamaran’s tarp, with glasses of white wine in our hands.

Klein Curaçao is hard to recommend as an excursion for everyone. I’m not exaggerating the hellishness of the morning’s boat ride; it really is hard-core and the crew confirmed that this is always the case. After vomiting, the guy next to us had said, “Why am I on a boat to go to a beach, when I already flew to an island with so many beaches?” And it was hard to disagree with this logic. The beach at Klein Curaçao is great, but Curaçao has a lot of others which are even better. Although we had fun, and I’m glad we did it once, I’m not sure we’d want to repeat this particular adventure.

Location of Klein Curaçao on our Map

This is our underwater camera!

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February 26, 2016 at 8:09 pm Comments (0)

Playa Cas Abou

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A large, full-service beach between Playa Porto Mari and the beaches of San Juan, Playa Cas Abou is not a recommended destination when you feel like getting away from it all. But if you want an easy day on the sand, with food and drinks readily available, you could certainly do worse.

Cas Aboa

Cas Abou is yet another of Curaçao’s unfairly beautiful beaches. This long stretch of sand, with palm trees and crystal clear waters draws equal numbers of locals and tourists. You can walk right into the sea without worrying about hurting your feet on dead coral, and the sand is soft and comfortable. All the services you might expect can be found here, including a dive shop and a massage hut located right against the water.

Perhaps the only problem with Cas Abou is that it’s too nice, and attracts too many people. We visited twice, and both times had problems finding shade; there are no umbrellas, so everyone competes for the few areas protected by palm trees. The afternoon hours can get hot, and we even saw people laying right up against the side of the massage hut, trying to get into its shadow.

But if you don’t mind the sun, no problem. This is the kind of beach you’ll be happy to spend all day at. The entrance costs a little, as do the lounge chairs, but it’s not expensive, and you’re free to bring your own drinks and snacks.

Location on our Map

We Used This Camera For the Underwater Photos

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February 24, 2016 at 9:47 pm Comments (0)

A Birthday Celebration at Playa Forti

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This year, we celebrated Jürgen’s birthday at Playa Forti. I wouldn’t be so crass as to reveal how old he was turning, but please let me reiterate that this birthday celebration was at Playa Forti. It was a wonderful spot to spend the morning, swim, snorkel… and to mourn the loss of fleeting youth.

Playa Forti

Almost immediately, Playa Forti worked its way into the top echelon of our favorite beaches on Curaçao. It has everything: beautiful rocky surroundings, glorious solitude, calm water, soft sand and excellent snorkeling. While in the water, we saw sea turtles, puffer fish and huge schools hiding in rocks along the shore. Forti is right next to Playa Piskado, and the snorkeling is similar. You can easily swim between the two.

But even more than the swimming, we loved the beach itself. You park at the top of a cliff which overlooks the scene, and then walk down a set of stairs to the sand. The beach is large and continues past an outcrop of the cliff which meets the water. We set up our towels on the other side of this rocky formation… there was a single palapa, which we claimed, and no other people. It couldn’t have been more perfect.

I don’t think we’re ever going to make a final decision as to our favorite beach on Curaçao, but Playa Forti would definitely be in the running. It doesn’t seem to be as popular as the Knip beaches, or nearby Playa Kalki; I’m not sure why. If you’re looking for an enjoyable, uncrowded day at the beach, definitely check out Playa Forti. Even if it’s not your birthday.

Location on our Map

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February 14, 2016 at 7:22 pm Comments (3)

Boka Pos Spanjo and Boka Hulu

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In the rolling, undeveloped hills to the west of St. Martha’s Bay, we completed a long hike through the woods to a few isolated coves, including Boka Pos Spanjo and Boka Hulu. This same trail passes by both the Blue Room and Santu Pretu, but unless you’re prepared for a very long day, you’ll have to pick and choose which beaches you stop at.

Boka Pos Spanjo and Playa Hulu

We were already familiar with the first kilometer of the trail, as it’s the same one we took from Santa Cruz to the black-sand beach of Santu Pretu. But after Santu Pretu, the trail continues inland. This is a wild region of Curaçao, and we didn’t encounter anyone for the entirety of our hike. For the next 90 minutes, we walked up and down deceptively large hills, suffering with the heat and occasionally winning a view over the area.

At the top of the biggest hill, we found the ruins of the old Bos Spanjo Plantation. This place must have been abandoned for more than a hundred years, because almost nothing remains apart from the foundation. We’ve seen more evocative ruins, but it was exciting to explore such an out-of-the-way, forgotten place.

Boka Pos Spanjo and Playa Hulu

From here, it was an easy, downhill walk to Boka Pos Spanjo, whose name I’m guessing means “Spanish Rest.” The beach was full of coral, and the water was too rough to allow swimming, but we sat down to watch a pelican at work, and enjoyed the view across Santa Martha Bay.

The trail now continued on to Boka Hulu. By this point, we’d been hiking for well over two hours, and our energy was starting to flag. Two hours of exercise in Curaçaoan heat is no joke, and it’s important to pack more water than you think you might need. But arriving at Hulu lifted our spirits. After climbing down a set of stone steps to the bay, the scene awaiting us was just gorgeous. We spread out our towels in the shade of a low, rocky overhang, and stretched out.

As they had been at Pos Spanjo, the conditions at Hulu were too rough for swimming, but I was unable to resist after the sweaty hike. And I was immediately sorry; the jagged rocks were too shallow, the waves far too powerful, and I was lucky to emerge from the water unscathed. I think that when the waters are calmer, you could swim at Hulu, but I’m not sure about that.

Boka Pos Spanjo and Playa Hulu

The rest of our hike brought us back north, past the jump-off point for the Blue Room and returning us to Santu Pretu. At a slow pace with plenty of breaks, this ten-kilometer loop took us about three hours. There are ways to make it shorter, though. For instance, you could stick to the coast and entirely skip the more grueling interior part of the loop; it’s pretty, but possibly not worth the effort.

Whatever you decide to do in this wild region west of the Santa Martha Bay, you’re almost certain to be doing it alone. We love excursions like this; I don’t know if it means we’re antisocial, but there’s nothing better than a day of hiking without seeing another soul.

Locations on our Map: Boka Pos Spanjo | Boka Hulu
Our Route on Wikiloc

Hotels Of Curacao

Boka Pos Spanjo and Playa Hulu
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February 12, 2016 at 5:16 pm Comments (0)

The Coastal Walk from Otrobanda to Piscadera

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A popular walking path connects the neighborhood of Otrobanda to Piscadera, up the coast to the north. We regularly drive by this path, and always see people walking their dogs or jogging on it. So we decided to join them on an otherwise lazy Saturday afternoon, for a much-needed spot of exercise.

Willemstad Piscadera Walk

We started walking from our house in Otrobanda, but the real “beginning” of this path is just past Holiday Beach. For awhile, every time we saw this hotel-casino complex, Jürgen would say, “There’s Denise,” or “Why is Denise here?” I let it go at first, because it was cute, but eventually I had to correct his pronunciation. “That’s Denny’s.” But he was right — what is Denny’s doing here? It seems strange.

In order to make a nice loop, we walked toward Piscadera on the main boulevard. This wasn’t as pleasant as the coastal path, because of the heavy traffic and the oppressive stench of sewage. Just past Holiday Beach, there’s a small mangrove forest, which seems to be fertilized straight from the toilets of Otrobanda.

We sped past the poop-munching mangroves as swiftly as possible and proceeded on to Piscadera, where the path turned back south and toward the coast. Away from traffic, this is where our walk started to be enjoyable. The long, sandy beach here, Playa Parasasa, appears to be a secret tip hidden in plain sight; it’s in a perfect position for sunset and popular with locals. We made a mental note to return one evening for swimming.

Willemstad Piscadera Walk

As we walked south, we came upon Aqualectra’s decommissioned Mundu Nobo desalination plant, which opened back in 1948, and looks its age. Despite a low average rainfall and almost no fresh groundwater to speak of, Curaçao is renowned for the excellent quality of its tap water. A number of plants around the island distill salt water straight from the ocean, making it safe (and delicious) to drink. Along with Aruba, Curaçao was home to the world’s first commercial desalination plants.

Across from the plant, ranged along the waterfront, are a number of rickety fisherman shacks. This is a lively area, with men and women outside working on their nets and boats, or cleaning fish which has just been brought in from the sea. In a couple weeks, we would be returning to this spot for both scuba diving, and lunch at an incredible seafood joint.

The path ends up at a small park dedicated to the black struggle for freedom, with a large sculpture of hands breaking the chains which had bound them. We were fatigued, and didn’t spend much time in the park. This had been a long, but entertaining walk; I would recommend starting from Holiday Beach, and perhaps just doing the coastal section; you’re not missing much by skipping the boulevard.

Locations on our Map: Holiday Beach | Playa Parasasa | Mundu Nobo Desalination Plant
Our Route on Wikiloc

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February 10, 2016 at 7:02 pm Comments (0)

Sunday Happy Hour at Mambo Beach

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Mambo Beach is the exactly kind of place which Jürgen and I normally avoid. Not only is it over-developed and crowded, it’s also attached to a shopping complex. But Mambo Beach isn’t necessarily just for tourists; Curaçaoans come here in droves, especially for the Sunday evening happy hour specials.

Among seasoned travelers, there’s definitely a shared conception that off-the-beaten-path adventures are inherently better than those which are popular. But if you refuse to do anything which might be commercial or too well-known, you’re shutting yourself off to a lot of experiences. So, every once in awhile, it’s good to visit a place like Mambo Beach.

Still, we showed up to Mambo with a bad attitude, ready to indulge our mockery. And the place was begging for it. All across the island, you see billboards for Mambo featuring beautiful, blonde women laughing and carrying shopping bags. To get to the beach, you have to walk through BLVD, an outdoor mall with the hottest names brands! And the trendiest fashions! It’s all so hot and trendy, Jürgen, we have to shop, shop, shop! And then we’ll be hungry… should we go to Chain Restaurant #1 or Chain Restaurant #2? They’re both so hot and trendy, let’s just flip a coin!

Mambo Beach Curacao

But after a few minutes of walking along the beach, we started lose the sarcasm and wake up to Mambo’s charms. Many of the bars here actually did look cool. And although the beach was crowded, it wasn’t overrun, particularly on the southern end near the Hemingway Bar. The lounge chairs were spaced out wide, the water was just as blue and beautiful as anywhere else on Curaçao, and there was a nice mix of foreigners and Curaçaoan families out for the day.

“And fine, there’s shopping,” I scolded myself, suddenly embarrassed of my prior sneering. “As though I’ve never been to a mall.”

We scouted out the entire beach, before sitting down for a couple drinks at the Cabana Beach Bar, where there was an early happy hour special. Before long, we were chatting with this huge, body-building Curaçaoan guy who’d taken a seat next to us. He was a car enthusiast, and engaged us in a conversation about the East German Trabants which are still being driven around the island.

I’m not sure what that anecdote is meant to illustrate, except for the fact that Mambo Beach is a good place to meet and interact with an entertaining variety of people — weight-lifting, car-obsessed Curaçaoans, for instance. That’s especially true on Sunday, when everyone is drinking and having a good time. As the Cabana’s drink special came to a close, the one at the neighboring bar began, so we moved over.

Wet ‘n’ Wild’s Sunday Happy Hour is something of a Curaçao institution, and the single most frequent recommendation we get when asking about fun nightlife. There’s a DJ set up on the beach, generous discounts on beers and spirits, and a large crowd on hand… and it’s as enjoyable as it sounds. We had arrived at Mambo Beach with cynical attitudes, but left with happy buzzes and a rekindled appreciation for the fact that over-developed, crowded, commercial activities can also be worthwhile. Not always, but it’s possible.

Location on our Map

Beach Wear

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February 7, 2016 at 5:17 pm Comments (0)

Intrepid Explorers Discover Playa Hunku

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We carefully made our way along an overgrown path, which, according to my calculations, had last been used by the Arwak Indians sometime in the late 1400s. Our mission was to find the legendary Playa Hunku, a place rumored about in whispered conversations across the island, but which no living man or woman had yet laid eyes upon. Our expedition was fraught with danger (cacti! mosquitoes!) but after a wearying trek of twenty entire minutes, we saw it: the fabled beach of Playa Hunku. And it was ours… all ours!!

Playa Hunky Curacao

The best part about this story is, I’m only exaggerating a little bit. Playa Hunku really is a hidden gem on Curaçao. Despite being so close to the popular resort of Playa Porto Mari, relatively few people know about it. We’ve even met locals who weren’t aware of its existence.

I hasten to point out that Playa Hunku is on private land. The road which leads there is closed, with signs indicating that trespassing is forbidden, and this might explain why the beach is almost always empty. But we checked with a few quasi-legitimate sources, all of whom assured us that it wouldn’t be a problem to walk over to the beach via the short path from Porto Mari. The owners don’t really care if the occasional tourist finds their way here, but they don’t want to open the road and have it become popular on a larger scale.

The path to Playa Hunku begins at the back of Porto Mari’s parking lot, with a brisk ascent up the Seru Mateo. From the top of this hill, you can look back for a nice view over the Playa Porto Mari… and it looks so beautiful, you’ll be tempted to run back down the hill and jump into the water. But press on, audacious adventurer! After a short hike of about twenty minutes, you’ll reach the other side of the hill, and be rewarded with your first glimpse of Playa Hunku. Note that the descent to the beach is steep and requires some caution.

The beach is a dream; a beautiful patch of sand, larger than we expected, with excellent snorkeling. While I was out by myself, a massive fish swam next to me, easily six feet long. I only spotted it from the corner of my eye, and wasn’t able to identify it before it swam swiftly away. In moments like this, logic flies out the window… I know there are no shark attacks on Curaçao. I know that. But I also know there’s always a first time. So I went into panic mode, swimming as swiftly as possible to shore. Later, Jürgen dared to go in after me, and got a better look at the same fish… it was a tuna.

We had an incredible time at Playa Hunku, and are loathe to write about it, since the magic of the place lies in its mystery and seclusion. But you’re reading this, which means you’re cool, so we’re letting you in on the tip. If you do go, please keep in mind that you’re a guest on private land. Don’t show up with a huge party, and (although it hardly needs said) make sure to clean up after yourself.

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Location on our Map
Our Route on Wikiloc

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February 5, 2016 at 11:04 pm Comments (2)

Santa Martha and the Abandoned Sunset Waters Resort

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Just past the Landhuis Santa Martha, near the town of Soto, is a hilly, forested patch of Curaçao which hasn’t yet been developed. More accurately, I should say that it’s no longer developed. We followed the road until reaching its end at Sunset Waters, a former resort which has been abandoned for years.

Sunset Waters Resort Curacao

I have no idea why Sunset Waters wasn’t able to succeed. It certainly can’t be blamed on its beach; this stretch of coastline in northwestern Curaçao is gorgeous. After parking the car, we set out to explore the ruins. The foundation of the old resort is still in decent shape; it was only abandoned in 2009, but the place has been gutted and everything of value removed.

After exploring the resort, we drove down to the beach and parked a few meters from the shore. There’s a small bay here, and the clarity of the water is unreal. It’s shocking that another beach club or restaurant hasn’t yet moved in yet to take advantage of this place. We saw a group of scuba divers getting in the water, as well as a local couple and their dog relaxing on lounge chairs, but otherwise this beach has been seemingly forgotten by Curaçao.

Sunset Waters Resort Curacao

Next, we drove south along the coast and discovered a row of upscale, private villas, each one with a heavy gate and “Protected By” security stickers, owned apparently by rich people who really want to get away from it all. It’s a long drive to the next supermarket from here, but I suppose these homeowners can afford for their groceries to be delivered. By helicopter.

We took our time on the drive back to Soto, stopping at a lookout point for a great view over the Santa Martha Bay. The nature here is pristine, the woods thick and the shoreline mostly untouched. And across the bay to the north, we saw nothing but rolling hills and a single plantation house in the distance. We’d be returning soon to the area, for a lengthy hike to Boka Pos Spanjo and Boka Hulu.

Sunset Waters Resort Curacao

If you’ve had your fill of overdeveloped resorts and crowded beaches, this section of Curaçao south of the Santa Martha Bay might make a nice excursion. But stay safe; anywhere in Curaçao where there aren’t a lot of other people, it pays to be vigilant, and this is certainly one such place.

Locations on our Map: Landhuis Groot Santa Martha | Sunset Waters Abandoned Resort

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Sunset Waters Resort Curacao
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February 4, 2016 at 9:48 pm Comments (0)

Playa Jeremi

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Crystal blue waters, soft white sand, a laid-back atmosphere in a gorgeous natural environment… you know, it feels like I’ve been using this description a lot, doesn’t it? It’s getting boring. Come on, Curaçao! Why don’t you surprise us with an ugly beach?! Actually, on second thought, scratch that. Just keep the beauty coming and we’ll try not to complain. Next up: Playa Jeremi.

Playa Jeremi Curacao

Playa Jeremi is a medium-sized beach, just north past Lagun, perfect for when you want to be mostly left alone. There are a few palapas and a couple picnic tables. No lounge chairs, no beach bars. It’s moderately popular; rarely empty but almost never crowded. There are cliffs on either side of the blue water (which local kids often jump from), and the beach itself is both simple and beautiful.

Playa Jeremi Curacao

What else can I say? The snorkeling here is not magnificent — but that hardly even qualifies as a negative. After all, Playa Jeremi feels more like a place for hanging out with your friends and relaxing, and not so much for activities. Bring your own cooler with refreshments and snacks, and come for sunset; Jeremi is perfectly situated, facing west.

By the end of our time here, we’re going to be able to match each of Curaçao’s beaches to our current mood. Mambo for when we want to party, Santa Pretu for when we’re introspective, Knip when we want to have fun… and maybe Jeremi for when we want to do nothing but chill and simply enjoy being alive.

Location on our Map

List Of Underwater Cameras

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February 2, 2016 at 10:55 pm Comments (0)

The Sea Turtles of Playa Piskado

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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.

Playa Piscado

I had been excited to see Playa Piskado’s turtles, and on arriving to the beach, ran straight into the water without bothering to ask Jürgen if he wanted to join me. I swam around for twenty minutes, but returned to our towels in failure. “No turtles here,” I huffed. “Stupid waste of time.”

Jürgen decided to give it a shot, anyway. Naturally, he came back with news that he had seen five turtles, and was just so delighted with himself. “Lying jerk.” It was a stupid accusation, of course, because Jürgen takes pictures of everything and had plenty of proof on his camera. And while showing me the snapshots, his stupid grin just got bigger and bigger.

I stomped back into the water, and this time I did see some turtles. I have no idea how I missed them the first time; it must have been bad luck, because they’re big and not at all skittish around humans. They won’t swim away from you and there’s no way you can overlook them. I floated for awhile above one turtle, watching him glide peacefully around, and felt my anger swiftly evaporating. Turtle-watching is a great sedative.

Playa Piscado

As I was coming out of the water, I saw that Jürgen had joined a crowd on the pier. A fisherman had just returned with a large tuna, and was showing it off. A group of guys took it from the boat, laid it on a small concrete table and began to cut it up, selling the fillets directly to the people who had gathered.

We loved Playa Piskado, as much for the turtles as for the exposure to local island life. There are a few palapas for shade, and the sand is nice to lay on. There aren’t a lot of services here, no lounge chairs or snack bars, but it’s an entertaining place to spend a few hours.

Location on our Map

Selection Of Different Snorkel Sets

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January 30, 2016 at 7:41 pm Comments (0)

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A Trip to Klein Curaao Klein Curaçao, a small, uninhabited island found a few miles southeast of Curaçao, has become a popular destination for day trips, thanks to its pristine beach, excellent snorkeling, and atmosphere of forsaken solitude. We booked an excursion which brought us to the island on a catamaran, and spent the day checking it out.
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