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The Hato Caves

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Carved out over the course of millennia into the region’s limestone landscape, the Hato Caves are found next to Curaçao’s international airport. In the past, these caves served as a shelter for the Arwak Indians and a hiding spot for runaway slaves, and are now a popular tourist attraction.

Hato Caves

The entrance to the caves is found on a cliff terrace above the park, so the tour begins with a sharp climb up a flight of stairs. After this initial exertion, though, the rest of the visit is easy; the caves are large and well-lit, and there isn’t any crawling or risky spelunking involved.

We didn’t realize this before buying the tickets, but pictures aren’t allowed in the Hato Caves, except in two designated spots. Our guide explained that the flash might scare the bats. Immediately after giving us this warning, she shined her high-beam flashlight onto the ceiling. “Look, there’s a family of them!” And actually, yeah, the bats did look terrified of the light!

Hato Caves

We promised not to use the flash, but she still said no. “The infrared might cause damage to the rocks, even if it’s imperceptible.” And then, she pointed out a stalagmite which, if you used some imagination, kind of looked like the Virgin Mary. “And to protect the precious Virgin, we demolished the stalactite which was dripping on it.” At this revelation, our group went into stunned silence.

It’s going to be tens of thousands of years before the Virgin stalagmite might be even slightly altered by the natural forces which forged it in the first place. Who knows if Catholicism will even be around then? But remember: no infrared from cameras, because we must protect the integrity of the caves.

Outside of the cave, there’s a cafe-bar, as well as a forgettable “nature walk” into the woods, at the end of which are supposedly some ancient Indian wall paintings. But despite our best efforts, we were unable to say whether the faded marks we spotted were paint or grime.

The tour needs some work, but the Hato Caves are worth visiting. It’s a perfect activity for families, or for those looking for an easy nature experience. The caverns are spacious, but not all that expansive, and the slow-moving tour only takes about a half-hour.

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February 17, 2016 at 1:45 pm Comments (0)

Koraal Tabak

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The region north of Saint Joris Bay goes by the intriguing name of Koraal Tabak. “Tobacco Coral”? What could that mean? It was a mystery, and so when we learned about a hike in the area, we had to check it out. Spoiler: there was no tobacco.

Koraal Tabak Curacao

The hike starts along the water at the headquarters of the Fundashon Sint Joris Baai. On weekends, local kids can come here to learn how to windsurf for free, but we were visiting on a Tuesday and found the place deserted. We left our car and headed along the coast, immediately encountering the day’s most difficult stretch of hiking.

A steep hill runs right up against the water and, although there is a path to the top, it isn’t well-marked. We kept going off in the wrong direction, scrambling up rocks and through thorny patches, until finally reaching the summit. From here, we enjoyed a great view over Saint Joris and a strange, triangular rock formation called “The Pyramid”. The way back down was even harder, due to the loose, gravelly ground, and at one crucial point I slipped and sat down hard on a patch of thorns.

Luckily, once we got past the hill, the rest of the hike was a breeze. We walked up to the point at which the Saint Joris Bay meets the ocean, and then continued along the coast. This seems to be a favorite place for locals to hang out, and we saw various groups of people walking along the rocks, and watching waves crash against the shore.

Koraal Tabak Curacao

Our path took us to the foot of another hill, and although my butt was still sore and bloody from my earlier fall, there was good reason to ascend. The cave of Koraal Tabak, at the top of the hill, was an exciting surprise — we had known about the existence of a cave here, but hadn’t suspected it to be so cool. This is a large, spacious cavern with multiple chambers, “doors” on either side and a few holes in the ceiling. You can climb up through one of these skylights for an incredible view over the area. If the Arwak Indians didn’t use this cave as a home, I’d be surprised. It was comfortable enough that I’d consider moving in myself.

From here, we had an easy, pleasant hike back to the car. The entire loop was six kilometers, and took us about two hours to complete; if you skip the initial ascent up the pyramid hill, it would be even faster. We’ve been astounded by the variety and beauty of Curaçao’s nature, and this is yet another spot which merits attention. Still confused about the name, though.

Locations: Fundashon Sint Joris Baai | Cave of Koraal Tabak
Our Route on Wikiloc

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February 13, 2016 at 8:34 pm Comments (0)

Driving Around the Christoffelpark

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After having hiked to the top of Christoffelberg, we had enough time to continue exploring the park. A driving route recommended by the visitor’s center brought us to a few interesting sights, including a remote beach, a dark cave, and ancient rock paintings made by the Arwak Indians.

Christoffel Park Drive

The hike had left us so exhausted, that even a driving route sounded unappealing. “You mean we have to press down on the gas, and turn the wheel? Unnhhhh… god!” But entrance to the park is expensive enough that we didn’t want to pay to return another day, so we sucked it up and motored off into the nature. Heroic.

Christoffel Park Drive

The first stop was at a viewpoint overlooking the park. When the skies are exceptionally clear, you can supposedly see Bonaire from here. That wasn’t the case today, but we did have a nice view of Boka Grandi: the large inlet and beach that would be the next stop on our tour.

After relaxing on the sand, and nearly allowing the sound of the waves to put us to sleep, we hopped back into the car and continued for a few more minutes until reaching the cave. It was much bigger than we had expected, and we were able to crawl back far into its depths, where very little light was able to reach.

Christoffel Park Drive

Next to the cave is a set of rock paintings attributed to the Arwak Indians who were Curaçao’s original inhabitants. These paintings are thought to be up to 2000 years old. It can be hard to spot them, as they’ve faded with time, but the red markings are still visible on the rock.

Most visitors come to Christoffelpark to hike up Christoffelberg, and then they leave right away. But there’s a lot more to the park than just the mountain, including the excellent Savonet Museum and this driving tour. It’s an easy way to discover some additional highlights of Curaçao’s biggest national park.

Location on our Map: Boka Grandi

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February 5, 2016 at 9:11 pm Comments (0)
The Hato Caves Carved out over the course of millennia into the region's limestone landscape, the Hato Caves are found next to Curaçao's international airport. In the past, these caves served as a shelter for the Arwak Indians and a hiding spot for runaway slaves, and are now a popular tourist attraction.
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