Of all Curaçao’s former Dutch fortresses, our favorite was destined to be Fort Nassau. Fort Amsterdam might have the most fascinating history and Fort Beekenburg the coolest atmosphere… but Fort Nassau has the food nailed down. And food beats history or atmosphere every time.
One of Curaçao’s four historic districts, Pietermaai Smal lays just to the east of Punda, between the Waaigat Harbor and the Caribbean. Once the most exclusive neighborhood on the island, Pietermaai endured a long, painful period of deterioration. But recently, it’s picked itself back up and become a home to the island’s trendiest clubs and restaurants, and its most popular boutique hotels.
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.
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.
We’ve been up in a Cessna, floated in a hot-air balloon, and even tried out paragliding, but neither Jürgen nor I had ever been in a helicopter. With colorful towns and diverse nature packed into a small area and framed by clear Caribbean waters, Curaçao is a perfect candidate for a helicopter tour. So we were thrilled when Blue Skies invited us on a trip around the island’s eastern coast.
Punda was the first area in Willemstad to be colonized by the Dutch, and today has become famous for the superb condition of its colorful, 18th-century buildings. Although we lived in Otrobanda, we crossed the bay almost daily to spend time in Punda, to eat, shop, or just enjoy the neighborhood’s lively atmosphere.
Curaçao has a long history of cultivating aloe vera, since it’s one of the few plants able to thrive in the island’s dry and windy climate. We visited the Curaloe Plantation and Factory, near the Ostrich Farm and St. Joris Bay, to see how the plants are grown, harvested and processed. Or at least, that’s what we were hoping to see.
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!!
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.
We had heard about a hike around the small Caracasbaai Peninsula, leading from Tugboat Beach up to the top of the Kabrietenberg, and then back around the southern side of the peninsula. It would lead past mangrove forests and coral wastelands to Directorsbaai, before passing an abandoned mansion and returning to the starting point. Sounded perfect, and we couldn’t resist checking it out.