The deserted section of coastline to the northwest of Curaçao’s international airport is known as the Hato Plains. There are no paved roads here, but if you have a jeep, this wide expanse of dry red earth trapped between the ocean and a set of inland cliffs is a fascinating area to explore.
Events related to Curaçao’s Carnival, such as the Tumba and the Horse Parade, had been taking place throughout the months of January and February. And they were all leading up to the Grand Parade: a long procession of music, costumes, drinking and dancing, and a celebration of pure joy.
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.
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.
Curaçao’s most popular hike, and perhaps its only popular hike, is the trek to the summit of Christoffelberg. At a modest 372 meters above sea level, this is the tallest peak on the island, and reaching the top requires an effort of about 90 minutes.
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.
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.