Cruising to Colorful Curaçao

The letter “C” in the southern Caribbean’s ABC Islands stands for Curaçao, a Dutch island of dazzling color.
Curaçao coast
The Handelskade waterfront, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is lined with apartments inspired by Dutch architecture. [peter]/

The Dutch island of Curaçao is a Technicolor getaway. Its reef-rich seas shimmer with every possible shade of blue. Vivid hues glow from the historical architecture and street art of the capital, Willemstad, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Cruisers can soak in the vibrant offerings by land and by sea.

Curaçao by Land

Christoffel National Park in the Westpunt end of the island offers an enticing array of guided activities in the largest and most diverse protected nature area of the Leeward Dutch islands. Choose among mountain climbs, bird-watching walks, history tours and Jeep safaris; check out the park’s website for more details. (En route to the park, keep an eye out for flamingos in the salt flat near Kokomo.) Afterward, head to nearby Restaurant Playa Forti for breathtaking sea views, cliff jumpers, and delicious seafood and local specialties such as keshi yena.

In Willemstad, a stroll along the colorful, mural-lined lanes in the neighborhoods on both sides of the iconic Queen Emma pontoon bridge reveals one incredible creative tour de force after another. Dancers leap and gardens sprawl across entire buildings. Parakeets the size of humans perch on a corner; a row of regal women returns your gaze. The free Amazing Punda Art & Culture Walk on Google Maps can get you started in the Punda neighborhood. Many of the murals in the Otrobanda neighborhood are pinned on Google Maps of Willemstad.

While in Otrobanda, dine at Ceviche 91 in Rif Fort, built in 1828 to protect the island against pirates. You can take in the waterfront views as you select from mouthwatering ceviches, tapas, sashimi, sushi rolls and Peruvian entrees.

If you have room for dessert, stop at Don’s Ice Cream Shop before exiting Rif Fort for the nearby Curaçao Maritime Museum. Models, maps, charts and other artifacts chronicle more than 500 years of Curaçao’s nautical and national history. Docents offer a historical harbor-walking tour every Wednesday from 2 to 3 p.m.

And by Sea

The fringing reef surrounding Curaçao makes the island a top destination for scuba divers and snorkelers of all skill levels. There are around 100 dive sites, the vast majority of which are shore dives. Tugboat, which lies in just 15 feet of water, is a popular site for its easy access and variety of marine life. Pair it with nearby Director’s Bay for a rewarding two-tank outing. Connect with one of the island’s 15 PADI 5-star dive shops to line up dives during your stay.

If you’re more of a beach person, check out either Cas Abao or Playa PortoMari. Both beautiful white-sand beaches along the west coast of Curaçao offer clean bathroom facilities, chair rentals, food and drinks, and even massages.