By Melissa Carter, with testing assistance from Sebastien, 2
Beach-loving families with kids of all ages, especially beginner snorkelers and divers.
Good to know before you go
Renting a car is a smart way to explore the small island. Book a couple weeks before your departure for the best rate, bring your own car seat and watch out for one of the low moving iguanas that roam everywhere! Be aware that taxis have local rates, so always ask for a quote before the car starts, especially if you ask him to be your driver for the day.
What to do
• Capital city Willemstad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, makes for a laid-back walking tour. Brightly coloured buildings line the port and the open-air market is perfect for stocking up fresh fruits and sweet snacks, including sunchi, a meringue made of sugar, egg whites and food color and kokada, a freshly grated coconut patty held together with a sugar syrup.
• Sit down for lunch at one of the communal wooden tables at Marshe Bieuw. Bustling with office workers on break, the local lunch specials include everything from goat to chicken to fish and are cooked on site. “Arepa pampoena,” a delicious pumpkin pancake, will please foodies and picky eaters. The iguana stew at Jaanchies and the nearby beaches is worth the trip to Westpunt. (Look out for flocks of flamingos along the way.) The menu changes daily, but includes fresh fish, conch and kid-friendly chicken dishes. My son gobbled down the goat stew, and all the kids loved the fried plantains. There are also highchairs on offer, plus dozens of caged birds and fish aquariums to distract he most impatient toddler.
• Curacao’s Ostrich Farm has enough to entertain your whole brood, from balancing on an ostrich egg, to feeding one of the babies or petting the big ones (and ending with an ostrich burger in the restaurant, of course). It’s a smart and resourceful eco-operation, and the safari style tour is fascinating.
When to go
Located outside the hurricane belt, the warm 27-degree average and arid climate make it a mostly sunny destination year round.
Where to stay
We stayed at Lions Dive, a family-friendly resort located on a private stretch of beach with snorkeling and diving. The resort is a popular destination for European families. It has a kids’ pool, 50m sport pool, free daily shuttles into town (about a seven-minute ride), babysitting services, great landscaping and a good selection of European-style meal options, including good pizza. (Avoid the beachside café, unless you’re snacking on frikandel, a Dutch hot-dog like sausage and fries. The hotel is also a few minutes walk is the Seaquarium and Dolphin Academy with free entrance to hotel guests.
Alternatively, reviews are uniformly great for the smaller, kid-friendly Royal Sea Aquarium Resort next door.
Do it or regret it forever
Take your time. It’s cliché, but things move slowly island-style. Let your preschooler observe that slow-moving iguana for as long as he likes. (Just keep a snack or drink on hand.)