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Curacao mini-trip report

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My wife and I stayed at the Hilton Curacao from May 28-June 10, 2005. We flew from San Diego to Chicago to Aruba to Curacao. A tiring trip but worth it in our opinion.

One thing about the last leg of the connection. We were originally scheduled to have a three hours lay-over in Aruba. But we landed early and were able to get on the flight that was leaving in a half-hour. The airline was Bonaire Exel and after a little haggling they let us change.

Curacao's geography is like many Caribbean islands, an arid climate where cactus are as prevalent as palm trees. So it's not like a St. Lucia where there's lush tropical jungle and waterfalls and such. It's more a water oriented island with excellent snorkeling and diving. In fact being divers we chose Curacao because it's always been highly rated for boat and shore dives. It's also not a place where you'll see mile long beaches like Aruba or Cayman Islands. In Curacao there are a zillion coves and each cove has a beach. Some large and some small. The water was clear, warm and clean. Be careful though as many resorts are on the windward side of the cove and the windblown sand could be a problem (more later).

I had pre-booked a car through the Budget web site (it was less expensive than the other sites) and had no problems at the airport. We bought a map from Budget and also had little problem finding the Hilton.

The Hilton in Curacao was a great choice. We booked in advance and got a very reasonable rate of $100 per night. The hotel itself is a little tattered. It was the first resort on the island and it shows the wear and tear. The Marriott next door is a nicer property ascetically but has some problems. People we met said the beach is a little wind-blown as the resort in on the windward side, just as a cove begins. The Hilton is on the leeward side and didn't suffer the wind problems. Our first room had a weak air conditioner so we requested to move and from then on didn't have a problem. As I said the hotel is a little tattered, stains on the hallway carpet kind of stuff. Otherwise the rooms were ok, a great balcony with a view of the bay.

The restaurants were better than expected. The breakfast was plentiful and the room service and other restaurants food was pretty good. Of course there were exceptions, like the room service pizza that seemed to made of Bisquick dough, But stuff like that is to be expected.
The staff was superb! From the front desk staff to the bartenders to the restaurant hostesses we were met with excellent service. The very best service though came from the dive staff! The owner, Eva, has been there since the beginning and has pictures of Conrad Hilton swimming in the lagoon. She and her crew of Robby, Carlos, Clark and Rudi make you feel like family. My wife and I are novice divers so this counted a lot. We did about nine dives each while we were there which explains why we didn't get to more restaurants.

There's also a casino on the property but we're really gamblers-lite so we only went inside a few times.

Downtown Oranstead (sp) is a different bear. The facades remind you of Europe (makes sense as Curacao used to be a Dutch colony). Lots of touristy shops, as you would see everywhere in the Caribbean. We stopped for drinks and enjoyed the view has freighters came steaming up the channel.

A few more things. As this is mostly a Dutch holiday destination and the European beach influence is felt. By that, there are lots of topless women sunbathing at most beaches. I could care less but if you're worried about that kind of thing Curacao isn't for you. And we were the victims of robbery, in a sense. On our next to last day we drove to a place called Playa Kalki to scuba. It has fantastic reefs as it's on the far northern end of the island. Well the parking is above the dive shop which is above the dock you walk out. After two dives my wife and I go to the car, pack up our stuff and go to drive off. Something was wrong as I couldn't back-up. So, of course, I immediately blamed my wife, asking if she got something caught in the wheel well. I get out and found someone had stolen the drivers back wheel and tire! A local was nearby and he called the police and I put on the spare. Many of the beached have security and if we ever go back I'd be sure to go to those.

This is really a mini-trip report because I feel we left a lot of things to do on the island. There's a dolphin adventure, a brewery and Curacao distillery tour and many dive spots left. It not one of my favorite Caribbean islands but if the opportunity came up I'd go again.

Ken

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