When you’re in the mood for a beach vacation and can’t figure out where to go, it may seem like most of the Caribbean islands blend together. They offer basically the same experience—soft white sand, warm turquoise water and blinding sun. Your basic screensaver situation. Right? And then you consider Curaçao.
Curaçao is grouped with the ABC Islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao), and is an independent country within the kingdom of the Netherlands. Located about 40 miles north of Venezuela, the island has a fascinating history. While it’s believed that the first settlers were the Amerindian Arawaks some 6,000 years ago, the nation spent the last few centuries colonized by a series of European countries. The Spanish came in the 16th century, followed by the Dutch in the 17th, then a huge amount of Jewish refugees and African slaves in the early 18th century. From 1800 to 1815, the country was British, then Dutch, then British, and then Dutch again.
This clash of cultures has resulted in a delightfully layered nation where the official languages are Dutch, English, and Papiamentu, which is a mix of Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, and some African dialects. A glimpse of the capital of Willemstad is another reminder, as the candy-colored buildings fighting for harbor views resemble nothing less than a Caribbean Copenhagen.