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Mar 5, 2019

Family Beach Vacation - Curaçao


Family Beach Vacation - Curaçao


Welcome to Curaçao

Summary:
⁍ Beach vacation on Curaçao - an island next to Aruba
⁍ Stayed at LionsDive Beach Resort - no frills hotel with its own beach
⁍ Dined across the island in many good restaurants, most would recommend
Snorkeled across the island as well
Top gadgets that made the trip great
⁍ Things we wished we had and placed on the packing list for the next trip
⁍ Itinerary





Our hotel room

For our yearly beach vacation, we chose the island of Curaçao. It is one of the lesser known islands of the ABC islands. These are Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao. We were looking for something a bit different, and with nice calm waters, good beaches, and accommodations that more or less family friendly. Curaçao definitely had great waters. At just about every beach, the water was crystal clear. We were deciding between a couple of hotels and chose LionsDive Beach Resort. It has nice rooms, several restaurants on premise, a shopping area nearby that also has many restaurants, a good size beach, and ocean entry that was all sand instead of rocks which were also important to us. The drawbacks of the place were that it is not set up for kids per se. There no play areas at the resort itself (which is a good thing for us), the sinks and toilets are high and hard for kids to reach. However, every restaurant had a kids menu, there was plenty of space to play in the sand, and off to the side in public beach area, there is a large aqua park for kids ages 7 and up to climb and jump around right in the water.




Additionally, the hotel was trying to be super eco-friendly. There were no little shampoos or gels in the bathroom. Not even a bar of soap. This I could not understand. A tiny bar of soap is cheap and is relatively environment-friendly since it can last a whole week. Luckily, we brought with us several travel-size bottles of shower gel that we were able to use as soap in the sink. They also only dispensed beach towels once a day. If you got them in the morning, you could not exchange them for new ones in the evening once they are wet and you want to go for one last dip at sunset and dry off with a clean towel. This one I do understand. And while it was unusual from stays at other resorts, it was a non-issue once we were aware of the policy.

Our little avid traveler

New kids play area at JetBlue gates

It simulates inside of a plane including a pilot seat where you can fly a plane

Geared up and ready for the flight

The flight to Curaçao was quicker than expected. It was listed as a flight of over 4 hours, but instead, we got there half an hour earlier. I have a feeling that the flight time is on purpose provided longer than estimated to make the airline look better when it gets passengers to their destination faster. No concrete proof, just a hunch.

Once we arrived at the Curaçao airport, we had a transfer to the hotel pre-booked. It was provided and planned by our hotel. We met our driver right at the exit and were very excited as we usually have to go look for them. Turned out they were waiting for additional people from the same flight. We were waiting and waiting with a couple of more people. We kept asking the driver if we can head out with the small group we already had and the others can go on the second bus. But this company had some weird regulations for the drivers where they could only leave with people on their list, and none others. We waited for an hour, no one came, and we finally left. As we got to the hotel and got on WiFi and checked our email, we found out the craziest thing. THEY WERE WAITING FOR US! Turns out they had our names on the list twice as a group of three. What a mess.

The water of the Curaçao beaches was much colder than expected. It was also a bit windy. It was also calm until people from cruises and some other areas came around.


Related articles:
Summer Travel - Time To Hit The Beach
We Took A Trip To Bermuda And Came Back To Tell About It - Bermuda Cruise
How To Travel Light With Your Family To the Beach

Curaçao is all about Dushi. On the island there are signs and shirts with the word everywhere. What does Dushi mean in Curacao?

Snorkeling
Snorkeling on the island was awesome. Fishes and coral within easy swim distance.
Snorkel gear. Took mask and tube for both of us. Thought tube might be too much for little one, so brought her just mask. On the first swim with goggles, she took my wife’s tube and didn’t look back. She was swimming with it no problem. We actually ended up getting her own tube at the local shop.

Our first snorkeling excursion was to Playa Piskado where you can swim with the turtles. This was an awesome experience as certainly swam with turtles just a couple of feet away from us. They were swimming all over waiting for the food to be dropped into the water from the doc. You can follow them along and watch them swim, then surface really quickly, and dive again. At feeding time there were a lot of them in one place. The beach recommendation definitely did not disappoint

On the same trip, we also stopped for snorkeling at Grote Knip. Here it was a very nice beach and great water. There is a floating platform that is a few yards from the shore. We swam up to it when we first got there and there were not that many people there. Kiddo and I jumped off of it a couple of times. Afterward, we went for snorkeling around the area. Interestingly, the largest amount of fish we came across when we were just swimming and playing around. We noticed a few fish gathered in the spot as well as some people. And so we swam over to take a look. Turned out there were a couple of folks feeding the fish and there were hundreds of them swarming the spot. At that moment we learned how to make our snorkeling adventures and encounters event better. Travel tip: bring some bread when you are going snorkeling as you can feed the fish with small amounts and they will gather around you for some great underwater shots and videos.

Next day we were at Playa Lagun. It is one of the smallest beaches we have been to on this trip. There were a lot of snorkelers here as well as divers. It was a nice experience, relatively relaxing, and not as activity and filled with the various type of underwater creatures as other locations.




For the following day's beach venture, we were deciding between Cas Abao Beach and Porto Mari. Initially, we did not want to head to Porto Mari as sharing the beach and maybe our snacks with wild pigs did not seem appealing to us. However, as we looked at more pictures and asked around, it sounded like a better beach and might be an interesting experience. So we went there. We were not disappointed, for the most part, by the beach. It was great snorkeling, good atmosphere, and there was a restaurant right on the beach where we had a great meal for lunch. However, we never got to see the pigs. They did not make it to the beach that day. According to the locals, the pigs are wild and roam the area all around and sometimes was across the beach looking for food. I guess the day we were there they were either full or found their meal somewhere else.

Going snorkeling














Essential Trip Gadgets


Nail clippers - for more than nail clipping. My manly travel pack consists of an electric razor, comb that I love, and nail clipper.

Night light - we did not forget this gadget this time.

RAVPower portable charger - this charger was making a comeback during this trip as we have not used it in a while mostly due to its weight. However, it came through with flying colors as it holds a lot more charge and for a very long time. This allowed us to charge 2 phones easily and quickly and without recharging the power bank.

Universal Travel Power Adapter with surge protection and multiple types of plugs - this one came in very handy as all of the outlets in Curaçao are European type and we would not be able to plug in our gadgets and charge any of the devices without it. We used it to plug in the night light, and in turn plug in the devices into its two USB ports. The universal adapter also has surge protection built in to make it safer to use with electronics.
We were glad to have brought also a couple of basic adapters as there was only one available in the room. We use these to plug in and charge ou portable chargers.

Water camera -
Our Olympus Tough Waterproof Camera, or as we call it the Blue camera, has been around for over five years and has been with us on many trips. It has taken thousands of pictures above and below the water. It took a lot of shots on this trip as well. Unfortunately, towards the end of the trip, the camera was done. There was a piece on the front of it that fell off while we were in the water and after that, the camera did not function as well. It still works, surprisingly enough. Though we will likely need a replacement for our next beach and ocean vacation.


GoPro

Common GoPro Mistakes Adventure Travelers Make

To go with both of these cameras we have Waterproof Camera Float Straps:

Trusty water wallet - I don't go swimming without it. For that matter, I don't go anywhere without it when on vacation. On very rare occasions would I leave this one behind and take a regular wallet. I have had this one through many beach vacations and lots of hours of swimming and snorkeling in the ocean. Through all of that, this case kept my hotel key, cash, and a credit card dry and safe.


Bottle opener - while we were driving around the island, we picked up some beer and water. And as we were going to enjoy some brewskis we realized we didn't have a bottle opener with us. It still didn't stop us from opening them as I found some hard surfaces and pop them open, but it would have been classier with an actual opener.
While I came across this corkscrew and bottle opener that said it was TSA compliant, I liked better something that has multiple uses, such as the carabiner key chain that is also a bottle opener

Travel Hack:
We had a few carry-on suitcases with us, one per person. To maneuver them easily around the airport, we used an elastic band with hooks on each side to wrap around the carry-ons and pull them together. This way they moved as one unit.


Restaurants:

Pizza Maze
The first evening on the island we went to a pizza place as we were starving from the flight and too tired to venture far from the hotel. It is similar to our family trip to Aruba, where we also ended up in a pizza restaurant on the first night. The food and service were good. We also got introduced to a beer that turned out to be very common on the island, Polar Beer. Interestingly, it produced in Florida but then distributed on the island. I have not seen it before and had no idea it existed until this trip. And my ice hockey team's name this year is Polar Beers! It was quite a coincidence.





Lunch at Chill on the beach


Nemo -
During the planning, we were told that we would need reservations to these place ahead of time to make sure we get a table. We did make a reservation. Upon arriving there, we were the only ones in the place. It did feel up later but it was not as packed as it was made out to be. The staff at Nemo are very pleasant and provided good service.
On the menu for us were beef and three types of fish (red snapper, tuna, and


Landhuis Daniel -
We ended up in this restaurant upon a recommendation from a couple from Connecticut who has been to the island several times and were enjoy lunch, as we were, at the Sol Food. It turned out to be a very good recommendation as it became our most favorite restaurant during the trip.
At dinner, we had a huge seafood spread. It consisted of soup, tuna tartare, white fish lightly fried, and shrimp. While we found the soup too spicy, we loved everything else. Kiddo also enjoyed the white fish and some shrimp. We finished off the dinner with a crepe filled with bananas and chocolate, and walnuts on the side.

Fishalicious -
This restaurant was talked about in many forums related to Curaçao. For the most part, it was well reviewed and recommended. It was relatively easy to get to, however, they do not have their own parking. You would need to park on side streets if you are driving over. We found a spot right next to the restaurant in the early evening without any issues.
The food at Fishalicious was very good. We ordered ceviche appetizer, bread with seafood samplers, wine, and two fish entrees. However, we found the portions very small. The amount on the plate was small and they came with no sides. All of us, even the little one, felt still a bit hungry after the meal. The service, while it was good when provided, we found to be disinterested and cold/unfriendly. For the price of the meal, we would expect a bit more pleasant experience.

Gouverneur De Rouville
French restaurant overlooking the water and right by the floating bridge. It definitely requires reservations ahead of time. It gets quite crowded as there were more and more people arriving as we set down and late into our meal. It is in town and very popular for dates and celebrations.
The food here was delicious. It was well made and presented, and the portions were of a good size. The service here was also on par. We enjoyed both the food and the views at the Gouverneur.
They also had these cool solar powered jar tops with led lights built-in. When it got darker, the staff pressed and made a connection at the top, and the light turned on. This very much impressed the kiddo and she wanted to know how it was done. I was impressed as well as that is a cool innovation that keeps the lights charged throughout the day and ready for use in the evening.


Mood -
We checked out the location of this restaurant on a walk and made reservations since it looked trendy and had some recommendations. The place was nice and had a unique design. Though you had to be on a lookout when walking through the restaurateur as there were a lot of stairs and raised platforms. We ordered our food and a glass of wine. There was mood lighting, so needed a bit more light from a lantern to see items on the menu. When the wine was delivered, glass was unfilled and was less than a quarter filled. Mentioned this to the waitress, she called the manager. To make it more absurd, the manager came over holding the wine bottle and preceded to explain to us why it was filled that way. He said that in other countries they might fill more but here this is what a glass of wine would be. All this while holding the bottle of wine we ordered. He spent several minutes arguing with the customer instead of just slightly topping off our glass. We were not looking for a fully filled glass, it is not our first time tasting and drinking wine. Just wanted a bit more for the price of the glass they were charging.

Got some dancing in


Limoncello by the Sea
This was an Italian restaurant across the waterway from our hotel. We ordered seafood pasta and pizza. The pizza was raved about on several sites that talked about food at Curaçao. It was good. Having sampled many New York pizzas and in Italy, it was a well done plain pie. Not the best ever, but good. The pasta came in a big dish, but the serving was small. We were glad we ordered pizza in addition. For dessert, we got a brownie with chocolate chip ice cream. The brownie was good, but the ice cream tasted disgusting. It was as though it was in the freezer for months, then defrost, frozen again, and then sitting there some more. The restaurant is right on the water, so it is a nice environment, and if you are in vicinity good to check out but not a high recommend.


Our Itinerary

The first day on the island we spent relaxing on the beach at the hotel. We did a lot of swimming. The water was cool but very clear. And as there is a barrier that was created around the full length of the beach, there were no waves, even if the rest of the ocean was rocky. This made it easier to swim around and play and not worry about the kiddo floating too far or be covered by a wave.

On our second day, we rented a car from D&D Car Rental. We booked an economy class car and the rate was very good over 3 days. It included everything from insurance, taxes, and fees. One flat rate. The guy from the company arrived promptly in the morning. And as we were walking to the car he asked about the type of car we rented and then said we gave you an upgrade. I was thinking at the time why and what, and how much this "upgrade" is going to cost us. He led me to an SUV and said that this is the car and the price is going to be the exact same flat rate as booked! While the car is larger, he said that it will handle better over the multiple bumps and whole on the road. We were glad to have the SUV after driving around as there are quite a few speed bumps around town and some you don't notice until you are right on top of them especially in the evening. It was a bit harder to handle on small streets, but it was good to have. The overall experience with D&D Car Rental was awesome. You can contact them directly via info@ddcarrental.com



Third Day:
First stop, the town of Willemstad. There we saw the floating market and walked around. While much was written in travel guides about the floating market, it was not as much to see. The boats and the fruit in the stands were colorful. But the rest of the experience was so so. We bought some fruit there to snack on the road and in the hotel and it was quite expensive. They do not do much bargaining there, if you don't get it, then a trolley full of tourist that makes a stop there, will.
The floating bridge, that is located within a short walking distance from the market, is an experience. We walked onto it to cross over to the other side to get some pictures from both shores. On the way back across, the bridge opened up to let a boat through. And we were still on the bridge. It was awesome. We saw the entire bridge move like a barge to create space for the boat to pass and then back.
As we got warm walking around, cooled down with some ice cream in a small square in the center of the town.
Travel tip: When trying to park near the floating market, the sellers jump at you to be very “helpful” and to get you to their stall. We ended up parking a few blocks away from there where it was quieter and more serene. The parking payments had to be made in coins only and we had to get change from a deli so we can buy the parking ticket.

Looking out onto the floating market
Essential photo from every trip - me checking out the travel map
Floating bridge

Fourth day, third with the car:
On this day we visited Playa Porto Mari. It was supposed to have wild pigs roaming around. But we didn’t see any on that day. Though we did get some great snorkeling. At one point we were snorkeling for an hour and a half. During that time we saw so many different kinds of fish that we lost track of time and distance. After we looked up we were quite a distance from the shore and with the wind picking up, we had to turn around and make our way back.

Last couple of days
We took it easy once again and were back on our hotel's beach just relaxing and swimming. We also enjoyed a couple of sunsets on the beach and met a few other families with kids either staying nearby or from the cruises.

Kiddo had her own shade on the beach, a private cabana




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