The Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge will open wide and greet your arrival in Willemstad, the capital of both the Netherland Antilles and Curacao. The bridge divides the city into the Punda side on the East and Oltrbanda (literally “the other side”) on the West. Willemstad is the most European of Caribbean cities. Despite forging ahead into the 20th century, it still retains its old world charm. U.S. currency is readily accepted as well as major credit cards.
AREA: Thirty-eight miles longs by seven miles wide. Population is roughly 160,000.
TRANSPORATION: Grab a cab or walk to town. If you take a cab, negotiate the best fare.
SIGHTS: Visit the floating market in the morning. It’s a hive of activity. Small boats from Venezuela bring in fresh produce-fruits you have never seen, fabrics and fish. You may haggle for the prized piece of fabric or exotic fruit. Don’t miss the Mikve Isreal Synagogue, dating from 1732. It’s the oldest in the Western Hemisphere. The floor is white sand, symbolizing the desert where the Jews wandered in there search for the Promised Land. For gamblers there is a small casino which will open early to accommodate you.
Water sports are the islands main draw and Curacao’s public beaches at Westpunt, Knip, Klein Knip, Daaibooi and Santa Barbara are among the best. Curacao offers scuba divers excellent waters with beautiful marine life and a variety of multi-colored tropical fish. The islands most extensive snorkel and scuba environment, the National Underwater Park starts in Jan Thiel bay and stretches from the Princess Beach Hotel along more then 12 miles of shore to the islands eastern tip. Fringed by virtually untouched coral reef that plunges to a depth of 30 feet, it boasts a 975 foot underwater trail leading to the wreck of the HMS Oranje Nassau (sunk n 1906) in the park’s shallows. Shopping is a real treat in Willemstad. You will find high quality goods from all over the world.
ADMIRALS TIP: For shutter bugs, Fort Nassau, 200 feet above the inner harbor will afford you the very best view of Willemstad.. Want to get away? Hire a cab after shopping to view the rural areas. Afterward touring and sight seeing, relax with an Amstel beer, brewed locally. It is the world’s only beer made from distilled sea water. Do take home a bottle of Curacao Liqueur, made from the peel of the green orange grown only in Curacao.