The main tourist stand at the Emma Bridge (Punda side) connected me with Peter Trips. He is a sturdy Dutchman, nearly 30 years on Curacao, and offers several day and half day excursions. I took the "Island Trip" which gave me a very good overview of key areas of the island, in, around and out of Willemstad. There were many Dutch people on this tour so Peter spoke in Dutch and, thanksfully, fluent English. The only negative is that his van is of a certain age and the suspension a bit shaky.
I especially enjoyed the visit to the Lodge Kura Hulunda which is a gorgeous resort hotel on the far Northwestern coast. **Please note that if you stay at the Kura Hulunda in downtown Willemsted that there is a convenient hotel shuttle between it and its sister property** Although a lovely setting, be prepared for a longish wait for service at its restaurant as it took 3 requests for ice tea!
Another highlite was the Grote Knip, one of the most beautiful public beaches anywhere. The only downside is you may have to change out of your swim suit under a towel since convenience facilities are minimal at best.
Overall, well worth the $50 plus lunch cost for an excellent introduction to the island.
Walking along the Handelskade (street) on the Punda side of Willemstad (pass over the Queen Emma Bridge), you will see the parade of Venezuelan fishing boats tied up along this area. These Venezuelan fishermen sail 30 miles north to Curacao to sell their catch along with vegetables, fruit and other items where they fetch a better price than in Venezuela. Locals arrive throughout the morning and go about their daily ritual of buying fresh seafood and other necessities. It's interesting to observe different cultures and their daily lives and observe the contrasts between theirs and our own.
Although we weren't in the market to buy produce or seafood, the floating market was an interesting and colorful sight and the variety of fish and other seafood was really an eye-opener! The floating market is located close to lots of other shops, but not much was opened at the time we visited except for souvenir shops.
The architecture was so unique that it is really worth the time to walk around Willemstad. The story we were told about the colors of the buildings is that one of the first European governors on the island ordered that the buildings be painted bright and varied colors because they used to all be white and the sun's glare off the white buildings gave him a headache. The story goes that it was not until he left for New York that people discovered that he had a large financial stake in the company that sold the mandatory paint.
You can take the ferry or walk across the floating bridge if it is in place and your cruise ship is docked on the other side. The floating bridge is moved and you have to take the ferry any time a boat needs to pass.
Named after Queen Juliana (1948–1980). After almost a decade of construction, the bridge officially opened on Queen’s Day, (April 30) 1974.
185 feet above the sea level of St. Anna Bay. Queen Juliana weighs 3,400 tons and has four traffic lanes. The view is breathtaking, and includes the entire panorama of Punda, Otrobanda, and the Schottegat.
Built in 1888, and named after Queen Emma (1890–1898), this bridge connects the Punda and Otrobanda districts.
Points of interest—16 floating pontoon boats support the “Pontoon Bridge.” Also known as the “Swinging Old Lady,” it swings open using two powerful ship motors, allowing ships to access the port. From 1901 to 1934, people had to pay a toll to cross the bridge—with the exception of pedestrians going barefoot. When the bridge is open to let ships from the harbour pass, pedestrians are transported free of charge by the ponchi, a small ferry.
The bridge has recently been restored to its glory. All asphalt was taken off and replaced by originial wooden boards, the pontoons were repaired or replaced and at night the "swinging old lady" now swings in living color with her new lights.
It was fun when we were in the middle of the bridge and the alarm started warning the it was opening. In fact it turns counterclockwise pivoting on the Otrobanda side and separating from the Punda side. Interesting bridge, illuminated by color neon lights during the night. By the way, if you stay at the Marriott or Hilton, it is easier to park or take a cab to Otrobanda and cross the bridge by foot to Punda.
This is an interesting area to walk around. If its a hot day think twice about visiting the park because there is absolutely no shade. In some areas there are lots of cactus but mostly there's just a lot of rocks. Bring lots of water because you cannot buy any there. You can spend about 2 hours here walking around (or you can even drive to each sight). There is one main trail that leads you to three areas along the water. The most southern sight is called Boka Pistol. Here is a cool area where the ocean meets the rocks and creates a blowhole where the water shoots up and out. The next sight is called Boka Kalki. Here is another beach stop. People have left pebbles and rocks as messages on the beach. The last sight is Boka Wandomi. This was my favorite. Make sure you climb sown the stairs to the sand. One side of the cliff has man made chairs and seats that are fun. You can also see a natural bridge that reaches out into the ocean. There is also a cave that you can go into. Entrance fee was NAfl 2,65.
Go into Willemstad. Park on the Punda side so you don’t have to deal with going over that Juliana bridge so often. This thing is really high, with only about a 3 ½ foot high guard rail that is only about two feet from where your vehicle drives, and cars are whizzing by. Parking no problem in Punda. Go to The round house market. Lots of locals selling their wares. Trinkets, fruits and veggies, fish. Walk down where the floating market is, really interesting. Evidently these guys make their way from Venezuela every morning before sunrise to sell fish, fruits and vegetables. Hard life! Do a little shopping and have lunch at an outdoor café’! Have an Amstel! Walk over to Otrobanda. They have some more outdoor vendors!
Rent a car and take the Westpunt-route for a day trip. From the resort area go over the Juliana bridge, continue on this road until you got to the main round-about where you turn into Westpunt towards the Airport and stop at the HATO caves. Interesting. $12 for two. There are some Indian drawings on the side of the cliffs and a guided tour through the caves. Make stops at Landhuis Papaya, Landhuis Daniel and Landhuis Ascension. Shortly after the Wind Mills on the north coast, about ½ of a mile, there is a sign to the right that says San Pedro. If you have a 4x4, take that. It’s a great ride. On the Hato Plains. There are tons of 4x4 trails, and you can see wild goats, and Iguanas, get close up to the wind mills, can walk up to the Northern rocks and get splashed. Worth the jaunt.
Continue up the same road west and pass the little slave-house museum. It’s called Kas di Palu Maishi. Continued on to Christoffel Park. You see some impressive vegetation, wild parrots, great Island views. Well worth it. You need a 4x4. From here go to Boca Tabla Cool cave where the sea comes in. Take a peak at the Natural Bridge. Gon onto Westpunt and stop at Jaanchies restaurant. This place is great!! Jaanchi and his son are the hosts, waiters, and cooks. They do everything. Lunch there is a hoot. Birds fly throughout the place, very cozy, and the food is awesome. Try the Wahoo, and shrimp special – comes with potato wedges and veggies, and do try some Iguana, you know the deal, tastes like……..
Stop for a beer at Palya Forti. This place has a great view over the bay with some boats below. Wouldn’t eat here, but it is a nice place for a beer. Go onto Landhuis Knip and check out the two beaches there. You can snorkel here, very clear. These are nice beaches.
The Queen Emma Bridge connects the two parts of town, Punda and Otrobanda. This bridge, known as the swinging old lady, was built in 1888 and named after Queen Emma who reigned in Holland from 1890 to1898. The bridge consists of boats supported by 16 floating pontoons. It opens and closes by two powerful ship motors, a process which takes about two minutes. When the bridge is open to let ships from the harbour pass, pedestrians are transported free of charge by the ponchi, a small ferry.
The Queen Emma Bridge connects the two parts of town, Punda and Otrobanda.
This bridge, known as the swinging old lady, was built in 1888 by Leonard Burlington Smith and named after Queen Emma who reigned in Holland from 1890 to 1898. The bridge consists of boats supported by 16 floating pontoons.
For that reason, the bridge is also known as the Pontoon Bridge. It opens and closes by two powerful ship motors, a process which takes about two minutes. Quite a remarkable sight to see as the bridge swings a full 90 degrees and rests against the harbour side!
When the bridge is open to let ships from the harbour pass, pedestrians are transported free of charge by the ponchi, a small ferry. (See the next tip!)
It was quite amusing to discover that the bridge was not there when we needed to get to the other side of the Santa Anna Bay.
We had seen the bridge that day while sightseeing in town. That evening we wanted to cross the bay to get to a restaurant on the other side. We walked to where the bridge had been and no bridge. It was then that we discovered that it opens up for ships to pass.
The Queen Emma Bridge rests a top 15 pontoons and is powered by 2 motors attached to the last one. The bridge stretches 551 feet across the bay linking Punda and Otrobanda.
This store, located across from the Queen Emma Bridge is very hard to miss.
It was constructed in 1707, making it the oldest building in Willemstad.
There are small replicas sold at shops all over town.
Actually it was a drawbridge before it was converted to a regular bridge. Now it serves as a remnant of the past.
We walked across the Queen Wilhelmina bridge on our way from the parking lot in Punta to the floating market. and back.
You can get some good pictures of the boats from this location.
The capital of the island is a capital dissapointment.
I guess the main reason why all my friends and I were so dissappointed by it relies on the fact that when we took the bus from the airport to the resort, we passed by a huge bridge that oversees the town from about a 200 meters high, and from that distance the town seemed so beautiful and pictoresque that our original low-standard expectations of a town in a island as small as Curacao got artificially inflated.
The town is full of either too-cheap-too-bad-quality stores or either too-expensive-too-unnecessary stores.
It is extremely hot and you don't have a chance to go for a swim as you can in your resort.
There very few places where you can have a decent meal, and the place is kind of dirty.
You can find great deals if you want to by Dutch cheese, but that doesn't make for the rest.
I would say, "stay in your resort and order another Margarita".