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The Caribbean: Curaçao

Tube-coral reefs, iguana meat, plush palapas.

C Is for Scuba
Of the ABC islands, Bonaire gets the deep-sea hype. But don’t overlook these Curaçao dives, from instructor Bas Harts.

Shon Mosa “You have to go off-road to find this small white-sand beach on the west coast. It’s great for beginners because of its sheltered location and also exciting for more advanced divers, since its reef starts at 20 feet but drops to 100-plus. You’ll see turtles, eels, rays. The shallow cliff line also makes it an amazing snorkeling spot.”

Hundu “Although hundu means ‘deep’ in Papiamento—and the reef does have a steep drop-off—it’s the shallow parts of this dive, on the west coast between San Juan and Sunset Waters, that will amaze you. This is one of the best dives in Curaçao.”

Superior Producer “One of the only wrecks that sit on the bottom of the ocean intact and upright, this 200-foot-long cargo ship, downed in the ’70s just outside the harbor and now home to orange tube coral, is often cited as among the best wreck dives in the Caribbean. It almost feels like it’s still floating—or like you’re in a scene from Pirates of the Caribbean. Go with a guide: The strong currents and deeper depths make this tough to do on your own.”

No-Name Beach “We’re the only dive group on the island that organizes trips to this beach in the San Juan area—which explains why this spot doesn’t see a lot of underwater traffic. The beach itself is even better-looking than Shon Mosa, and the coral formations are bigger and virtually untouched.”

Krioyo Cooking
Curaçao’s Krioyo food speaks to its Dutch, African, Jewish, Venezuelan, Indonesian, Chinese, and Surinamese influences. Local foodies pick essential dishes.

Keshy Yena
“Edam cheese stuffed with ground meat or chicken and mixed with prunes, olives, raisins, and capers is one of the island’s signatures. You can find it prepared in all types of gourmet ways across the island, but I like it best at the restaurant La Bahia on the Briónplein Square (Otrobanda Hotel, Breedestraat (O), Willemstad; 462-7400).” —Clarita Hagenaar, food-tour guide and cooking-class instructor

“We make stew from just about everything here, but especially beef or goat, with papaya, rice, beans, and funchi, a traditional thick side dish made of cornmeal, water, butter, and salt that’s similar to polenta. Try it at Rozendaels (Penstraat 47, Willemstad; 461-8806)—they are one of the best and longest-running restaurants on the island.” Bbrenda Altorf, head of Restaurant Week Curaçao

“Jaanchies (Westpunt 15, Westpunt; 864–0126) in Westpunt is famous for its iguana dishes. Locals attribute healing qualities to the meat and serve it stewed or in soup to cure various discomforts. Tastes like chicken.” —Rene Klop, executive chef at the Baoase Culinary Beach Restaurant

A Papiamento Primer
Most Curaçaoans speak English, Dutch, and Spanish, but learning a few key phrases in the local language of Papiamento will win you favorite-tourist status. Here’s where to start.

Kiko ta e kodigo pa Wi-Fi? = What’s the Wi-Fi password?

Mi ke mas blue Curaçao. = I want more blue Curaçao.

Masha danki! = Thank you very much!

Taxi, porfabor! = Taxi, please!

Dushi = Sweetie (a common term of endearment used to greet someone whose name you don’t know).

Where the Locals Would Stay

“Set in a newly built townhouse with a private pool, the Pietermaai 78 (from $82; is located in the Pietermaai Smal neighborhood, a no-go zone when I was younger but today referred to as Curaçao’s Soho.” —Gaby Lieuw, owner of Sand and Stilettos concierge service

“I’d recommend the three-palapa Mondi Lodge (left; from $135;, which just opened, over the bigger hotels. It’s a short drive to the water, and the owners make fantastic pumpkin pancakes.” —Tjapko Smits, owner and kite-surfing instructor, Kiting Curaçao

“The Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort (from $199; has the best golf course on the island, nice restaurants, a spa, and a white-sand beach.” —Ingmar Schnitzler, SUP Curaçao