Imagine Curaçao, an island in the Dutch Antilles, known as the ABC Islands (along with Aruba and Bonaire). An island often overshadowed by neighboring Aruba but equally picturesque and uniquely its’ own. Imagine a Caribbean island without the threat of hurricanes and where rain is rarely in the forecast. Curaçao sits below the hurricane belt and remains a stunning 80 degrees year round. This Caribbean island proved to be the perfect place for a getaway. Allow this Curaçao photo diary to transport you to the beautiful beaches and through the vibrant streets of Willemstad.
Upon arrival, I made my way to the Hilton Curaçao which would be my home for the next week. I arrived just in time for sunset. The sunsets in Curaçao would prove to be some of the most intense I have ever seen. It was apparent that I have arrived in paradise. The sunset hues casted a warm glow over the beach and pool.
I woke early each morning to witness the soft sunrise before enjoying a day at the beach. The warm Caribbean breeze blew against the straw umbrellas that lined the beach. I meandered during those lazy mornings until the afternoon sun sent me running for a dip in the Sea.
The water in Curaçao was perfectly refreshing. There is no better way to enjoy a Caribbean Island than swimming the day away.
Curaçao is the perfect blend of beach destination and colorful Caribbean city. The capital city of Willemstad has an array of colorful buildings and shops. My first sighting of Willemstad was from across the Queen Emma Bridge. From the second I laid my eyes on this colorful view, I couldn’t wait to see more of the city.
I wandered the streets of Willemstad in search for the most colorful building. This was an easy task as almost every building in Curaçao is painted in vibrant hues of blues, pinks and yellows. The beautifully vibrant hues of Willemstad left me cheerful. There is something to be said about a place that brings you happiness simply from the color of the buildings.
When it comes to island hopping, unless you have the use of a private jet (don’t we all wish!), cruising is the perfect way to go. From respites filled with lush beaches and historic sites to locales peppered with modern amenities and yachts galore, here are 8 islands not to miss in the Caribbean Sea.
Antigua is peppered with soft sandy beaches next to clear waters with an aqua hue. The Caribbean wouldn’t have it any other way! Heading out to any of the beaches via car rental (which is less expensive and more readily available than you might think) allows you to experience multiple beaches for lounging, seeing beautiful views, and experiencing the sunset.
Not to be missed is Nelson’s Dockyard, which is a set of older buildings that now house shops and restaurants. Because of the historical aspect, it is associated with the parks system, which includes a few vantage points such as Shirley Heights. It’s a must for your list as the area truly offers some of the best views in the Caribbean. They will take your breath away!
This little-known island is…well, little. At only 18 square km, Bequia is small on size, but big on views. A leisurely pace is kept by expats and locals alike, and quaint, beachside villas are available for those who would like to stay a while.
One favorite spot is Princess Margaret Beach. A walkway made of wood and stone takes visitors to a sandy beach with gorgeous views of the boats in the harbor. Beachgoers can relax in either the sun or shade as they look out onto the aqua waters.
The island is popular with expats, some of whom create and sell artisan wares, such as lovely paintings and wooden, miniature boats that float. Those who like rum punch will be thrilled with the many two-for-one offerings at the ocean side restaurants where you can stop and grab a bite.
The port of St. George’s has the typical shops and activity of a town, yet it also houses museums such as the Grenada Museum and the House of Chocolate (yum!). Venturing out from the port showcases a lovely inland harbor filled with colorful boats.
One of the highlights of the island is the impressive Underwater Sculpture Park. Snorkeling or scuba diving allows visitors to view underwater statues where sea life has begun to take residence, creating a delicate balance between art and nature. Feeling adventurous? Head to Annadale Falls to relax by the sounds of falling water.
A favorite stop of many, the port of Les Saintes in Guadeloupe is both quaint and filled with shops and restaurants. There is plenty to do within walking distance. A short, but steep hike will take you up to Fort Napoleon, where there are lovely views of the harbor. Walking to the other side of the island offers a different view of lovely homes, interesting cemeteries, and a beach area with vigorous waves.
Especially endearing are the swimming areas, which are spread along working beaches peppered with fishing boats. The folks on this French-speaking island are sweet and accommodating, but be prepared to do a bit of hand signaling as native English speakers in Les Saintes are few and far between.
Those who love shopping and artisan wares will adore the port of Anse Mitan, which has many local restaurants and boutique shops to peruse. Also of note is the smattering of artisans with their handmade wares. Patrons can purchase one of their ready-made items or have a custom piece made as a souvenir.
To avoid crowds, head to one of the lesser-known beaches, such as Pointe du Bout, which has shade, palm trees, and clear water that is perfect for snorkeling. For those who want to venture out, a ferry is available to other points. A ride on the ferry affords beautiful outlooks and a relaxing experience.
Want to experience living like the rich and famous – even if only for a day? Then this island, more commonly known as St. Barts, is where to head. The port of Gustavia is filled with impressive yachts and upscale stores.
ATV rentals are available at a few shops around the port, which opens up a whole host of areas to explore. The secluded Rockefeller Beach is a 20-minute hike from the road, but the once private beach is the perfect place to sunbathe and swim in clear waters.
Although your cruise ship may offer excursions, this island is easy to navigate if you are daring enough to rent an ATV in the port of Basseterre. Encompassing 175 square km, the views from the coastline are breathtaking. Brimstone Hill Fortress is a worthy vantage point while adding a bit of history to your stop.
Also of note is Wingfield Estate, which showcases sugar cane processing ruins. Romney Manor is next door, where patrons can view the delicate process of making batik fabric.
Heading along the coastline will also cause you to encounter Black Rock Beach, which is just that – a beach line filled with stately black rock formations. St. Kitts has plenty of lounging beaches around the island for you to discover, and if you have time, popping over to the nearby island of Nevis is a possibility.
For those who crave a bit of adventure, Pigeon Island is a fabulous stop. It is filled with rainforest canopies, so heading one to one of many ziplines is a thrill. Line guides watch for safety and also take photos and videos with your phone as you whiz by.
The port itself has a fort that overlooks the harbor and white sand beaches with clear water like only the Caribbean can offer.
When most people think of the Caribbean, they think crystal clear waters, all-inclusive resorts and soaking up the sun on the beach all day. But we’re here to share the vibrant towns and cities that also make the Caribbean the beautiful part of the world that it is.
1. San Juan, Puerto Rico
With colorful, Spanish colonial architecture lining the streets of San Juan, white-sand beaches as well as rain forests in the surrounding areas has something for almost everyone. The El Morro fortress surrounds the city to watch over San Juan Bay since the 16th century and the its 20 foot thick walls and cannons are remarkable. A UNESCO World Heritage Site for good reason, is one of the most beautiful cities in the Caribbean.
– La Princesa
– San Juan Gate
– Plazuela de la Rogativa
– Fort San Felipe del Morro
– Cathedral of San Juan
– Plaza de Armas
2. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic As the capital and cultural center of the Dominican Republic, Santo Domingo transports you to another time and place with its rustic facades and history. As the oldest settlement in the Americas, Santo Domingo is also home to the oldest churches, castles, homes and fortresses in the Americas. You’ll find tons of beauty by getting lost throughout its Old Town, the Zona Colonial.
– Cathedral of St. Mary of the Incarnation: oldest cathedral in the Americas
– Calle de las Damas: the New World’s first paved street)
– Calle El Conde: shop lined street
– Alcázar de Colón (pictured)
3. Curaçao Dutch style buildings and vibrant facades, Curaçao’s harbor is one of the most picturesque harbors in the world. It’s like a Caribbean version of Copenhagen’s Nyhavn! It’s no wonder Willemstad, the island’s capital, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The tow sides of the island are connected by a movable pedestrian harbor bridge crossing and it’s a joy to watch it open with people still on it! In addition to the colorful town, Curaçao is home to vibrant reefs, crystal clear waters and more.
4. Saint Kitts & Nevis The lush, dramatic landscapes of Saint Kitts & Nevis will surely take your breathe away. Visit Timothy Hill (pictured below) to witness the Atlantic and Caribbean oceans all in one view. You can also take a sailboat to nearby Nevis and/or take in the views on board the oldest and the “Last Railway in the West Indies” departing from Needsmust station.
5. Aruba Old world and dutch architecture combined with stunning lush trees, cacti and stunning blue waters make Aruba one of the most popular islands in the Caribbean. Get in touch with nature by visiting the Natural Bridge carved out of stone by nature and soak up panoramic views from the Alto Vista Chapel.
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Barbados is a beautiful country, known for it’s pristine beaches, friendly locals, delicious cuisine, and yes, Rihanna. The island has an infectious energy and it’s no wonder they produced a world famous pop star. That Barbadian energy can be felt every Friday at the fish fry, pumping through the speakers of the bars on Saint Lawrence gap, and even at the grocery stores! Music is everywhere and you can’t help but get into a festive mood once you step foot on the island.
How to get there
There are frequent flights from the USA, UK and other Caribbean islands with international carriers. Bridgetown, the country’s capital, is also one of the most popular cruise ports in the Caribbean. I flew from Martinique to Barbados with Air Antilles.
Best time to go High season correlates with dry season, which starts in November and wraps up towards the end of April. If you want the best deals then I suggest you book a trip in May. Hotels experience a steep decline in bookings due to the end of high season, which means they slash their prices – some luxury hotels even offer free nights or 50% off deals! If you consider yourself to be a risk taker then you can go ahead and book a summer fare as they will likely cost less. Just take into consideration that you may end up rained out for your entire vacation or caught in a hurricane!
Where to stay Barbados has no shortage of wonderful places to stay on any budget. There are plenty of big-name hotels, like the high end all-inclusive Sandals Resorts or the Hilton. Travelers who like to be low key and mix with locals will feel more comfortable renting an apartment or villa during their vacation. Those seeking absolute seclusion will be in paradise at The Crane, a private resort on Crane Beach, voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the world!
Where/what to eat Oistins Fish fry is an absolute must! Hundreds of people descend upon this food haven every Friday for music, performances, and you guessed it – fried fish! Get the Flying Fish or the “Dolphin” (Mahi Mahi) with a side of macaroni pie and plantains and you won’t be disappointed. For those seeking a chic vacation dining experience, try one of the hotel restaurants. You’ll get the chance to dress up and eat great food with a magnificent view. Lobster is a must when fine dining in the Caribbean! It doesn’t get much fresher than on an island. Grabbing poolside drinks at a hotel bar is also a nice way to have a chic Caribbean experience without breaking the bank.
Turtles: a must see! Barbados is known for it’s sea turtles, which are numerous and quite big so they are hard to miss! There are plenty of catamaran companies that offer day cruises which include a guaranteed sighting, but I’ll let you in on a little secret – you can pack your own snorkel gear and get out there and see them for yourself! If you’re a good swimmer you’ll be able to swim out to where the catamarans dock and join the fun.
When traveling, experiences come in different ways. Some experiences you have to let happen while others you have to make happen. At times, you have to be aggressive. If there is something you want to see, you better go see it. If there is something you want to do, you better go do it. This is how I felt about North Point, Barbados.I am the research queen. When planning a trip, I do more research than a PhD student writing their dissertation. When it came down to planning a 7 day Caribbean cruise with two travel buddies, I took initiative to research each port. This was in no way work for me, I love researching new places. In the month of preparation time we had, I found out everything I could about each port. I now knew the language spoken, the currency used and whether or not each island was an independent country. Sifting through every article and book I could find on the Caribbean, I wrote down a list of things to do in each port. Having only one day in each port, I knew we wouldn’t even get to half of the items on my list. The place that was on the top of my list however was North Point, Barbados. Before my research, I have never heard of this place. When I thought of Barbados, I thought of endless beaches and Rihanna. North Point however was the exact opposite of all my prior conceptions.
No matter how much you plan for a trip, you have to just let it happen to a certain extent. You can do all the research you want and you will never be truly prepared. When ]your trip begins, it’s time to put away the research and enjoy where you are and what you are doing in the moment. We decided that it would be best not to stick to any particular plan. However the research did come in hand. It was the third day of our cruise, our ship had docked at Bridgetown, Barbados. This was it, this is where I would begin my journey to the North Point! The research I found said there were brightly colored transit busses that could bring us from Bridgetown to Saint Lucy, the town where the North Point was located in.
The problem was that our cruise ship did not let us out close to the city and it didn’t seem to be within walking distance. I was feeling a little dejected. That is until we saw a sign that had taxi and tour information. A taxi to North Point was $20, one way per person. For three college girls on a budget, that seemed far too pricey for a taxi ride. At that moment I gave up on seeing North Point and went back to the “just let it happen” attitude. I was in Barbados, the country of endless beaches, nothing could bring me down. Just as we were trying to figure out of next step, we were approached by a taxi driver offering a coast to coast “panoramic” tour of Barbados for only $30 per person. Now this sounded like a great deal! We listened to the sales pitch the driver gave us as he listed all the places he would bring us to. Yet he didn’t list the North Point. I decided to take matters into my own hands and asked him if he could stop at North Point. Even though it was out of the way from his normal tour route, he willingly obliged without any additional cost. Sometimes you just have to ask for that you want.The tour bus made it’s way to the typically stops. We passed by Rihanna’s house and stopped at some of the endless beaches of Barbados. The beaches were beautiful and all seemed to have their own identity. Our tour guide had to stop a couple times to ask for directions. Sometimes even a guide needs to be guided in the right directions. This made me realize that where we were going was off the traditional tourist path.When we finally arrived, we stepped out to find ourselves standing on the edge of a cliff. It was a long way down, we would have to watch our step. I have never before seen a cliff. Now I was standing at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean looking down at the waves crashing violently against the jagged rocks below. It added to a bit of fear while climbing the rocks to take in the view. It was a surreal moment, the kind of moment I look for when traveling. These are the moments that make you realize how much of the world there is to see. The lyrics “do you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean” really hit home as I watched the endless ocean from my vantage point high on the cliffs of North Point.
Barbados seems flat. When you arrive at the port, there are no high mountains like some of the volcanic islands in the Caribbean. You don’t expect the kind of view we had from North Point. Most people never even have the chance to see it, because most have never even heard of it. I’m glad that I am the research queen. It only takes a little bit of research and a whole lot of persistence to see something truly incredible.