Willemstad, Curaçao

Photo: Rodry 1 from nl [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], from Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Rodry 1 from nl [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
The temperature keeps dropping a little lower each day. Summer is long gone, and it’s hard to enjoy autumn when the shiver-inducing wind makes it feel like winter is right around the corner. You’re ready to escape to a warm, sunny climate. Already. But hurricane season isn’t over quite yet. So you’ll have to head farther south than your favorite Turks & Caicos or Jamaica resort if you just can’t wait until December. Enter Curaçao.

Located off the Venezuelan coast, Curaçao is outside of the hurricane belt. The dry island, which receives little rain, is full of cacti, Mesquite, and Divi-divi trees. And it’s home to one of the most picturesque cities in the Caribbean: Willemstad.

Willemstad is known for its pastel buildings that blend the island’s European and Caribbean heritage. Two forts–Fort Amsterdam and Rif Fort–stand at the entrance of the harbor. Fort Amsterdam guards Punda, a district with narrow, organized streets and lots of little shops. Stroll along Handelskade, the harbor-front street whose colorful 18th century buildings are depicted on many Curaçao postcards. They’re filled with art galleries, boutiques, and sidewalk cafes. Pass the Floating Market, where boats from Venezuela arrive to sell mangoes, papayas, fresh fish, and spices. Visit the Mikvé Israel-Emanuel Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere, and Wilhelmina Park, where there’s usually a cultural festival taking place. Jump right in.

Photo: Baoase Luxury Resort
Photo: Baoase Luxury Resort

To cross St. Anna Bay to Otrobanda, or “the other side,” walk over the Queen Emma Bridge. Known as “the swinging old lady,” the pedestrian bridge swings open for ships to enter the harbor. Otrobanda, the cultural district, is a maze of twisting streets where the slave trade once flourished. Tour the Museum Kurá Hulanda, a restored 18th century village where slaves were sold in the merchant square. It’s hard to imagine the horrors that took place in such a charming setting.

You’re both physically and mentally exhausted by now. It’s time to find your hotel. Cross back over the bay via the Queen Juliana Bridge, the tallest bridge in the Caribbean, and make your way south to the Baoase Luxury Resort. It’s near the Curaçao Sea Aquarium, though once you make yourself at home at Baoase, you might forget about the dolphins down the street. A giant Buddha welcomes you to the resort. The rooms are surrounded by palm trees and Balinese Hindu statues. Pools and waterfalls shut out the outside noise. Find a secluded spot in a cave jacuzzi. Relax among dozens of pillows in the shade. Or find that sunny spot on the beach that brought you here in the first place. You’ll be content in your own little world until saxophone music draws you to the Beach Bar.

Sipping a cocktail made with the island’s famous blue liqueur as you watch the sun set, you’ll be relaxed and convinced you can make it through the cold northern winter now. Or at least the rest of autumn.

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