Curaçao: Exploring a City Full of Art & Culture Infused with History
Posted on 2019-04-13
This year during “Spring Break,” I took my first ever realsolo trip. By real, I mean that I went to a county where I knew absolutely no one on the ground. This experience was exhilarating— not only because I made the decision to go less than a week before and at 2am— but also because I had always wanted to travel by myself and visit the island of Curaçao. The trip itself seemed like to two goals of mine coming together.
I went to Curaçao for 5 days and 4 nights during the week of April 11-15. While there I mostly visited many natural sites that were accessible to, me as I was on the most Western point of Curaçao (Westpunt). I hiked a 1,230 feet high mountain, went to many beaches, saw two waterholes, explored a few caves, and got to see many flamingos in their natural habit! [[Along with many other pretty birds which I really enjoyed.]]
I also visited the city once and took a million photographs of the gorgeous city waterfront that featured colourful buildings (nodding to Caribbean and island style colours) with Dutch architecture (a vestige of Curaçao’s colonial period).
The aim of this long overdue blog post will be to highlight the most important part of the trip for me as a solo and young woman travelling in Curaçao. That is:
Meeting people passionate about sharing their culture, history, city, and art with me— in a way that was real and also unfiltered.
In front of the Renaissance Mall & Rif Fort
On Tuesday during my trip I decided to head down to the city to buy some groceries for my Airbnb and do a bit of sightseeing.
I was bit bummed about how I would do, seeing as none of the walking tours available online in Curaçao happened during the week— I’m not the best at reading a map. All of the online tours were reserved to just the weekend and for special private walking tours, you needed a minimum number of people. This for me, of course, would be a problem as a split traveller that didn’t know anyone.
To my surprise, while exploring Curaçao, I encountered a free walking tour guide right outside of Rif Fort!
The advertisement for the walking tour is easily noticeable outside of the fort, because it is literally advertised on the attire of the entrepreneur advertising these services (see photo below).
This walking tour was probably the BEST one I’ve ever been on, strictly due to the knowledge of the tour guide.
My tour guide knew when certain buildings were created, what parts of the city were filled and why, where everything was, he could also speak FIVE languages, and it was amazing. He also answered any and all of the questions I had in honest way.
And if you know me, you know my questioned ranged from higher education, race, migrants, Venezuela and it’s political and people relationship with Curaçaons, politics, etc.
Also, my walking tour started off with 3 in the group, including myself— and two members of the group had come in a cruise ship and had to leave early. But I stayed on and continued doing the walking tour solo with the tour guide.
Here is the walking tour information and a photo of what the shirts look like as well as the contact information of my tour guide:
Elton Sint Jago (Free Walking Tour Curaçao)
FB: Elton Sint Jago
Although a free walking tour, it is operated on a tip basis. I highly recommendpeople tipping for the labour of others and also tipping properly. Especially for these kinds of services.
On this tour, I was shown l where to get groceries, where the museum was, where the Walls of Scharloo were, how to see the entire city from a top viewpoint, it was 100% worth it.
After my 3 hour tour ended, I did my grocery shopping and went to the Kurá Hulanda Slave Museum and you should ask me why I believe that every single Caribbean state should have a slave museum like Curaçao’s and what my experience there was like.
Landhuis Jan Kok Gallery
After exploring Willemstad and being amazed by the walls and buildings featuring art that express Curaçoan artists— whose visions of blackness, childhood, and nature was marvellous to see — I was interested in seeing more of the Curaçaon art scene.
I was specifically amused with how the entire island seemed to have a rich history of art. This is notably expressed in their “Chichi” dolls, that are black and faceless and colourful and in the shape of a woman (my tour guide noted that no two chichi dolls are ever coloured the same and buying one helps a single Curaçaon mother in need).
But what else was there? I got to check some more artwork out on Thursday in Sint Willibrordus at the Landhuis Jan Kok art gallery— which is literally across the street from a “flamingo park” filled with flamingos in their natural habitat. The Jan Kok gallery itself is amusing, since it’s on a big chunk of land in a beautiful white house, that was once the premises of the cruelest slave master in Curaçao.
The Jan Kok gallery mostly features artwork from deceased Curaçaon beauty queen, Nena Sanchez. It also features the artwork of other Curaçaon artists, who do get the profits when you buy their artwork. The bought work of Nena Sanchez contributes to keeping the gallery open and functioning.
The manager in the office himself, is also an artist whose trade includes architecture, so his artwork is functionable for your home! His information can be found be searching Artectonik or visiting this link to the Artectonik Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/ArtectonikNV/
Please note, that due to the uniqueness of the artwork, photos inside of the gallery is not allowed.
I ended up buying a single piece of artwork, to share with someone who I know love birds (that wasn’t my mom). It came was not crushed which I was very pleased with:
I cannot seem to find the name of the artist, although I did write it down and his number as well 😔 if you know, please let me know and I will update the post!
1: In Curaçao I felt very safe. I should probably note as a disclaimer that many Curaçaoan’s thought I was also from there.
2: On the island itself, everyone spoke at minimum 2-3 languages: Papiamentu, English, Dutch, (and A LOT also spoke Spanish).
3: While there I rented a car— which I highly recommend because the island is small and with a car you can see so much more. Some people also said that the taxi costs start to add up and waiting for the bus can take long.
4: The city, Willemstad and surrounding areas are pretty much walkable (think NYC with more sun). The one day that I did go to the city, I parked for 7 hours and literally walked everywhere. YES! With my fractured pinky toe.
5: I paid $323 for a round trip ticket at 2am on a Monday night. So definitely wait for a deal, when I woke up later on that same day, ticket prices had gone up to $600 plus change and by Tuesday, $900 and change. (I was checking only in case I chickened out and wanted someone to accompany me, but them prices ).
6: I stayed in an Airbnb in Westpunt and it was great. I usually have awesome Airbnb experiences in the Caribbean.
7: Most importantly, don’t worry so much about cash exchanges etc. Most places accepted debit cards and if you want to avoid tax, most places also accept USD so you wouldn’t have to do currency conversion.
All in all, I had a great solo trip and did not limit myself even with a fractured pinky toe.
For more photos of Curaçao, you can check out my Instagram feed: @tamanishajohn