Four Fab Spots to Stay
by Susan Campbell
Curacao Marriott Beach Resort
Exciting New Oasis for Business and Leisure (Top photo)
I was delighted to hear that the Curacao Marriott would be reopening in the Piscadera Bay area in 2019. The absence of a major resort on that prime piece of real estate right across the street from the Curacao World Trade Center was sorely missed. But now, after a $40 million USD renovation, the transformation is complete. And it’s glorious. I’m happy to see they left the grand entrance and sprawling pool intact and now, bedecked with state-of-the-art amenities, they are regaining their reputation as a first-rate stay on that landmark six acres of oceanfront. They will soon also offer the largest meeting space capacity on the island.
The 336-room hotel is divided into two wings flanking The Great Room lobby area, one with a stand alone adult-only pool area. Our rooms were fresh and modern with epic sea views, and our Reef Club level status gave us access to an inviting indoor/outdoor space just off the lobby offering complimentary gourmet snacks and spirits. Also, off the lobby, is Zalo Gastropub for creative tapas and hand-crafted cocktails, a sushi bar, and a coffee house/marketplace for grab-and-go-goodies. For surfside food and drink, there’s the lively Salty Iguana, but it’s their new signature dining spot called C-Spice that’s really making big waves on Curacao’s culinary front. We had the pleasure of enjoying a fabulous poolside dinner there, and it was great to see award-winning Chef Dino Jagtiani at the helm. I knew him from St. Maarten when he ran Temptation, one of that island’s most celebrated restaurants for many years. Welcome back Curacao Marriott!
Renaissance Curacao Resort & Casino
Practical Urban Base with a Brand-New Vibe
I ’d not been to this cool urban resort in the heart of downtown Willemstad for two years, so I was really surprised at the magnitude of changes there- all for the better! Though their past carnival theme had been a very bright and colorful collage of design elements, that’s all changed after a 12-million-dollar renovation. Though the new Wind Creek Carnival Casino still carries on that festive colorful theme, the entire complex has been redesigned with an ethereal upscale, sleek, and modern style. From the sparkling new lobby and refreshed indoor/outdoor Nautilus signature dining room to the addition of a guest-only Starbucks on the second floor, the resort has truly been elevated. And it’s extremely inviting.
Our stay this time was short but sweet, so the first spot I headed to was the unique manmade clifftop beach and seawater infinity pool, seriously one of the coolest water installations I’ve ever experienced. I’m happy to say that it’s still intact the way I remembered it, but now it’s even better with on-site spa cabanas. It’s right beside the cruise terminal, so you can see the twinkling lights of the ships on the water at night, and during the day, sometimes the infinity view provides the optical illusion that the ships are about to cruise right up onto the beach! Very cool.
All the property’s 223 rooms and suites have been completely refreshed, and I totally enjoyed my sea view room overlooking the historic Rif Fort and its lively outdoor village where the outdoor music can waft up to your balcony at night. Of special note was the abundance of 110-volt outlets, there were dozens of them. Most of Curacao’s hotel rooms were originally designed to accommodate European visitors, so they often require adapters for the 220-volt outlets.
This is an ideal practical base for business travelers, but also perfect for those seeking to be within easy walking distance of all the island’s UNESCO World Heritage sites and major urban attractions Willemstad has to offer.
Avila Beach Hotel
The Grande Dame That Always Delights
Every time I visit Curacao, I like to spend time at this classic Grande Dame, and each time I do, it’s even better than the last! Celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2019, this is the resort where the Dutch Royal Family stays while on island, but this spot, though definitely aristocratic, is by no means snooty. It’s an inviting compilation of two family-friendly private beaches with a house coral reef ideal for snorkeling, a collection of casual and modern dining spots, and fun and friendly bars. In fact, their Blues Bar is famous for being the absolute best spot for Thursday Happy Hour on island. It’s set upon its own high pier, and their live jazz band plays atop the bar on their own loft perch. And if you dine on their outside deck there Thursday nights, you’ll also be treated to the Punda Thursday Vibes fireworks display in the distance.
The 150-room complex is divided into three separate wings, each with its own appeal and specialty. The Blues Wing sits atop its own overwater pier and is uber romantic, especially now that this wing has been designated as adult-only. For business travelers and those seeking no-nonsense, sleek, modern stays, the Octagon Wing is the place to be, and that’s where you’ll find their stylish Cloud Nine Spa, 24/7 fitness centre and deluxe infinity pool. La Belle Alliance Wing is more classic colonial and their apartment style stays are preferred by families because they sport full kitchens. We had the pleasure of staying in their new two-bedroom luxury penthouse suite in the Belle Alliance Wing, and it was epic. The 3rd-floor sea view deck was large enough for a party of 20, the open concept kitchen/living room was also massive, and the the fact that it has 2 1/2 bathrooms and its own laundry facilities was also a plus.
There’s also history and culture on site – a small octagonal museum dedicated to Simon Bolivar is worth a visit, and there’s often outdoor classical musical concerts in their sea front courtyard.
Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort
An Ideal Escape for All Ages
I adore staying at this sprawling complex out on the island’s eastern tip, it’s truly a destination within a destination, and it offers everything one could want for an ideal tropical holiday. And if you golf, even better. Their spectacular seaside Old Quarry Golf Course has won best in the Caribbean awards many years running. I don’t golf, but I do love to go tropical fish-finding, and this resort is just around the corner from the cool tugboat wreck in Spanish Waters, one of the island best snorkels sites.
The colonial style complex of 350 stylish and spacious rooms spans 2,000 acres of gorgeous palm gardens and a lovely protected beachfront with shallow waters ideal for families. Children also love the water fountain splash area and parents love the main pool with big cabanas and food and beverage service. The resort now has an all-inclusive option, and dining on site includes a collection of beach bars and grills, the Medi main dining room, sushi and cocktails in The Great Room and Shore, their stand-alone signature restaurant that sits atop a cliff over the sea. Shore also welcomes off-property guest and it is, in my opinion, one of the best dining spots on the island, and so do take a trip out there to experience it, even if you are not staying at the resort. They have an excellent stand-alone bar there, too.
Personally, I simply enjoy chilling on the beach or floating in the sea while there and getting royally pampered in their awesome Atabei Spa is also a must, but if fitness is your thing, there are plenty of options. Hiking, biking, guided yoga and Pilates and an excellent 24/7 gym are a few, and the resort’s tennis and golf pros offer weekly clinics for guests. The calm waters surrounding Santa Barbara beach are also ideal for SUP and sea kayaking.