Let’s get the name out of the way: it’s pronounced ‘cure-a-sow’. Not ‘ker-rako’. Not ‘qu-a-so-a’. ‘Cure-a-sow’. When in doubt, just think ‘heal a female pig’ and go from there. Got it? Got it.
As it happens, healing is embedded in Curaçao’s very etymology. Naval exploration was rather popular among the European nations of the 16th and 17th centuries, with horizons to be crossed, new worlds to be discovered and fortunes to be made. Yet these voyages weren’t always smooth sailing (sorry); leaving aside the fact that the new worlds mightn’t want to be discovered, and the horizons might contain hurricanes, spending weeks onboard the average galleon wasn’t exactly conducive to healthy hygiene. Sea serpents mightn’t get you; scurvy almost certainly would.
The good news for the sailor whose vitamin C-levels are going through the floor and whose teeth are falling out all over the deck: your ship has a fantastic medical plan and the trained doctor onboard will help you through this passing ailment. That’s a lie, obviously. You’re gonna have to power through and if you’re too weak to haul rope or scramble up the rigging, then expect to be jettisoned: no point in wasting good, weevil-infected biscuits on malnourished men. Hey, there’s an island up ahead! Let’s drop the sickly here and check back in a few months to see if they’ve been eaten by lizards.
Legend has it that Curaçao was used as a dumping ground for the scurvied sailors of Spanish and Portuguese ships. Yet there were plenty worse places to be dumped: aside from the climate, the sea, and the opportunity to invent a rum punch, Curaçao harboured large amounts of tropical fruit, the consumption of which proved an effective treatment for scurvy. Rather than skeletons, returning ships would often find their erstwhile crewmates thriving. Hence the Portuguese christening the island ‘Ilha da Curaçao’ – the island of the healing. Arrive with scurvy; leave with a suntan (and quite possibly get scurvy on the voyage home).
Even by Caribbean standards, modern Curaçao is quite the melting pot: wander the streets of its capital Willemstad, and you’re likely to hear a huge range of accents from across the world: with locals mingling among Dutch, Americans and British. You’ll also see a quite enchanting town, its multicoloured waterfront – the Handelskade – resembling a Disney movie brought to life. This is a dazzling place, with copious street art decorating the buildings and ferries the size of tower blocks sailing into the harbour each day.
You have the destination; now you need the accommodation. Best fetch the Sandals.
Get Your Sandals on
The Sandals brand has been in a state of constant expansion for more than 40 years – ever since an enterprising chap named Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart purchased a hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica in 1981. Stewart had no previous experience in the hotel industry but who needs experience when you have ambition, vision and competency?
There are 17 Sandals Resorts in the Caribbean, with Curaçao the newest addition to the family. Although in this instance, ‘family’ might be the wrong word: most Sandals resorts are couples-only – just you and your significant other. That means no screaming kids, no beer-chugging bros, no shrieking hen parties. Just rest, relaxation – and hopefully some romance.
Indeed, calling Sandals Royal Curaçao a resort is a bit of an undersell: set on a 3,000-acre estate, it’s home to 351 rooms and suites, eight restaurants, and a significant slice of idyllic coastline, Sandals feels more like a village. A very luxurious village designed to cater to your every need and whim. Another cocktail? Don’t mind if we do!
Accommodation comes in all shapes and sizes – although none of them would qualify as ‘slumming it’. A few choice picks: Sunchi Beachfront Suites have a Tranquility Soaking Tub (or bathtub) quite literally on your doorstep (or rather, patio) and some even have swim-up entry. Kurason Island Butler Bungalows are arranged around a heart-shaped swimming pool, exclusive to those staying there. Or would you prefer a personal infinity pool, as offered by Awa Seaside Butler Bungalows? As the name suggests, the bungalows are served by their own personal butler along with a Mini Cooper to explore the rest of the island.
However, exploring the island mightn’t be high on your priority list – as first, you’ll want to check out a few of those aforementioned restaurants. Let’s tick a few of them off, shall we? In no particular order we have:
– Butch’s Chop House, named after Butch Stewart, the founder of Sandals. The big man would be very happy with the cults of meat on offer here. One for the carnivores.
– Gatsu Gatsu, for trays of exquisitely fresh sushi and sashimi. The restaurant is named for a Japanese term that loosely translates into the act of devouring food quickly. The name is apt.
– Scratch that South American itch at the very stylish Zuka. Think: fried fish, chicken stews, plenty of pisco sours. Lovely.
– But our personal favourite is Strand, serving up deliciously fresh seafood on the beach itself. The Caribbean experience at its most delightful and delicious.
Basically, you’re spoilt for choice here – and seeing as the resort is all-inclusive, you might as well try as many as possible. However, if you fancy hitting the town, Sandals has partnered with eight high-quality restaurants for its Island Inclusive programme. Eligible guests will receive one $250 voucher to dine at one of these partner restaurants, with all transfers arranged. You’ll need to be staying in a Butler suite and seven-nights minimum, but that’s no great hardship, right?
For those looking to get their hands dirty, why not try a Caribbean Cookery Class? Hosted by acclaimed chef Helmi Smeulders, you’ll have the opportunity to learn about local food and culinary traditions, prepare a delicious meal under Helmi’s supervision – and enjoy the results for lunch on her beautiful sun-kissed veranda. A most wholesome way to spend a morning.
One last adventure? Take a catamaran to Klein Curaçao, a tiny island an hour’s sail from Sandals. Tour operator Island Routes will provide you with food, drink and snorkelling equipment. The Caribbean will do the rest.
View on Instagram
For more information, visit sandals.co.uk