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Curacao was part of the Netherlands Antilles a 6 island group including Aruba which later became a 5 island group known as the Netherlands Antilles until its dissolution in 2010. Now it enjoys a unique status and a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands benefitting from Dutch passports and being a Dutch protectorate.
The island is located in the deep South Caribbean, below the hurricane belt with Willemstad as its bustling capital city. The inhabitants fluently speak four languages as Curacao was the most important trading post at the height of shipping trade in the 16th and 17th century. In order to do business with North and South America and the Dutch East India company, the business community adapted their language skills accordingly and were very successful. As a result, Curacao today is a modern, well-established country with many first world attributes.
The island is 171 square miles (244 square kilometers) with a population of 150,000 people from over 70 countries. Papiamentu is the island language (a mix of Spanish, African Portuguese, English, Dutch and other influences) and Dutch and English are also official languages whilst Spanish is very widely spoken. The nominal per capita income ranks 27th in the world, quite a feat for a small Caribbean nation. The island takes its name from the Portuguese word for heart which comes directly from the intimation of it being in the heart of the trading world in the 16th Century.
The original inhabitants were Arawak Indians better known for their extreme height (at the time) and were feared by most who arrived by sea and were frightened off by these giants waiting on the shore line to greet them. The first Europeans arrived in 1499 with Alonso de Ojeda. The island was Dutch from 1634 after achieving independence from Spain.
Like most islands it was the focus of wars between European nations vying for ownership – modern day Curacao is chic, organized and offers a very unique type of experience for tourists.
Downtown Punda on the harbor entrance and many of the old land-houses (plantation houses) are protected as UNESCO world heritage sites and many have undergone stunning restorations. Many of the best restorations have taken place in Scharloo a former wealthy Jewish district of the capital city. Some have even been transformed into restaurants, hotels, clubs and private beach destinations. The uninhabited island of Klein Curacao (small Curacao) is accessible by boat and offers some of the most natural and unspoiled beaches and snorkeling sites in the Caribbean. Like its neighbours Aruba and Bonaire, Curacao is blessed with year round temperate weather conditions with high average day-time temperatures, little rain and strong cooling ocean breezes year round.
Curacao enjoyed generous oil income until the mid 80’s when Shell pulled out of the island leaving a fragile economy. Tourism quickly came to the rescue and is thriving today. The refinery is presently leased to Venezuela and still provides a positive income. The island is a haven for those seeking excellent year round conditions for beach vacations as well as those interested in the strong cultural and adventure opportunities that exist. There is a national park, stellar diving and snorkeling sites, private and public beaches, great shopping, excellent food scene and night-life – basically all the right ingredients to appeal to a very wide audience. Safety is considered good and there are many top quality International hotels – chains and independents, operating very successfully and offering great service and flexibility to visitors. Driving is on the same side as Europe and the USA. The locals enjoy life to the max and festivals, musical events, the famous Curacao Jazz festival, Carnival in February and many other events throughout the year, are all ways they can express themselves as a happy go lucky nation with a positive attitude to life and how to enjoy it every day.