Today we are making a little road trip, driving from the Lodges to Westpunt and back.
Jan Kok Lodges is located centrally, in the middle of the island. When you drive East, you will go to Willemstad and further on to (more touristc) Jan Thiel. When you drive to the less crowded and less tourist West, you will experience a very different landscape. With different vegetation, mostly more greener and there are also more hills compared to the East. Also here, from Jan Kok Lodges to Westpoint, you will find beautiful beaches. Departing from the Lodges, we will take the main road, the road to Westpunt (which says it all 😊) and returning to the Lodges, we will take the coast-road, so you actually will not cross the same road twice.
Our first stop is at the Weg naar Westpunt at the Kunuku House or Kas di pal’I maishi. A small historical museum with objects and lots of info on the rural population of Curacao. If you want you can attend workshops and participate in a tour – for this, however, check their facebook page before your visit.
After this educational break we continue and drive further to Westpunt. On the way, we enjoy the colorful houses and pass Landhuis Dokterstuin and Landhuis Ascension, which we will visit some other time. At Westpunt we stop at Playa Kalki for lunch. We park along the road (no need to park at nearby hotel Kura Hulanda, where you will be charged a parking fee) and take the steps down to the beach. You enter a shady wooden terrace with a diving school at your left and a cute little informal restaurant at your right. Sitting here in the shadow, overlooking the blue sea, enjoying a cool drink and some food….we doubt whether there are any better places to be at. The reef in front of Playa Kalki is known as Alice in Wonderland and is a gorgeous shore dive. But for now we resist diving in and continue our trip.
We make a short stop at Playa Kenepa Chiki, or Kleine Knip, a sweet white sandy bay between rocks, popular for long BBQ afternoons. Next to Kleine Knip is Grote Knip, or Playa Kenepa Grandi, a beautiful lagun between high rocks. You will definitely be amazed by the blue color of the sea. There are plenty of sunbeds available and there is a simple bar where you can get drinks, smoothy’s and something to eat. Here we stay a little longer, the snorkeling is always great! There is a big change you will meet some sea turtles and manta rays here.
Then it is time to drive back to the Lodges, but not before we make a stop at San Juan, a wonderful spot if you want to get off the beaten path. You enter the estate via a gate near the main road. Following is a dirt road, which eventually ends right before the ruins of landhouse San Juan. You will be greeted by a representative of the family that owns the estate and he will collect 10 Nafl entrance fee. Beyond the landhouse is a dirt road leading to 4 beautiful beaches. Note that the dirt roads in dry season can be a challenge. During wet season you need a four-wheel drive to get around. If you find the roads too challenging (and important: do not have the right car insurance which allows you to drive on dirt roads) – don’t worry, wondering and exploring the ruins of the landhouse is already an adventure. Make sure to leave the estate again before 6 PM, when the gate will be closed (and we are actually not sure whether there is somebody checking whether there are still visitors around).
Approx 15 minutes later we are back at the Lodges, a wonderful day it surely was.
Kas di pal’i maishi, open from 10 AM tot 2 PM. Entrance fee Nafl 10 per person. More info on facebook Museum Kas Di Pal’i Maishi. Playa Kalki, the restaurant is open daily and closes around 4.30 PM. Grote Knip and Kleine Knip free entrace. San Juan, open daily till approx. 6 PM (ask the guard), entrance fee 10 Nafl per car.
A few weeks ago we paid a visit to former plantation house Landhuis Habaai. It was a few years (!) since our last one and although we pass by almost every day it obviously took way too long! Really too bad, because the landhuis is beautiful, cheerful and full of color. And Gallery Alma Blou, which now is located in the landhuis, is inspiring.
First a little history Landhuis is the Dutch term for plantation house. Most of them were built in the 18th and 19th century and each plantation had a different function. Some grew fruits and vegetables, others produced sugar cane. Salt mining was the most profitable one. Landhuis Habaai is built in the 18th century and one of the oldest in Curacao. In the beginning it was a plantation, later it served as a country retreat. In the 19th century it became a boarding school and orphanage. The name Habaai comes from a former Jewish resident.
Art and Culture When you arrive at the landhuis (you can easily park right in front of it, along the street), you already notice there is something artistic going on here. The landhouse itself, and even the mailbox, is beautifully decorated. Inside you first enter the gallery, which actually is the oldest and largest gallery on the island. Here you will find local and Caribbean art. From little paintings to large sculptures. But also ceramics and jewelry. All art has a Caribbean character and it is clear that the artists are inspired by the island: the sea, landscape, the people etc. The very kind woman who works here is more than happy to tell you all about the art. We were especially impressed by the work of Iris Pérez-Romero and loved the sculptures of Otmar Jenny. Walking a bit further you will find yourself at a wonderful bricked up terrace. Here, often cultural events are being organized such as concerts, book presentations and poetry readings. Take a seat, order a refreshing drink and enjoy the special atmosphere! It is a lovely place!
Landhuis Habaai Frater Radulphusweg 4 Willemstad, Curaçao
Phone: (+5999) 462-8896
Opening Hours Tuesday – Friday: 9:30 AM – 5:30 PM Saturday: 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM Monday: Closed
Scharloo is the neighborhood at the northside of de Waaigat harbor in Punda, Willemstad. It is the youngest colonial district of the city and known for its colorful mansions built in the 18th century. During that time, Curacao was a popular port with wealthy shipyard owners who lived in these beautiful houses.
Last week we visited Scharloo (although we come here more often, not the least for the good coffee, more about that later). We parked our car in Punda and walked via the floating market and crossed the bridge to Scharloo. The first thing you see is the Maritime Museum, located in a beautiful restored building. The museum shows more than 500 years maritime history of Curacao and in addition organizes several tours, also a harbor tour. Definitely worth a visit!
Before the museum, go to the right where at the end you enter a small alley. The small houses were originally built for the people who worked on the shipyards. Further on you will find more of these houses, all painted in similar bright colors. At the end of the alley, turn right and you will see a building with a gorgeous colorful nature mural. Since a couple of years, Scharloo is more and more well known for its murals, which are all being initiated by Street Art Skalo. This organization makes it possible for the artists to make their master pieces. Street Art Skalo wants to bring people together through art by making the streets of the district more beautiful. Their mission: turning Scharloo into the creative district of Curacao.
When you walk straight ahead you are at the Scharlooweg, which is parallel to the Waaigat. Here you will find many of the beautiful restored mansions. All of them with baroque elements and painted in the most vibrant colors: pink, green, yellow, blue and bright red. Many of them host governmental institutions or function as business offices.
Today Scharloo is slowly becoming a hipster district. Not only because of the many murals but also because of the presence of creative businesses and new local (lunch)shops. When you turn around and walk back to the building with the colorful nature mural, turn right and here is the shop of Integra Natural. The address for hand made natural products like body scrubs, lip balms, body lotions, soaps and much more. You will not leave without buying a couple of things! At the opposite of the street is Eatery Shop Fleur de Marie (Fleur de Marie is the name of the area on the rocky slope northwest of Scharloo). A little further (back to the main street at your right), is lunch café Beyglz. You can sit inside (where it is lovely cool) or at the terrace in the back. We enjoyed coffee (as always), fresh juice and some good food. For sure we will be back!
Willemstad, the capital of Curacao, is a vibrant and colorful town. Besides shopping, buying souvenirs, enjoying the food and drinks on the numerous terraces, of course there is much more to discover. And a fun way to do this is by bike.
A couple of days ago we joined a bike tour through Punda, organized by Avantia Damberg, a local artist who tells you all about the public urban art in the city. The art Avantia takes you to see, varies from being funny and sweet to really, really impressing. We got to know the stories behind the art pieces as well as those about the artists who made it.
Special during the tour was the visit to the first floor of Marshe Nobo (the round market). We climbed all the way to the top and had a great view overlooking the city. And on the first floor we admired some beautiful paintings. At the opposite of Marshe Nobo we visited a, what seemed to be an almost historic bar full of paintings and owned by the initiator of the Carnival Parade and the popular Tumba Festival on Curacao.
After approx. 1,5 hour we biked back to the place where we started and had a well-deserved drink at ‘Mijn Broodje Pietermaai’. No better way to end this really nice discovery tour!
Besides bike-tours through Punda, Otrabanda and Scharloo, also walking-tours are being organized by Avantia’s company ‘Art Now Tours Curacao’. The duration of the tours is between 1,5 – 2 hours and the cost is between $ 10 – $ 25, including the bike. Make sure to bring your water bottle and camera! http://www.justavantia.wixsite.com/artwalkscuracao
During your vacation on Curacao, a trip to the Christoffel Park is definately something to add to your to-do-list. The park is the largest national park on the island and mountain Christoffel is 378 m high.
The park has beautiful flora and founa (check for the wild orchids!) and during your visit you will see many local birds, iguana’s and maybe even barn owls or a white tailed deer.
The park offers 8 hiking trails, which run from easy to challenging. Challenging for sure is climbing the mountain. Preferably start the climb in the early morning (around 7 or 7.30 am is advisable), and if you take it slow it takes approx 1,5 hour to reach the top. Especially the last part might be a bit difficult but the reward is a breathtaking view and a never-forget experience.
In addition, the park offers several activities for you to join, like safari’s, deer watching, cave excurisons, full moon walks and sunrise safari’s.
At the entrance of the park is a just-opened lunch cafe Cactus. They serve huge sandwiches, good salads and coffee.
The Christoffel Park is also the home of the Plantation Savonet, which is one of the oldest plantation houses of Curacao. Nowadays it is a museum and one of the cultural highlights of Curacao.
The park is open each day and from Jan Kok Lodges it is approx 20 minutes drive. Make sure to visit the office at the entrance for info about tours, excursions and a map. www.christoffelpark.org