In the southern Caribbean, just 40 miles off the coast of Venezuela and 12 degrees north of the Equator, the 40-mile-long, 8-mile-wide island of Curaçao represents a lively amalgam of different cultures. Part of the Lesser Antilles, also known as the ABC Islands — Aruba is to the west, Bonaire to the east — Curaçao was once a booming trade hub for merchants in the Dutch West India Company. Drawn to the island’s abundance of salt and its enclosed natural harbor, Schottegat, they settled on Curaçao in the mid-17th century and led the West African slave trade from its capital port city of Willemstad. Following the abolition of slavery in the 19th century, Curaçao fell into ruin but was later revived, in the 20th century, during a boom in Venezuela’s oil trade; in 2010, the country was granted autonomy by the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles.

Read more: “A Child Ghost, an Escape and a Watery Haunting on Curaçao” a fairy tale written exclusively for T.

Today, travelers stroll along Willemstad’s Handelskade Street, lined with sherbet-colored homes that resemble Amsterdam rowhouses, and stay in former Dutch colonial buildings now reimagined as luxurious beach resorts. In the center of Willemstad, near the cobblestone alleyways of the buzzy Otrobanda district, the island’s proximity to South America is most pronounced at the floating food market, where Venezuelan traders sell produce — mangos, melons and coconuts — to the restaurants of Curaçao’s thriving culinary scene, centered in the city’s Pietermaai district. With over 35 palm-lined beaches, 65 dive sites to explore and friendly locals who represent over 55 cultures, Curaçao is quickly garnering appeal as one of the most progressive and pristine islands in the Caribbean.

This tapas bar and kitchen in Willemstad, which opened last April, is Curaçao’s first gastropub. Latin-Caribbean small plates like corn-nut-topped tuna tacos and mango-lobster ceviche complement a cocktail menu heavy on pisco, rum and tequila. Each dish — served in a diminutive, dimly lit space with a wooden bar made of salvaged lumber sourced from the island’s colonial buildings — comes with a suggested cocktail pairing. You can also craft your own highball with one of the bar’s housemade sodas: grapefruit-basil, watermelon-mint, hibiscus-cranberry and ginger-cardamom.

The coffee aficionado Danny Willems and the pastry chef Igmar Comenencia teamed up to launch Curaçao’s first specialty coffee bar in June. Housed within a restored 18th-century Dutch colonial mansion in Willemstad’s Pietermaai district, this raspberry-hued cafe features original ceiling frescoes and mosaic-tiled flooring, as well as a retrofitted, 130-year-old cash register that Willems’s grandmother once used at her bar in Amsterdam. The menu ranges from espresso and pastries to tuna sashimi poke bowls, which guests can enjoy on the cafe’s shaded front terrace.

Named after the word for “eat” in Papiamentu — a local language of the ABC Islands — this split-level, Caribbean-fusion restaurant is known for its local sourcing, overseen by chef-owners David and Susan McHugh. Slow cooked braised duck leg and peppered hanger steak are staples, while seafood dishes change according to the catch of the day. When red snapper, a local delicacy, is on the menu, the fish is fried from gills to tail and served whole. Pair it with a craft beer or a South American aged rum — the Venezuelan Diplimático or Colombia’s Dictador.



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