Curaçao Pushing to Grow Tourism

The largest of the Netherlands Antilles’ ABC islands, Curaçao has traditionally taken a back seat to little sister Aruba in the area of tourism (Bonaire is the “B”). Part of that is by design—Curaçao has been careful not to place all its eggs in one basket, and the island is home to a number of diverse industries. Among these are banking and finance as well as oil (a throwback to when Curaçao was a virtual outpost of the Royal Dutch Shell company).

But tourism is a big part of the country’s economy, and it continues to grow. For years the island—with its combination of a cosmopolitan European feel and beautiful beaches—has been a vacation hot spot for Europeans and many South Americans (it lies just 35 miles off the northwestern coast of Venezuela), but an increasing number of Americans are also discovering this Caribbean gem.

Among resort properties, Marriott and Hilton have been in place for years—and the addition of Hyatt next year promises to increase Curaçao’s profile as a vacation destination. In addition, there are a number of lesser-known but no less luxurious resorts on the island.

New Resort in the Offing
On a recent trip to Curaçao, we were given a tour of the ambitious 1,500-acre Santa Barbara Plantation residential and resort community being developed there. Located on the island’s southeastern side overlooking the Caribbean, Santa Barbara Plantation development is a project of VIDA Group N.V., and is being led by VIDA President Jack Marshall. Although the property is owned by VIDA and its investors (including the government of Curaçao), the company has inked an agreement with Hyatt Hotel Corp. to manage its Hyatt Regency Curaçao Resort & Spa, scheduled to open in 2009.

The property, which will be Curacao’s first five-star resort, will feature a Hyatt Pure Spa with large spa bungalow units and Hyatt’s Red Sail beach rental and tour center.

pete dye

Pete Dye is designing the Hyatt Regency Curaçao's 18-hole golf course

Built on 27 acres, Hyatt Regency Curaçao Resort & Spa will be the only resort in Curaçao with 18 holes of championship golf, on a scenic course designed by Pete Dye. Our tour included a walk-through of the course, and we were impressed by the site’s variety of topographical features—its rugged terrain sits below the Tafelberg Mountain, overlooking the Caribbean and Spanish Water, the inland bay.

With water vistas on three sides, the hotel will have spectacular Caribbean sunset views and beautiful white sand beaches. In addition to 330 deluxe guest rooms, the hotel’s 20 beach bungalows offer guests large, secluded accommodations with views of the sea on one side and Spanish Water on the other.

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Artist's rendering of the Hyatt Regency Curaçao's pool and beach

In addition, the resort will offer full meeting and banquet facilities, including 28,000 square feet of flexible indoor and outdoor space. Other amenities include a 4,500-square-foot spa and fitness center, multilevel outdoor pool, poolside grill, lounge and cabana area, tennis courts and a marina that can accommodate five mega yachts.

The interior design of the Hyatt Hotel will feature a nautical theme, incorporating maritime charts and relics from tall ships. The flooring will be built from the island’s own unusual limestone, which is mined in shades from brilliant white to rose. (A visit to the quarry, on the property’s eastern boundary, was an awe-inspiring sight.)

For more information on Santa Barbara Plantation, visit the website or call 877 740-0567.

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