With New JetBlue Flights, Curacao Is Set to Soar

Floris Suite Hotel’s private and gay-friendly Pirate Bay Beach Club and Restaurant offers guests a chance to relax in solitude.
Floris Suite Hotel’s private and gay-friendly Pirate Bay Beach Club and Restaurant offers guests a chance to relax in solitude.

Known for its unique architecture, 60-plus dive sites, wide range of adventure opportunities and year-round warm weather, Curacao is currently considered one of the hottest escapes for seasoned Caribbean clients looking for something different in the region. And now, with new nonstop flights from New York launching next month, the island is poised to become an option even for the first-time Caribbean visitor. This should improve the already rosy tourism outlook for Curacao, which hosted 440,044 overnight visitors in 2013—a 4.9 percent increase over 2012.

A Game-Changer

JetBlue Airways announced in July its new nonstop flights from New York to Curacao. Beginning December 2, JetBlue will become the only airline to offer such service to the island. Flights will operate twice weekly, on Tuesdays and Saturdays, between New York’s JFK International Airport and Curacao International Airport. They will depart JFK at 9 a.m. and arrive on the island at 2:30 p.m. Return flights will depart at 3:30 p.m. and arrive in New York at 7:14 p.m.

Gay-Friendly Island

There are still some Caribbean islands that are not onboard with the acceptance of LGBT vacationers, but Curacao is certainly not one of them. The island’s European influence and the open, friendly nature of its people, along with events such as Gay Pride Week and South Caribbean Pride Week, have put the island on the frontline of LGBT tourism in the Caribbean.

Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort’s Premier Water View King Room uses natural wood and earth-toned colors.
Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort’s Premier Water View King Room uses natural wood and earth-toned colors.

Although same-sex marriage is not currently performed under the law in Curacao, it is recognized if performed in another country. The locals are welcoming to the LGBT community with Dutch-inspired enthusiasm. Symbolic ceremonies may be performed with special arrangements.

Top Hotels for LGBTs, Others

Designed for adults only, the Floris Suite Hotel is the host hotel for Caribbean Pride Week. The boutique all-suite, LGBT-friendly hotel features modern design and lush open spaces. Agents should reach out to Jurandy Regina ([email protected], 011-5999-462-6111), sales and marketing manager, with any inquiries.

Sonesta Kura Hulanda Village & Spa is located in a boutique village in the capital, Willemstad, in a restored neighborhood with intricate Dutch architecture. On the west end, Kura Hulanda Lodge & Beach Club is a quaint resort featuring a world-class reef off its shore and views of the sunset. For details, agents should contact Jody DeLeon ([email protected], 954-635-7678), director of sales.

Embracing the LGBT community in true Dutch fashion, Avila Hotel prides itself on superior service and hospitality. The property was built around the onetime Governor’s mansion and the prestige of its history continues alongside the energy of today. Agents should direct any questions to Farley Hollander ([email protected], 800-747-8162), sales and marketing manager.

On the east side of the island, the Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort provides an exclusive “island within an island” to clients looking for a luxurious escape. For more information, agents should get in touch with John MacMullen ([email protected], 786-507-8335), director of sales and marketing.

Avila Hotel’s Octagon Superior rooms have a balcony with garden or ocean views.
Avila Hotel’s Octagon Superior rooms have a balcony with garden or ocean views.

The above hotels are members of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), as are the Hilton Curacao, Papagayo Beach & Design Hotel, Curacao Marriott Beach Resort & Emerald Casino, Baoase Luxury Resort, Renaissance Curacao Resort & Casino and Blue Bay Curacao Golf & Beach Resort. These properties happily welcome all guests seeking a luxurious, cultural experience.

In other accommodation news, Choice Hotels International’s Ascend Hotel Collection recently announced the addition of Acoya Hotel Suites & Villas in Willemstad near Mambo Beach. Acoya surrounds a natural lake, affording water views from its spacious studios, suites and villas. Ascend is an international portfolio of independent hotels designed to reflect the character of their host destinations.

Destination Weddings

Relatively undiscovered, this wedding destination is guaranteed to turn heads with friends and family. Dutch architecture and intimate cove beaches frame the setting to an intimate service unlike any other location in the Caribbean. Civil, symbolic or religious ceremonies are welcome at a variety of venues across the island.

Wedding planners are available to help with arrangements, including resort-arranged and independent consults. Wedding planners include Ban Kasa Wedding and Honeymoon Planner, Business Serenity Ltd., Celebrations!, Curacao Elegant Weddings, Event Dimensions, Special Events Wedding & Party Planner and Unique Wedding and Party Services.

For Foodies

Clients with a love for gastronomy will feel right at home in Curacao. The Floating Market in Punda is not to be missed. Venezuelan vendors sell their fresh produce along the waterfront, directly off their small fishermen’s boats, which double as living quarters between trips to and from the island. The color and variety of fruits and vegetables is a delicious photo opportunity.

Also, Marsche Bieuw in downtown Willemstad offers truly authentic local meals. Individually operated stands offer a range of local favorites prepared onsite, such as stoba (stew), funchi (similar to polenta), kabritu (stewed goat), fresh fish like Red Snapper and a favorite: pumpkin pancakes. Politicians, shop owners, area residents and tourists gather at rows of tables and benches to enjoy their afternoon meal side by side.

Truk’i Pans, the original food trucks found throughout the island, serve late-night eats from 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. to satisfy the post-party craving. A few popular ones include: Nancy’s, The Griller, El Pinguino de Oro, Makamba’s Grill and Naoki’s.

Getting There

Curacao International Airport is the island’s main airport. In addition to the aforementioned JetBlue service, there are daily flights on American Airlines and Insel Air from Miami, as well as weekly flights on Insel from Charlotte, NC. Beginning in January 2015, Air Canada will offer weekly flights from Toronto and Montreal, and there will be seasonal service from Toronto on WestJet and Sunwing Airline. Charter flights are also available.

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