The best of the southern Caribbean, the Dutch sisters, Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao, offer the most picturesque beaches, just off the coastal stretches of bountiful South America, and quirky cultural curiosities thanks to the islands’ mixed origins and colorful, albeit long and tumultuous histories.
Despite their similarities in so many ways, there are also differences that define them for what they are. All equally worthy of the hype.
The Southwestern Caribbean Trinity
Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao, all have unique draws, twists, and flavors that are otherwise non-existent in the many other islands in the vast Caribbean Sea. The ABC Islands offer some of the most interesting outdoor experiences, from varied landscapes, multilingual locals, and immaculate beaches you haven’t even heard of.
These three tiny Dutch islands may be closely tied together but the catch is that there is no guarantee for a smooth 20-minute air travel time in between, and there are no ferries that will take you in between. A seasoned traveler will be compelled to choose one among the three, so it is extremely important ot determining what it is you want to get out of a travel experience.
Aruba, probably the poster child for the Dutch Caribbean, other than Sin Maarten, of course. This little island that lies closest to the coasts of Venezuela is the more tourist-friendly, thanks to the resorts and hotels that line along its shores, probably twice as much as Curacao and Bonaire’s.
Famous for its high-end prices, landscapes, and insular views that are just out of this world, Aruba ranks high among the best of the Caribbean, if not the entire world. Many of Aruba’s beaches, despite the obvious lack of lush greenery, like the perennial palm trees in tropical islands, are considered some of the most beautiful, like the pinkish Boca Prins, and the secluded Manchebo Beach.
Thanks to its Dutch parentage, and a colorful, and interestingly mixed history, Aruba’s local culture has got to be one of the quirkiest in the region. From the Arawaks, Caribs, the first colonizers from Spain, to the tug-of-war of the Dutch and British, and now on to modern-day Aruba with strong ties to the Dutch crown, the island’s modern culture is one not to be missed. For exclusive anglophones fret not, they speak English here, among few other languages.
The most laid-back sister among the three, Bonaire is known for its laissez-faire set-up enticing the new generation of backpackers and seasoned divers around the world. If Aruba is for the well-heeled holidaymaker, Curacao is for culture buffs, then Bonaire is a backpacker’s paradise, thanks to its twice-cheaper prices.
Bonaire is known for its 22 heavenly beaches on all its sides, while some of its sides are better than others because of strong currents and trade winds, the divine blue of the Caribbean and the island’s natural beauty make for a worthy excursion. The island sports 80+ interesting dive sites that seem to be the island’s hottest draw.
Apart from its Dutch-influenced buildings, warm, multilingual people, divine beaches, there is something magical deep under the waters of Bonaire. With an abundance of dive-worthy spots on different sides of the island, the island is also gifted with numerous coral reefs that seem to add to its famous charm.
Lovingly called the Dutch Caribbean’s best-kept secret is an underrated gem that is best reserved for the best kind of travelers. This loosely Portuguese-named Dutch Caribbean Island may not have as many resorts as Aruba, but this island packs a punch when it comes to seclusion, intimate travel experiences, and a more laid-back and fun-filled experience all in a small slice of paradise.
While the Caribbean’s best common denominator is its long stretches of white sandy beaches against sweeping backdrops of the beautiful Caribbean, Curacao also has its beautiful capital of Willemstad, which in itself offers half of the most beautiful things on the island. Teeming with colorful, well-preserved, and some even upscaled and modernized Dutch-colonial buildings speckled all throughout the several areas of the city. Make sure to check picturesque Handelskade, historic Pietermaai, chic Punda, and Otrobanda.
Just like the rest of its Dutch sisters, Curacao is also, in a way, mixed. Multicultural, multiethnic, and multilingual, the people, and the island’s local culture are as interesting as its capital, and surrounding natural beauty. You will find more reasons to stay if you dare explore the curiosities of its interesting history and culture.