Colorful Curacao -- pride in the Caribbean

Sun. August 6, 2017 12:00 AM
by Ross Forman

Crystal blue water and multi-colored buildings show the shine of Curacao

One of the first things that catches your eye on the beautiful, colorful Caribbean island of Curacao is, the colors. Specifically, the colorfully-painted homes and businesses.

But there was a time when almost every building in Curacao was white, nothing else.

Then, legend has it, a former governor of the island suffered from severe headaches – and he believed the sun's reflection off the white buildings made his headaches worse. So he mandated that building exteriors be painted any color but white.

That array of colors is one of the calling-cards of Curacao, a Dutch island that is about 40 miles from Venezuela, encompassing about 171 square-miles with a population of about 160,000.

Later it was learned, according to lore, that the governor was a shareholder in the island's only paint store.

Nonetheless, Curacao is one eye-appealing island.

It's like the pride flag came to life on homes and businesses.

The historic area of Willemstad's inner city and harbor was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status in 1997, and there are now about 900 historical and archaeological sites.

In June, Curacao was named the Top Cruise Destination in the Southern Caribbean by Cruise Critic, a major online forum.

I'm sold on Curacao following my late-July visit, with its variety of things-to-do. Here are some:

Luke's Bar – Crafty cocktails, and the bartenders actually chip/carve/cut bricks of ice for drinks.

Blessing Restaurant – there's just something special about dining in a former cathedral and monastery. Don't miss the Nutella Cheesecake.

Williburger – You have to try the famous Kabritu (goat) Burger. Sorry, I think their chicken wings looked better than my burger tasted. The sweet potato fries were spot-on.

Shete Boka National Park – The rugged limestone topography has been carved by the powerful crashing waves. Plan for plenty of selfies here.

SeaBob Curacao – Check out the sea life, including colorful fish and plenty of turtles, with these underwater propellers. (seabobcuracao.com)

Guided tour of Willemstad, Pitermaal and Scharloo – must-do for a historical viewpoint.

Serafina Restaurant – An Italian restaurant with an amazing wine selection. A great steak, too.

Oporto Restaurant – Ribs, steak and seafood are their specialty, with a great view, too. (oportocuracao.com)

Kenepa Beach -- Arguably the most beautiful beach on Curacao. Gorgeous crystal blue water.

Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge – Pretty cool to see a pontoon pedestrian bridge, designed to open by tugboat for ships to pass. Beautiful at night.

Dolphin Academy Curacao – Many will say it's a bucket-list, to swim with dolphins. Definitely a memorable experience that most consider educational and informational, not just super cool to do.

KLM Curacao Marathon – The 4th annual, 26.2-mile event is scheduled for Nov. 26. The KLM Curacao Marathon and half Marathon (13.1 miles) courses go along the waterfront, across the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge and also over one of the highest bridges in the world, the Juliana Bridge, at 185 feet above sea level.

Fort Nassau – Spot to be at sunset for breathtaking views. This restaurant offers a perfect romantic evening. Go for the view alone.

Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue – The Western Hemisphere's oldest synagogue in continuous use, founded in 1651 by 12 families from Amsterdam.

Prepping For Pride

The 5th Curacao Pride is a 4-day, multi-event extravaganza that continues to grow and expand, anchored by the second-ever Pride Walk over the famous, popular bridge (from Punda to Otrobanda), starting at 6 p.m, on Sept. 28. Last year's first-ever Pride Walk went the opposite direction over the bridge that is draped with countless pride flags.

"Pride is very special in Curacao," said Jurandy Regina, who was born and raised in Curacao, and now is a director at the Floris Suite Hotel & Spa, which is the Official Host Hotel for Curacao Pride. "(The event) started very small, but has really expanded over the years, so (Curacao Pride) now includes workshops, seminars, presentations and more, not just a bunch of parties."

But yes, there are parties a plenty around Pride, including a Saturday White Party on Sept. 30, around the pool at the Floris Suite Hotel, from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m.

More than 1,000 are expected at Curacao Pride.

"Last year's Pride Walk was a highlight; it touched me, was very unique, very special," Regina said. There also has been an LGBT film festival during Curacao Pride.

Curacao Pride also includes a Rainbow Lounge XL Party, with DJs, on Sept. 29 at Floris Hotel Suite, and a Navigaytion Sea Parade on Sept. 30, from Punda along the coastline and back, starting at 12noon.

On Oct. 1, there is a Pride Beach Party at Moomba Beach Club, from 3-7 p.m.

Curacao is definitely gay-friendly, gay-welcoming, even if Gallery-Lounge, also known as, The G-Lounge, is the only gay bar on the island and, well, it's small. Think Little Jim's in Boystown. Nonetheless, many other bars, clubs and lounges are gay-friendly, for sure. Such as: Moomba Beach Bar, Saint Tropez Ocean Club, Wet and Wild Beach Club, 27 Curacao, Mojito & Bites, Emporio and others.

"I'm gay and I can go out and just be me, be myself," in Curacao, Regina said.

Floris Suite Hotel & Spa is, arguably, the hub of LGBT Curacao. After all, the hotel's logo includes the colors of the rainbow flag.

"We are very focused on LGBT travelers, which is why we are the most gay-welcoming/friendly hotel in the Caribbean, not just in Curacao," Regina said.

Floris has a Rainbow Lounge Happy Hour at the property every Friday, and four times a year – including during Pride – it offers Rainbow Lounge XL Happy Hour, with DJs or a band. And more than 400 are expected.

Regina said about 45 to 50 percent of all Floris guests are LGBT throughout the year, numbers that certainly escalate over Pride. He said gays and lesbians are prominent, perhaps more gay men.

Visitors to Floris often come from North America, particularly New York City and Miami, as both cities have nonstop flights to Curacao, plus Europe, particularly the Netherlands and Germany.

Curacao has 17 organizations in the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association, possibly the most in the Caribbean.

"Once you experience Curacao, you will want to come back," Regina said. "The magic just happens here."

For More Information

Curacao Pride: www.curacaopride.com

Floris Suite Hotel & Spa: www.florissuitehotel.com