Curacao's Diving - Of course, I came to see the diving and was not disappointed. The dive sites offered included plenty of easy diving, as well as deeper dives like the wreck of the "Superior Producer" oil tanker, and "Off the Road," a dive site littered with wrecks of cars and trucks from the 1960's. The more advanced dives were to 100 feet plus, but other than the depth were actually pretty easy dives. Visibility varied based on the site, but was generally very good, ranging from 80 to 120 feet. Because there is virtually no current, the dives allow ample time to search for critters. There were good walls dives, with turtles, rays, barracuda, spotted drums, shrimp, and lobster. In the shallows, sea fans are home to sea horses and nudibranchs. Because we were diving during the full moon, I was fortunate to see mating stingrays and a pair of mating puffers. Generally speaking the dive boat rides were less than 20 minutes and water temperature was constant at 82 degrees F. Because most of the dives are so close to shore, on three of the four days of diving, we were able to go ashore for our surface intervals. Both the Easy Divers and Seaspace dive operations returned us to the dock during surface intervals to make use of the facilities. On my day with Ocean Encounters we went on land to explore the ruins of a Dutch fort complete with 18th century bronze cannons.
Marriott Curacao Beach Resort and Emerald Casino - I stayed at the Marriott Curacao Beach Resort and Emerald Casino. It has comfortable spacious rooms, multiple restaurants, a deli with an impressive wine selection, their own disco with over 20,000 songs at a touch of the finger, spa facilities, an in-house dive service, kids club, meeting rooms, a large swimming pool with swim up bar area, and the biggest hot tub I've ever seen. There is a choice of Garden View, Ocean View and Ocean Front rooms. All rooms are all equipped with hairdryer, bathrobes, in room safes, iron and ironing board, TV, mini-fridge and Internet access.
Caribbean Sea Sports is the in-house dive facility at the Marriott. Located on the beach, with a nice selection of rental gear, the dive shop has a laid back but professional feel. There are no individual dive lockers but the outdoor area for gear is locked up tight while the shop is closed. Two-tank morning dives are the only option, with boats departing at 9:00 a.m. In addition to scuba diving, Caribbean Sea Sports offers Hobie Cat and ocean kayak rentals.
Other Lodging Options - Of course, there are simpler lodgings than the Marriot. Following are a selection of other fine dive lodgings and dive operators in Curacao:
Lion's Dive Inn is a comfortable divers-style hotel with 80 rooms and four apartments. Each room has a refrigerator, and in-room safes may be rented for $1 per day. There is a swimming pool, restaurant, and a work out room, along with one of the largest dive operations on the island.
Ocean Encounters is the on-site dive facility at Lion's Dive Inn. They have a huge selection of rental gear, a full service Mares authorized service center, and a complete shop with boutique items. Although their boats don't offer heads on board, they do a surface interval on shore, always with bathroom options, as well as some touring that was very enjoyable.
Breezes Resort is an all-inclusive option for those that prefer the all-in-one concept. They offer multiple restaurants and swimming pools, a dive shop and a few extras like a rock-climbing wall and skating rink for children. Their rooms are in the midst of an upgrade and so they vary in size and décor as well as proximity to the various options the resort has to offer. All the rooms I inspected were comfortably appointed with a love seat, sitting area, and in-room safes. Breezes' snack bar is the best I've ever seen at any all-inclusive. Selections include made to order hamburgers, chicken tenders, jerk chicken sandwiches and half chickens, quesadillas, hot dogs and French fries. Even my finicky five year old would have more than enough options at this snack stand. Their full service spa, Sea Breeze Spa, is one of the optional items but well worth the additional cost. There is a full range of body treatments, facials, massage and even hair care, manicure and pedicure.
Avila Beach Hotel is a gem of a boutique hotel. It's located just outside of town with the Octagon Museum on its grounds. Service is excellent and the overall feeling of this 100-room, upscale property is that of quiet elegance. Facilities include multiple restaurants and bars, two private beaches, and meeting rooms. Since the main part of the hotel is a 200-year-old mansion overlooking the sea, additions and new wings have been added-on. Each is slightly different, but all rooms are equipped with TV, a small refrigerator, safe, iron and ironing board, plenty of hangers, modem connection, and in-room hairdryers.
Habitat Curacao is located off the beaten path but does offer the dedicated diver a good option with their in-house dive operation, Easy Divers. With one of the few really good shore dives on the island right out front, Habitat Curacao has a feeling of a quiet diver's getaway. The standard rooms offer telephone, TV, and a small kitchenette with fridge, while the two-bedroom Lanai rooms are complete with full cooking facilities. Habitat Curacao has a swimming pool, restaurant, and a spa offering a variety of treatments. Daily shuttle service into town is also offered.
The Hilton Curacao is a five-story hotel with an attractive open-air lobby. The remains of the Fort Piscadera Bay are on the hotel grounds. The rooms have TV, telephone, hair dryer, in room safe and coffee maker. The extensive property includes a putting green, separate kids pool area with complimentary water toys, adult pool, multiple restaurants, casino, and a full service spa with exercise classes. The in-house dive facility, Seascape Dive, offers daily boat dives, a full range of gear rental, and a boutique.
Papagayo Beach Resort is a two-bedroom villa option located on Jan Thiel Bay on the south side of Curacao. Each unit has a spacious living room with a wrap-around verandah that opens up to the outdoors. The villas include a fully equipped kitchen, and you can book your unit "stocked" with bread, lunchmeat, milk and other items alleviating the need for you to go shopping upon arrival (there is a free shuttle to the market). With two swimming pools and a restaurant and bar on site you feel like it's a small hotel, but the stand-alone cottages really make you feel at home. There is no beach right in front, but guest privileges are included for the beach just down the road. Shore diving can be accomplished at that beach with services supplied by Scuba Do.
The Bottom Line - All in all I really enjoyed my first trip to Curacao. It offers a relaxed combination of European and Caribbean-styled ambiance, good food, local culture of great interest, and a great selection of fine lodging and diving options! I had fun and believe you would too. Give me a ring if you would like to consider experiencing Curacao for yourself.
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