This Gorgeous Island Is One of the Most Queer-friendly Destinations in the Caribbean

Group Team

 Stroll around delightful Willemstad, Curaçao’s capital city, and you’ll quickly discover the brightly painted Dutch architecture that the island is famous for. The rainbow of colors cascading across streetscapes is, for me, a constant reminder of this island's acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community.

While it’s not unusual for queer families to visit the Caribbean, many nations here outlaw same-sex activity and discriminate against their own LGBTQ+ citizens. This forces many in the community to consider whether their money is better spent in more accepting locales.

Curaçao has been promoting itself as one of the region’s most queer-friendly destinations, and a recent visit proved that it belongs on LGBTQ+ travelers’ radars. It sits between Aruba and Bonaire; the so-called ABC islands, all former Dutch colonies, are known for their fairly liberal outlooks. Same-sex marriage is allowed in Bonaire and currently recognized in Curaçao and Aruba — but a recent ruling means that the latter two islands will also allow queer nuptials beginning in March 2023.

The historic city center of Willemstad is currently celebrating the 25th anniversary of being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. My husband and our two teenage children took electric scooters from Greenwheels Harley with professional guide Tirzah Statia (on Instagram at @iamtirzah), who is also a member of the LGBTQ+ community and offers tours to island visitors.

“On Curaçao, you can be yourself,” she said. “That’s one of the main attractions of the island. I can be myself, I can walk around with my partner, I can go out, and I can feel safe. Sometimes, LGBTQ+ travelers have to first look at safety when considering a destination, along with [asking] 'are you accepted?' I feel accepted on my island, and that’s why I want people to come here."

Tirzah took us all around the city to learn about its interesting history, the island’s series of colonizers, and the Kaya Kaya community project — which focuses on the beautification of the Ser’i Otrobanda district through art and murals. She taught us words and phrases in the beautiful local language, Papiamentu, which blends Creole, Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch. 

One of the best family-friendly experiences on the island is the sprawling Curaçao Sea Aquarium, which mostly focuses on regional aquatic life and the ocean’s importance to the islanders. There’s also an active coral-growing program that visitors can learn about and see in action. The center has an extensive dolphin experience program that is focused on therapy for autistic children, with multiple private experience areas. Even walking by the large outdoor lagoon, several of the dolphins swam up, curious about us — an unexpected thrill. But the highlight was the nearby Ocean Lens experience. Visitors start at an opening at the sea’s edge and then descend 17 feet, down a ladder, to a pod with a spherical glass window looking out into the ocean’s depths. We could have spent all afternoon staring into the crystal-clear Caribbean water, with myriad large fish swimming past.

For a different experience, we booked a three-hour hike and snorkel adventure with Myronchi Trip. First, we learned about the island’s flora and fauna as we ascended to a windswept lookout gazing over the Boca Ascension inlet on the island’s northwest side. We watched a dozen sea turtles swim far below us, surfacing every few minutes. Then, our guide took us to a calm beach for a memorable snorkeling excursion. There, we saw coral gardens, schools of blue fish, and the submerged remains of a small passenger airplane.

We finished our outdoor fun the next day with Touriffic Curaçao, riding Jet Skis, and visiting several popular beaches like Kenepa Grandi and Lagun. We also stopped to snorkel and saw more sea turtles — although this time at very close range.

The island has plenty of lodging options, including the modern Renaissance Wind Creek Curaçao Resort & Casino, built along (and incorporated into) an old fort, parts of which now contain a shopping and dining area. Guests can book massages and spa services at the lovely Natural Blends Esthetics Rif Fort. Coral Estate Luxury Resort, a short drive westward from the capital city, has a picture-perfect Caribbean beach and reef, as well as the fantastic Koraal Rooftop Terrace restaurant. Or, for a more intimate, garden feel, check out the adorable Mondi Lodge, which features a two-story cabin built around a huge tree.

Favorite restaurants include Sal the Kitchen, with its incredible take on paella, focusing on what the Spanish call socarrat, the crunchy and flavorful bottommost part of the dish. Ceviche 91 Gastrobar served some of the best ceviche I’ve had in years. And Maira’s kitchen in Otrobanda is Mediterranean inspired with a local touch and is a perfect choice for a laid-back meal after a busy day of island exploring.

“On Curaçao, you can be yourself. That’s one of the main attractions of the island."

By Paul J. Heney 



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