We wanted a change of scenery during the holidays and to fill up on vitamin D while discovering a new island paradise. We were not disappointed.
Booking with Air Canada
Since we had a lot of Aeroplan points, we were looking for a good plan to go to the sun with our family (couple + 2 children aged 7 and 9). Air Canada offers two flights per week from Montreal to Curacao (Thursday and Sunday) under the Rouge banner.
The reservation was made on October 28, we managed to find our four economy class tickets for 32,000 points + $155.35 per person (so 128,000 points and $621.40 total).
The direct flights were from December 25, 2022 to January 1, 2023 in Air Canada Rouge A321. Since the reservation was made late, we didn’t necessarily get the best value for our points, but we still came in at $0.02 per point, the minimum recommended value. In addition, we know that with points it is better to make earn & burn.
For a trip to the South, we advise you to bring a lunch box because there is often a lack of sandwiches and on a 5 hour flight, it can be long, especially with children.
Our TD® Aeroplan® Visa Infinite Privilege* Credit Cardgiving us two accesses to the Maple Leaf Lounge (kids got in for free), we were able to make ourselves comfortable while enjoying a hot breakfast before our flight. Please note that the opening hours of the lounge indicated on the website were not the right ones and we waited almost half an hour at the door. This card also gave us access to priority boarding, another interesting benefit.
The entire island operates in either Dutch Antillean Guilder (ANG) or US dollars (USD). When you pay with a credit card, everything is automatically in USD, so it’s better to use a card without conversion fees.
For our expenses, we used our HSBC World Elite® Mastercard® which not only has no foreign currency transaction fees, but also allows the use of points on travel expenses. However, I noticed that the conversion to USD at the merchants often includes a 2% fee. So you can also follow some techniques to withdraw Guilders directly there.
After reading the excellent Curaçao travel guide we knew that an all-inclusive package would not suit us and chose instead to explore the island. With a little research, it became clear that renting a car would be our best option. The public transportation system is notoriously unreliable (especially during the holiday season) and the cost of cabs is exorbitant once you get away from the Willemstad Airport axis.
The cheapest vehicle we found in October was $399.90 USD for an economy car at EuropCar via Expedia. However, a few days before our departure, we found a Kia Picanto economy car comparable to a Yaris in Canada for $283.47 USD at Avis.
Being a Costco member, I often find great deals by going to the travel site, but this time, the site didn’t give me availability, even though there was a Budget and an Avis on the island. You can directly enter the Costco discount code on the Avis website (AWD Code: C857500). For rental cars, I always advise to validate before departure, because the prices change often.
Finally, when we arrived at the airport, even though the parking lot was full of Picantos, we were given an unexplained upgrade (maybe thanks to Costco?) to a Kia Cerato (Kia Forte in Canada). Driving in Curaçao is quite easy, people drive carefully and there are few traffic jams. Please note that gas stations only accept cash (USD or ANG). You should also know that parking seems to be free everywhere on the island, even in hotels or in the heart of the city.
For our accommodation, we wanted to stay with our points in one of the two Marriott hotels on the island. As both hotels seem to have different benefits, we decided to spend the first night in the Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort, the second at Renaissance Wind Creek Curaçao Resort and made two reservations for the next 5 nights in each of these hotels, telling ourselves that we would choose the one that would suit us best. Note that a Courtyard is currently under construction, not far from the Renaissance with a view of the cruise ship terminal.
For our excursions, we drew a lot of inspiration from Annie’s experience in her excellent guide to Curacao. Here’s a summary of what we did, considering we were a family with children ages 7 and 9.
It is a very pleasant city to walk around in. There is a lot of urban art and places to visit. The Queen Emma floating bridge is quite unusual. A tip: if you want to take a picture in front of the Curaçao sign, wait until the evening, there is almost no one left. Besides, the city is very beautiful to visit also at night, there is a lot of lighting.
Curaçao Rif Mangrove Park
US$10 per adult and US$1.50 per child – approximately 1 hour
A small urban park a few minutes walk from the Renaissance that allows you to admire the local fauna and flora (Iguanas, birds, fish, etc.). To be honest, we didn’t see an abundance of animals, but it was still nice. It’s a brand new national park, a bit close to ships and traffic, but it’s worth it.
Shete Boka Park
US$10 per adult and US$1.50 per child – approximately 2.5 hours
Very nice walk and observation of geological phenomena caused by erosion. We recommend you to leave early, because it is very hot and there is no shade. It is a long walk, in a rocky landscape, very similar to what we can find in Iceland (but in hot weather).
The waves also bring back a lot of waste unfortunately. If you feel brave enough, you can ask the reception for a bag to collect some. Expect to see many lizards and iguanas.
Playa Porto Marie
US$3 per adult
Very nice beach, but it allows a lot of marine exploration; it is the place where the water was the clearest. Pigs are supposed to swim, but probably not in the morning. Arrive early if you plan to rent a lounge chair or find some shade, as the place is very popular. You will find showers, toilets as well as a restaurant and a bar.
Christoffel National Park
US$15 per adult and US$5 per child – approximately 2 hours
This is the great hike of Mount Christoffel. They don’t let anyone on after 10:00 a.m. because it’s too hot. However, if you go too early, it may be very crowded at the top. The paths are very steep at the beginning and at the end are more climbing than hiking, you have to be in good shape and bring a lot of water (there is little shade and it is hot), but it is worth it, the view is magnificent, you can almost see the island from one end to the other.
As its name suggests, it is a beach in a lagoon. You’ll find all teh tranquility required to do snorkeling. We even had the pleasure of swimming with a turtle. On the other hand, it is also a place for fishermen, so the water is a bit murkier (they throw the leftover fish into the sea). The access to the beach is free, but the showers and toilets are not free. There are many restaurants nearby, as well as a diving school.
Playa Piskadó/Playa Grandi
It is also a fishermen’s beach, the water is a bit murky too, but it attracts sea turtles with which we can swim. We arrived “early” (around 10 am) and there was almost nobody there. Around 11 am, people started to come; we even saw tour buses stopping at this beach… Take your time, admire the sea bed, you will see a lot of fish and marine animals. Of course, everyone comes for the turtles that come to brush against you and swim majestically around you. It is quite an experience!
It is a very beautiful beach, but very popular and also attracts buses. Sun loungers are available for rent. On each side, you can jump off cliffs for thrill seekers. The water is clear, but it is not the best place to see fish. Little pigs were walking around. Restrooms and showers are available for a fee and many vendors offer snacks and refreshments.
- Iguana Café: Small restaurant with a view of the Queen Emma deck which swivels to let the boats pass. There is nothing very striking about this popular and pleasant restaurant with its large terrace on the canal.
- Dal Toro: A very good Italian inspired restaurant with a terrace on stilts. Here you can watch the sun set over the ocean while sipping a nice blue cocktail.
- Sol Food: A delicious pizza prepared by Sunshine, an American who has been living in Curaçao for the past 15 years. This restaurant is only open from Friday to Sunday and has a small terrace with a view of Piskadó beach.
- De Visserij Piscadera: A fish restaurant that is a bit special because they sell shrimp and fish by the gram. You place your order and indicate the cooking you want. You sit down at a table and the waiter will come and serve you. Everything is fresh, it’s a delight, but the place is extremely popular; there’s a line as soon as it opens but it’s worth the wait. The restaurant is a 10-minute walk from the Marriott Beach Resorts.
- Pirate Bay restaurant: A cozy restaurant with an international menu that offers the particularity of having tables directly on the beach. You will admire a beautiful sunset. This restaurant is also a 10-minute walk from the Marriott Beach Resort.
|4 airline tickets||$621.40||128 000||$3 181.40*|
|Shopping (Carrefour Market)||$101.07||$101.07|
|Different expenses in USD||$80.00||$80.00|
|7 Marriott nights||240 000||$3 264.00**|
|HSBC Credit||-$425.00||-85 000|
|Total||$1 908.48||8 157.48 $|
*Note that I unfortunately forgot to take a screen shot of the airfare cost, but it was over $0.02 per point. For the exercise, I simply considered the value of the point at $0.02 to have a theoretical cost.
** Here, we have to consider that the Platinum Marriott status also gave us advantages that were not included in the table such as: breakfast included (85 usd/day), access to the lounge all day to eat and drink.
Curaçao was an excellent surprise. We loved the authentic atmosphere of this beautiful island. There were not too many tourists, not too many people. The island is full of nice little spots and deserves to be discovered. One week was a little short for our taste, especially with the travel. 10 days would definitely allow to see more.
Discover the Ulysses Guide to the Caribbean, with a chapter on Curaçao :