Destination Curacao :: The Gay Friendly Caribbean

Jason Salzenstein READ TIME: 10 MIN.

Curacao's catchphrase is "Dutch attitude, Caribbean latitude" and it couldn't be more of the truth. As I'm sitting here in Boston in the midst of a summer of what feels like a never-ending string of sufferingly hot and humid days strung together with the occasional "freezing" one that totally throws you off, I think back to this time last year when I was sitting by a pool, a beach, a cafe in Curacao, sipping a cold drink, and enjoying the color around me.

The Caribbean isn't exactly known for its warm, welcoming embrace of LGBT vacationers. Along with the Bahamas, they've pretty much shut their door on the "gay dollar," which is totally fine. If you're reading this, you know that there are plenty of welcoming, gay friendly destinations out there. Curacao being one of them, and the exception in the Caribbean.

Curacao is about the size of the Spelling's backyard, and a former Dutch (and before that, British) island in the Caribbean. It's A Parliamentary Democracy and seat of the government of the Netherlands Antilles, an autonomous part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. "Just next door" to Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and St. Maarten the island is also just a stones-throw from Venezuela. Getting there from the East Coast is quite easy, and American offers daily flights from most major cities.

Curacao offers a fabulous melange of culture and color in its flora, along its streets and especially in the people. And while there aren't any exclusively gay inns or resorts on the island, there doesn't need to be; the island as a whole is gay friendly and very welcoming. In fact, in the last few years Curacao has reached out to gay travelers, with both the island and most major hotels joining the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), and the promotion of the annual "Get Wet Weekend" to the LGBT community in North and South America and Europe.

Last year's party was fantastic, with visitors from all over the world, and of course lots of locals. For those of you that are about to stop reading because you're thinking "White Party," don't worry. The "Get Wet Weekend" offers many things for everyone, and it's definitely not a circuit weekend. In fact, it's not like any other gay weekend I've seen anywhere else. Combining the best parts of Pride celebrations from around the world, the "Get Wet Weekend" is a series of events that cover the gamut. Last year's festivities included a Caribbean Jungle party at a bar, a fantastic Movie Under the Stars (and on the sand!) get-together, a Lifestyle Forum (where locals shared their experiences and traded ideas with members of the international community), The Wet and Wild party, and- my favorite- the Aqua Lounge Pool Party.

Unlike most pool parties I've been to in LA, Miami, Nice, etc., the Aqua Lounge Pool Party was a casual and fun mix of people from down the street and around the globe. Lesbians from Africa, guys from Europe, Brazilians, and locals all mixing, drinking, and actually talking to each other! Being a former Dutch island, of course there are a lot of guys from the Netherlands, so if tall, blonde and Nordic is your thing...


A bit of advice: avoid Curacao in the middle of the summer because it's hotter than a demon's ass and at least as humid. I went in late August and managed to survive the heat, but I think this was largely due to the fact that I wore as little as possible and stayed in (or very near) the water the entire time. Wearing a long-sleeved shirt for dinner- even linen- meant sweating like a whore in church, which is not my favorite feeling.

Right now is the perfect time to plan for the Get Wet Weekend. This year's festivities go from September 27-30th, and if you book now, you can get great rates both for airfare and hotels. Which brings us to...


Willemstad- Curacao's main city- has 11 hotels that are members of IGLTA- an incredible number considering the small size of the island and the fact that this represents nearly all accommodations on the island. What this means for LGBT travelers is that any major resort you choose is going to be gay friendly and welcoming of same-sex couples.

Kura Hulanda Spa & Casino

The largest and most famous resort is Kura Hulanda Spa & Casino. This sprawling resort offers unmatched charm, beautiful accommodations, and service that rival the best resorts in Europe. A veritable self-contained village, the "rooms" are spread among several buildings (actually 87 former houses) that have been beautifully-restored in 18th and 19th century Dutch Colonial style.

As a member of Leading Small Hotels of the World, you know that the accommodations are fabulous, but you'll still be surprised when you walk in the rooms. The spacious rooms and suites feature hand-carved mahogany and teak furnishings, antiques, huge marble baths (with Aveda products), and hand-woven linens. Cobblestone walkways wind between the buildings, taking you past the resort's pools, fountains, cafes and restaurants. The service is impeccable, and everything comes with a relaxed, friendly island flair.

The resort also hosts an extremely well maintained museum, the Museum Kura Hulanda. One of the best privately-owned museums I've seen, it offers a veritable history of the island and its people through artwork, displays, antiques, buildings, and other artifacts representing the native people, as well as the European and South American influence.

The Hotel Kura Hulanda also has a sister hotel- the Lodge Kura Hulanda- which is about 20 minutes away by car. Guests at the Hotel Kura Hulanda (which is downtown) have access to the Lodge Kura Hulanda's private beach- it's the best of both world!

Avila Hotel

Another "island inspired" option, the Avila Hotel is minutes from Willemstad, and set on two romantic private beaches. Family run for generations, the hotel has a history that covers 200 years, and a resident cat that you may find relaxing on a sofa in the lobby!

Built around a beautiful Dutch Colonial style mansion, the heart of the hotel was once the residence of the British Governors, and later the Dutch before being used as a school, among other things. Another famous building- "the Octagon"- was home to the sisters of the Venezuelan liberator Simon Bolivar; they lived in it during their years of exile during Venezuelan's war of independence from Spain.

More recently the Avila has undergone extensive renovation and expansion, with the addition of three luxurious wings offering deluxe, modern rooms and suites, while still keeping the historical Dutch Colonial style alive. All of these new rooms have all the modern amenities you'd expect, plus they all feature balconies or terraces and ocean views, and they're all fabulous. The perfect oceanside resort, the Avila Hotel represents a more contemporary- but still classic- Curacao resort.

Floris Suite Hotel

If modern is more your style, you'll want to book a suite at the Floris, an all-suite 4-star resort designed ground-up by the famous Jan des Bouvrie. From the pillows to the chandeliers, floor to ceiling, the Floris is contemporary style at its best and could go tete-a-tete with modern hotels in New York and LA.

Featuring a large pool, a brilliant restaurant- Sjalotte- and service that leaves you wanting for nothing, the Floris is top notch. It's a short five-minute walk to their private beach, but why leave the property when it's so amazing!?!

And if you simply must stay at an American resort, don't fret. Curacao hosts a beautiful oceanside Hilton complete with all the amenities you'd expect. It's set on a lush 23 acres with huge pools, tennis, private beach, and a few exotic talking birds who've managed to pick-up some American slang quite well...

For additional gay friendly accommodations, go to


Curacao is full of charming restaurants that cover the gamut of dining options. From casual to sophisticated, Caribbean, European, and even Southwestern, they've got it all.

For a fantastic island twist on French, Bistro le Clochard is unmatched. The location- it's built into one of the arches of the Riffort, a huge wall built to protect the city- is also unparalleled and makes for a fabulous dining experience.

No matter what hotel you're staying at, you should make a point to eat at some of the on-site restaurants at each of the hotels I've mentioned; all of them offer wonderful food and a unique experience.

The Belle Terrace (pictured) at the Avila Hotel offers a fabulous view, largely because it sits over the ocean. Sjalotte (at Floris) offers a unique and modern dining experience in their famous open-air restaurant featuring Mediterranean dishes with a twist. The Hotel Kura Hulanda offers a veritable treasure trove of dining options: Jaipur features excellent (and spicy!) Indian, the Museum Restaurant serves wonderful light lunches, the News Cafe is perfect for a quick breakfast, and Jacob's is the place to go for a late (or early!) drink. Kura Hulanda's now famous Astrolab Observatory Restaurant was named one of the 50 top new restaurants by Conde Nast Traveler, and received the AAA Four Diamond Award.

Dance, Drink & Dish!

Specifically "gay life" in Curacao is limited, so if you're looking for a vacation spot where you can go out to a different club every night, look again. Curacao is all about the leisurely lifestyle- sipping fruity drinks by the pool or ocean, going to the spa, and basically relaxing with friends and/or your significant other. That being said, there are a couple options for nightlife.

Limbo Bar is Curacao's official gay bar, although Lyric's Gay Cafe in Punda is open until 3am, and features plenty of local hotties to drool over and dance with as well. Mambo Beach and Zanta Beach Bar are both said to be gay friendly, as is Cafe de Heeren and Ay Caramba.


Aside from just relaxing, laying by the pool, and taking in the various spas, Curacao offers a host of other activities both expected and a bit off the beaten path.

Scuba diving in Curacao is excellent, with some of the most pristine coral reefs in the world. If you're feeling lucky, there are ten hotel casinos on the island- although don't expect Vegas. Outdoor activities include golf, tennis, horseback riding and mountain biking, and for those more fashionably inclined, check out the Floating Market, or Willemstad's famous multi-colored house-lined streets full of shops and boutiques selling everything from (real) Ralph Lauren and Puma to (fake) Gucci and Louis Vuitton!

by Jason Salzenstein

Twitter :: JasonSalz

Jason Salzenstein is a writer and editor; design, image, and marketing consultant; and professional shopper. His work has appeared in numerous national and international publications and he has clients around the world. For more information ::

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