Discovering the Netherlands Antilles Islands: A Unique Hidden Gem
The Netherlands Antilles islands—Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao (called the ABCs)—are among the southernmost of the Caribbean islands. Their position at 12 degrees north latitude is pretty much guaranteed to spare these islands from hurricanes during the June 1st to November 30th storm season. No matter how long you stay, or what you see and do, these Southern Caribbean islands make a great off-the-beaten track cruising destination.
Cruise south to Aruba and consider storing your boat at the Varadero Aruba Marina and Boatyard, south of the capital of Oranjestad. It has more than 400 dry berths and 70 wet slips for boat storage. This yard is the only one in the ABCs that has 20-ton and 60-ton Roodberg trailers than can haul monohulls and multihulls up to 80 feet long with a 42-foot beam. Yard services include bottom paint, fiberglass, gel coat repair, and mechanical and welding work. If you’d rather use Aruba as a jump-off before cruising west to the Panama Canal, contemplate a shorter stay at Wind Creek Marina, located in Oranjestad east of the cruise ship dock. There are 40 berths with freshwater, electricity, phones, and security. Guests have full privileges at the Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino, including access to the hotel’s swimming pools, gym, and private island with complimentary ferry service. Like Varadero, Wind Creek is near the bars, restaurants, supermarkets, and shops in the capital, and a quick drive from the Queen Beatrix International Airport. There are plenty of things to see and do in Aruba. Natural wonders include Conchi, the volcanic rock-surrounded pool in the Arikok Natural Park, and the nearby Fontein Cave, with its ancient Arawak Indian drawings. Eagle Beach is popular for snorkeling, swimming, and sunning. For creature comforts, there’s name-brand, duty-free shopping. The Royal Plaza Mall in downtown Oranjestad is notable for its ornate, pastel-painted Dutch-Caribbean architecture. Restaurants from beach bars to oceanfront bistros serve seafood to more sophisticated fare. aruba.com
Bonaire is the easternmost of the Netherlands Antilles islands. Its total land area covers around 111 square miles, with several fringing reefs, making it ideal for SCUBA diving. On land, there are national parks, botanical gardens, flamingo and donkey sanctuaries, and the offshore island of Klein Bonaire to explore, plus fine dining, live entertainment, and upscale shopping for indulgent fun. After clearing Customs & Immigration in the capital city of Kralendijk on arrival, head to one of two major marinas nearby. Harbour Village Marina, slightly south of the city, offers 60 slips for yachts up to 150 feet and one dock for superyachts 240-plus feet. A yacht club membership here gives access to swimming pools, a fitness center, bars, and restaurants. A short distance north is the Plaza Beach & Dive Resort Marina where there are 80 slips for power and sailboats albeit only five of these for transients. The maximum depth here is 15 feet. tourismbonaire.com
Curaçao is the largest island of the ABCs at 171 square miles. Willemstad is the capital, and it’s the Punda (town square) where Customs & Immigration offices are located. Marinas, such as Curaçao Marine in Willemstad’s Schottegat Harbour, also offer clearance. There are 40-plus wet slips here with electricity and power. There’s no better eye candy than the pastel-painted colonial architecture of this historic city. During your visit, enjoy shopping, dining, and impressive sights like the floating Queen Emma Bridge that connects the Punda to other neighborhoods. On the island’s southeast coast in Spanish Waters is the Seru Boca Marina, which has more than 130 slips for vessels up to 220 feet. The dockage fee includes freshwater at each slip and provisioning delivered to your yacht. Across the bay, the Curaçao Yacht Club is open to members only. However, diesel and gasoline are available for yachts. Budget Marine Curaçao is a soup-to-nuts chandlery, Imix Marine is the Boston Whaler and Mercury dealer, and Curaçao Marine has a full-service boatyard and can haul up to 60 tons. Water sports are a big pastime on Curaçao with snorkeling, SCUBA diving, and kiteboarding most popular. Jan Thiel Beach is a good bet for water sports rentals. If inland, check out the Hato Caves, hike Christoffel Mountain, and visit the Flamingo Sanctuary. curacao.com
If there’s one set of ABCs to be acquainted with, it’s the Netherlands Antilles Islands ABCs.
By Carol Bareuther
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