What's New in...
by Rich Rubin
The essence of what makes Curaçao so unique and wonderful is its postcard-perfect capital of Willemstad, its array of local/international dining, isolated beaches, and is reflexive gay-friendliness.
On the GLBT front, the Get Wet weekend, the year's big gay/lesbian event, has undergone a major increase in visibility, and what began seven years ago as a little party on a boat has become eight days of fun, with revelers from the Caribbean and beyond. While not geared toward the tourists like such events often are, Get Wet is attracting more and more of them, while maintaining its very Curaçaoan flair.
"Like a little village that grows into a city," remarks Jared Sprock of Gay Plasa, the local GLBT group that organizes Get Wet, "it maintains its local core." Get Wet, held in late September/early October, is now a series of events, from dance gatherings, meet-and-greet evenings, and films at the local help center Pink House to the famous Madame Janette party.
Madame Janette, in fact, runs throughout the year on the second Saturday of each month. Presided over by the eponymous drag queen (herself named after the local chile pepper called Madame Janette for some unfathomable reason), it's a highlight of the monthly GLBT social schedule. It's the most rollicking of Gay Plasa's monthly events, with their Meet and Greet on the final Thursday of each month providing a chance to do exactly what the name implies at a quieter, more conversational kind of event. The invaluable Gay Plasa plans to kick things up considerably in 2012 with a lesbian party called Starfish every three months and such activities as dance classes, trips to the tiny nearby island of Klein Curaçao, and other goings-on that visitors to the island are free to join (www.gaycuracao.com).
Other nightlife options tend to fall into the ever-shifting patterns that are familiar to frequent Curaçao visitors. If you're here for a long weekend, you can follow the crowds as they move bar to bar. One new addition to the lineup: Omundo (Suikertuintjeweg. Tel: 011-5999-738-8477. www.bigredislandguide.com/omundo), which sees a lot of action on Thursdays and has a sleek modern look with twisty wire chandeliers, a large bar/lounge at the front, one lime-green wall, and bar shelves lit in soft purple. As the week progresses, follow the well-established nightlife parade. Fridays, people move over to TuTu Tango (Kaya Jombi Mensing 18. Tel: 011-5999-461-7888. www.tutu-tango.com) for dancing in one of the longtime popular spots on the island. On Saturdays, the prime spot is Mambo Beach (Seaquarium Beach. Tel: 011-5999-461-8999. www.mambocuracao.com) a rollicking bar on the beach near the Seaquarium, and Sundays continue at Wet and Wild Beach Club (Seaquarium Beach. Tel: 011-5999-561-2477). All the above draw a friendly crowd of mixed ages and genders. Disco bunnies will head on weekends to gay-friendly Bermuda Discotheque (Scharlooweg 72-26. Tel: 011-5999-461-4685. www.bermudacuracao.com), another new-ish spot, which opened in 2009 and features several areas with DJ-spun music and occasional live bands, drawing a mainly younger crowd.
Be sure to visit winning Otra Cosa (Kaya AM Prince 2. Tel: 011-5999-461-2660. www.otracosa.nu), a bar run by a pair of Swedish guys and located at the heart of Punda, the downtown section of capital Willemstad. This winning little place, which opened last July, is mostly gay with a smattering of straight friends, and it is the closest thing Curaçao has to an "official" gay bar. With a friendly feel and an evocative historic air about the building, it's a great place to stop in for a late afternoon or evening drink with the local crowd.
On the resort front, there's one major recent debut: the Hyatt Regency Curaçao Golf Resort, Spa, and Marina (Porta Biancu, Nieuwpoort. Tel: 840-1234 or toll-free 1-800-554-9288. www.curacao.hyatt.com), situated on a beautiful beach on the island's eastern shore. The resort, which bowed in 2010, is a welcome addition to the island's already-rich lodging scene, with a casino, gorgeous rooms on 27 beachfront acres, and the gay-friendliness one would expect from a Hyatt.
Another great option when it comes to accommodations is the tiny (25-room) boutique-style Wave Hotel (Breedestraat 100-102. Tel: 011-5999-462-3233. www.wavecuracao.com), right in the Otrabanda section of capital Willemstad (across the Queen Emma Floating Bridge from "downtown" Punda). The friendly Wave offers affordable rooms, simple but design conscious. If it's any indication of Wave's gay-friendliness, tickets to the Get Wet weekend were sold at the front desk of this sweet little hotel, which opened in mid-2011.
These two join a burgeoning list of GLBT-welcoming resorts. Curaçao actually has over a dozen lodgings that are members of the IGLTA—like perennial favorites Floris Suites (Piscadera Bay. Tel: 011-5999-462-6111 or toll free 1-800-411-0170. www. florissuitehotel.com), whose huge suites feature a minimalist sensibility with a luxurious feel, and Avila Hotel (Penstraat 130. Tel: 011-5999-461-4377. www.avilahotel .com), the original gay-friendly lodging on the island. It's still a champ with a wide array of classic and modern lodgings right on a lovely beach, but only a short walk from downtown. Don't miss their Blues Restaurant, featuring modern cuisine and live music. For luxury, gay-friendliness, and perfect beachside locale, Avila simply can't be beat. Another prime upscale choice is Kura Hulanda that has two resorts: Hotel Kura Hulanda in Willemstad (Frederikstraat 8. Tel: 011-5999-434-7700 or toll free 1-877-264-3106. www.kurahulanda.com) and the Lodge Kura Hulanda (Playa Kalki 1, Westpunt. Tel: 011-5999-839-3600 or toll free 1-877-264-3106) on the west coast.
In addition to previously mentioned restaurants, a major new one is about to open: Ginger (Schoonesteg1. www.gingercuracao.com). It features Carib/Asian cuisine and is run by the same people who own nearby Mundo Bizarro (Nieuwstraat 12. Tel: 011-5999-461-6767. www.mundobizarra ocuracao.com). Mundo Bizarro, with its Cuban/kitsch/eclectic furnishings and sweet staff, is a favorite with the local GLBT community for a quick coffee or full meal. In fact, it's one of the three locations where Madame Janette is held, and Ginger is going to be another one. They're in the quickly gentrifying Pietermaai area of Willemstad, which in the past few years has filled with go-to spots.
Sol Food (Playa Kalki. Tel: 011-5999-
864-0005. www.curacao-sunshine.com/ pages/sol_food.htm) is a fun beachy restaurant on the west side, right near Kura Hulanda Lodge, run by the irrepressible Sunshine and open only on weekends. Tempo Doeloe (La Vista 3-4, Piscadera. Tel: 011-5999-461-2881. www.tempodoeloe. net), located high on a hill near the Floris, has quickly become Curaçao's go-to place for Indonesian food. Choose the rijstaffel, 16 small plates (vegetarian or non-) that give you a real sampling of this fascinating cuisine, while your eyes enjoy the view over Piscadera Bay. In the mood for seafood? Try Fishalicious (Loostraat 1. Tel: 011-5999-461-8844. www.fishalicious.net), a mainly fish-filled restaurant in a charming house near the Avila Hotel.