by Shelley Seale
In the far southern Caribbean Ocean, just 40 miles from the South American border, lies the hidden gem of Curaçao, an island in the Netherlands Antilles. Far less developed and explored by tourists than many other Caribbean islands, Curaçao’s charm lies in its history, its authentic experience and its culture that doesn’t strive to present a picture-perfect (read: generic) postcard to its visitors, but rather wraps them in a warm and welcoming embrace.
The old town center of Willemstad greets you with its colorful 17th and 18th century Dutch architecture, perched above the clear turquoise waters of the Caribbean. And if you are as enchanted with this as I was, the unique and magical Hotel Kura Hulanda is a treasure awaiting your discovery.
Kura Hulanda is much more than a hotel – it’s an entire village, created as a historic and environmental preservation project out of existing, meticulously restored 17th and 18th century Dutch buildings. The entire eight-block area is a UNESCO World Heritage site that includes two pools, multiple restaurants and bars, shops, a world-class museum, spa, casino, courtyards, gardens and cobblestone pathways that wind through the intricate Dutch architecture.
The on-site facilities are so plentiful as to be almost overwhelming. First is The Mansion – once the residence of hotel owner Jacob Gelt Dekker, and now an executive lounge where guests can be comfortable in the living room to watch a movie, partake of always available beverages and snacks, or use one of the computers while you enjoy the exquisite collection of furniture, books and artwork.
The heart of the area is Village Square, an outdoor cobblestone courtyard to enjoy a drink or coffee and the morning paper with Wi-Fi access. Restaurants include Jaipur’s Indian and Asian fusion, Astrolab Observatory with its amazing collection of antique astronomy instruments, the Museum Cafe, Sculpture Garden Restaurant and Jacob’s Bar and Terrace for tapas and drinks.
Refresh yourself in the traditional Bolivar swimming and kiddie pools, or the gorgeous, grotto-style Eco Pond Pool on several levels with a waterfall. The Beach Club is a 20-minute ride away (complimentary transportation available), with its sandy beach meeting the crystal clear sea. Rejuvenate yourself at the Kura Hulanda Spa, attached to a fully equipped fitness center.
Hotel Kura Hulanda boasts 80 guest rooms and suites, no two of which are alike. Every accommodation features hand-carved mahogany and teak furnishings, antiques and art, and walls hand-painted by local artists. Some feature Indian marble bathrooms with sunken bathtubs and others have old-fashioned claw foot soaking tubs.
Creature comforts are not left behind, from luxurious comforters and fine linens, to modern touches such as flat screen televisions and high speed wireless internet. Other amenities include CD players with stereo, telephone with voice mail, in-room safe and mini-fridges. All rooms are air conditioned, and many open up to delightful terraces or balconies of their own.
Suites, as you would expect, are spacious and luxurious, some spanning two levels with spiral staircases. Select suites include full kitchens and Jacuzzi bathtubs. Service is attentive yet unobtrusive, with attention to detail and nightly turndown service.
History and Culture
The real story of Hotel Kura Hulanda are the treasures of art, architectural artifacts, and surprises that await your discovery at every turn. You will definitely want to take some time to simply stroll the grounds and see what is tucked away in every nook and cranny.
Owner Jacob Gelt Dekker is truly a modern-day Indiana Jones, who delights in traveling the world and bringing many of his amazing finds back to Kura Hulanda. In this courtyard you find an intricately carved, antique Thai covered bench. In another, you stumble upon an open room full of Cotton Club and Harlem Jazz Age memorabilia. Yet another turn reveals incredible stone and marble sculptures, from which you step through a doorway to enter an amazing photographic and print art gallery.
Dekker also felt a vital importance for honoring the traumatic history and legacy that the island and its people have with the slave trade. The moving Museum Kura Hulanda is a powerful testament to this history; at places it becomes alive in disturbing ways that touch the soul, such as the haunting recreation of the hold of a slave ship that you can step down into.
Hotel Kura Hulanda is a historic treasure – come discover it for yourself.
Contact tel: +5999 434 7700, Toll Free from USA 877-264-3106
fax: +5999 434 7701
standard double room: £££
spa, swimming pool, fitness equipment, near beach, parking, hotel restaurant, hotel bar, room service, business services, internet access, golf course, water sports