How was your weekend? We drove down to Virginia Beach for the Dave Matthews Band concert and took the pups with us for a full family weekend getaway! It was the first time we’ve had them at the beach and it was so fun to watch them figure it all out.
Last year to celebrate Dave’s 35th birthday we took a trip to Curaçao. If you’re having déjà vu, yes, we just took a trip this year to Mexico for his birthday. What can I say? He knows how to celebrate and I love to travel!
Many have not heard of the tiny island, but it is the ‘C’ in a grouping referred to as the ABC islands, located just north of Venezuela. (I am sure you have all heard of Aruba, the ‘A,’ and Bonaire makes up the “B.”)
We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Curaçao, which is no longer being operated by Hyatt for some reason, and is now the Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort. On the south side of the island, this resort is tucked away from the town of Willemstad and the paragon of “getting away from it all” with lush sprawling grounds and surrounding waters as blue as the liqueur named for the island itself. The rooms were luxurious, yet not excessive, and we had a beautiful view from our balcony perfect for enjoying morning coffee.
Curaçao is very unique compared to the other Caribbean islands I’ve visited because it has such strong Dutch influence. It was part of the Netherlands Antilles until 2010, when the country was dissolved, and is now a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. To get the best view of the colorful historic buildings lining the waters of the Santa Anna Bay in Willemstad, we took a sunset cruise through Pelican Express, stopping just before the famous Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge. Unfortunately we did not get to see it open up.
We took plenty of time to relax by the pool and on the beach, but also explored the island – with purpose at times, wandering aimlessly at others. (Word to the wise: road are not clearly marked so have a good navigator!)
Our first excursion was a boat tour of the Spanish Waters and snorkel trip through Bounty Adventures. Million dollar homes line the shores of this bay (including one for the owner of Polar Beer), and for just a couple of hours it was easy to imagine each villa as our very own exotic island escape – remember the cabin? Same concept.
The snorkeling part of the day was not my finest hour – for some reason I became violently seasick. Dave really enjoyed the underwater scenes though – sunken ships and tropical fish – and though I may not have kept it all down, the food was homemade, delicious and 100% local.
One day we decided to loop the entire island, stopping at various points of interest along the way. We saw ruins of old colonial homes, tiny towns and even some street goats!
Of course, it would not be a vacation without visiting a national park, so we made a stop at Shete Boka National Park. This is undoubtedly an off-the-beaten-path site, with some very fascinating geological features. I quietly stopped at every photo opportunity, only to find Dave way ahead of me on the trail. We saw lizards, iguanas and coral remnants Walking along the rocky path to the natural bridge, which is a rock bridge from one side of Boka Wandomi to the other, sculpted by the surging tides.
Waves constantly crashed into the cliffs overlooking each bay. It was incredibly loud and peaceful at the same time. The ocean was so erratic that I felt as though it could scoop me up at any moment and carry me out to sea – or slam me right back up against the jagged rocks!
After walking along the trails with sun beating down on us, we were thrilled to have a seat in the shade of this beautiful tree. (Does anyone know what kind of tree it is?!)
Back in the car, we continued the exploratory loop around the island, stopping for an authentic lunch at a tiny cliff-side restaurant overlooking Playa Forti. Krioyo is the local cuisine, and everything we tried was amazing … even if we didn’t know the exact ingredients in each dish. Mine had beef (and possibly other meats) with raisins (and/or grapes) and was covered in cheese :)
Our next stop was at Knip Beach for a little fun in the sand and sun! Several locals camp out there all day with coolers and music – must say that I would do the same if I lived there.
Although we celebrated Dave’s birthday every meal, one night we went into Willemstad-Punta to celebrate with dinner at Mr. Congas, a Cuban restaurant in the historic Waterfront Arches area. Prior to the trip, I exchanged several emails with the owner, so it was no surprise that upon arrival we received the royal treatment!
Needless to say it was a great trip and I would definitely return to Curaçao for another adventure! For the rest of my Curaçao photos visit my album.
Have you ever been to one of the ABC islands? What summer travel plans do you have this year?
OH – and if you’re wondering, Bon Bini means Welcome! :)
This time two weeks ago we were in Mexico celebrating Dave’s birthday … alas, now it’s back to reality.
The celebration started Friday night at Pacifico Cantina on Barrack’s Row with guacamole, tacos and plenty of margaritas. Despite the stormy weather, we had a great turnout from some of our best amigos!
Before going to Pacifico, I surprised D with cupcakes and gifts. (Daisy was in Pennsylvania with her aunt and grandma, but she is sweet and thoughtful that she had a card for me to pass along.)
Saturday we woke up early for our flight to Mexico, but didn’t realize that a third of DC metro residents were also doing the same. It took us so long to check in for our flight and we almost missed the cut off! Any residual stress I may have been carrying was erased upon arrival in Cancun because the car service was eagerly waiting to greet us with a cool SUV and a cooler of these guys. We truly felt like celebrities!
The hour drive to Catalonia Royal Tulum went by quickly which was good because we were ready for some beach lounging. The hotel staff greeted us with cool damp hand towels and welcome beverages, a very nice touch! We proceeded to check in, eat lunch and park it on some lounge chairs.
One day while walking along the shore, we came across a charming beachfront restaurant with a large palapa roof. We stopped for a cerveza and snack, and Al Cielo quickly became one of our favorite places on the trip.
As you can see, most of our time was spent alternating between the pool and the beach, but here are a couple of the other highlights:
1. Critters: The resort is built into the jungle, with a path from the entrance to the beach that winds through mangroves and past fresh water cenotes. It is impossible to make the walk without passing several different critters like the ones below.
2. Dinner on the Beach: The resort was all-inclusive, but we decided to splurge one night and arranged for dinner on the beach. There were only three other couples, so it felt special and we had two waiters that were hilarious so it was also really fun! It was pretty windy and they had to run back and forth from the beach to the near-ish restaurant for our food and other supplies. We laughed a lot and even sang the Mexican birthday song “Las Mañanitas.”
3. Snorkeling in the Cenotes: My trip to-do list was basically 1. sunbathe, 2. enjoy vacation cocktails (the kind that you can’t order at a normal bar with a straight face, usually accompanied by an umbrella) and 3. snorkel in a cenote. Check, check and CHECK! We took a half day trip to snorkel in two spots, Akumal Bay and El Jardin del Eden Cenote or Ponderosa. At Akumal we saw large sea turtles, beautiful fish in every color of the rainbow, sting rays, baby squid and a sea cucumber. It was one of the best snorkeling trips I’ve taken in terms of marine life; however I did get a little seasick, which is a new phenomenon for me. The second stop, El Eden, was a mature freshwater cenote, which is a limestone sinkhole found mostly in the Yucatán Peninsula. Although we only saw a few fish, our guide took us into tiny spaces where we could see stalactites. He dove down, swam through underwater caves and came out in an entirely different spot. This trip made us wish we had an underwater camera! (Any recommendations on a good one?)
The trip/birthday celebration did not end when we got back to the states though! We decided that we hadn’t had enough Mexican food, so we stopped at one of our favorite places, Guajillo in Arlington.
For more pictures of our trip visit my Facebook album!