Visionary Dutchman Jacob Gelt Dekker transformed a rundown area of Willemstad, Curacao, into an eight-block resort village featuring winding cobblestone walkways and beautifully resorted 17th- and 18th-century buildings. The result is an outstanding lodging experience at the 80-room boutique property Hotel Kura Hulanda.
Each room at Kura Hulanda is unique, with hand-carved teak and mahogany furnishings. Some are antiques, while others are replicas -- but all are one-of-a-kind and gorgeous. Choose from standard rooms or multi-room suites with marbled bathrooms, flat-screen TV, hairdryers and waffle robes, Aveda bath products, CD players and wireless internet access.
I spent just one night at the Kura Hulanda in November, and wish I could have stayed longer -- if only to enjoy more of the on-site eateries! I loved my lunch at the open-air Museum Cafe (don't miss the creamy banana soup), and the twinkling white lights around the Village Square set a romantic scene for early evening cocktails. In fact, this courtyard setting, I believe, is the inspiration for the name "Kura Hulanda," which means "Dutch courtyard" in Papiamentu, Curacao's native language.
I'm told the Jaipur Restaurant, featuring Asian specialties, offers amazing Indian food. I thought the setting for the Astrolab Observatory restaurant (so named for the array of telescopes and such on display there), was lovely -- adjacent to the Indian marble garden. This upscale restaurant focuses on gourmet fish, shellfish and beef dishes (pictured at right).
Services & Amenities
I walked through the on-site casino (small) and spa (also small) but didn't get a chance to spend money at either! The spa does offer a full range of services, such as aromatherapy, couples and Thai massage, facials, wraps, pedicures, manicures and waxing.
The "eco-pool" is set among natural gardens and rock formations with a calming waterfall (at left). There is second, more standard, pool on the opposite end of the property.
Perhaps one "must do" while staying at the Hotel Kura Hulanda -- or anywhere on Curacao for that matter -- is visiting the sobering Kura Hulanda Museum. Here, Jacob Gelt Dekker has amassed an incredible collection of artifacts from slavery's history. Through original slave-trade contracts, first-hand testimonials, newspaper advertisements, representative drawings, and dozens of authentic shackles and other restraining devices, visitors learn about the first forced relocation of Africans to the Caribbean in the 17th century, Africans in the United States, as well as worldwide slavery conditions today.
The Kura Hulanda Hotel's sister resort is the Lodge Kura Hulanda & Beach Club, an oceanfront property on the west side of the island. If you want to experience the best of both worlds -- sophisticated, in-town accommodations, plus fun and sun on the beach -- book a special vacation package that includes a few nights at both properties. Otherwise, a complimentary shuttle runs between both resorts.
Also click on "Special Packages" on the Kura Hulanda website to check out the Honeymoon Packages, including one with accommodations in the Indian Bridal Suite, where all of the furniture is made of hand-hammered silver. Other features of this beautifully appointed suite are a draped four-poster king bed, flat-screen TV, and two bathtubs, including one made for two!