Experience a different side of the Caribbean on the islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. These Dutch Caribbean islands, also known as the ABC islands and the Leeward islands, sit just north of Venezuela, and offer an embarrassment of riches.
While you can enjoy all the top draws of quintessential Caribbean vacations and honeymoons here, including beautiful white-sand beaches and year-round sunshine, there is so much more to discover on these islands, from adrenaline-fuelled adventures such as diving and mountain biking to centuries of history. The islands’ centuries-old Papiamento language, a fusion of Creole which takes its influence from native Indian and African languages as well as numerous other languages from English to Dutch, gives an idea of the melting pot of cultures. This permeates everything from their distinctive Dutch colonial architecture to their delicious food.
Aruba is small (less than 20 miles long and just 6 miles wide), but it certainly packs a punch – it is no surprise that this is the most popular island in the Dutch Caribbean, and Aruba vacations are guaranteed to go above and beyond. Its typically Caribbean long stretches of fine white sand are dotted with divi-divi trees, a symbol of the island, which are gnarled and bent by the wind that makes the island a magnet for windsurfers. You’ll also find colourful reefs and diverse landscapes of rugged coastlines and caves, as well as excellent restaurants, shopping and nightlife.
Bonaire, the peak of a submerged volcanic mountain, is one of the most eco-friendly islands in the Caribbean so is perfect for eco-conscious vacations. It has an impressive marine park and reefs, making it one of the best islands for snorkelling and diving. Other adventures include kayaking through the mangroves, kiteboarding and mountain biking along the island’s snaking trails. See wildlife and birdlife including flamingos (the national bird), iguanas and parakeets in Washington Slagbaai National Park, whose beaches are also nesting grounds for turtles.
Curacao offers a truly unspoilt slice of the Caribbean. Its colourful Dutch colonial capital, Willemstad, is unmissable, while you can also enjoy activities from ATV tours along the coast to mountain climbing. When it comes to downtime, from hideaway beaches tucked into coves and perfect beaches for children to lively beaches lined with bars which come alive after nightfall, there is a beach with your name on it here. Several of the island’s plantation homes, or landhuis, have been converted into excellent restaurants, so don’t miss the chance to sample fantastic island cuisine too. Head to Curacao for a luxury vacation with a difference.