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The ABC’s of the Caribbean

Carla Nelson of Maritime Travel writes of the tourist playgrounds Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao
Above: A view of Table Mountain on Curacao.

Located in the Lesser Antilles and technically part of South America rather than the North American Caribbean, the islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao are affectionately known as the ABC islands.

Just north of Venezuela and in the western Caribbean, you will find these three islands that are part of the Netherlands but not part of the European Union.  Said to have been discovered by one of Christopher Columbus' captains in 1499, these islands were first inhabited by the Spaniards.  In 1634, the Netherlands fought Spain for the islands and won.  When oil was discovered in Venezuela in the 20th century, the islands became oil refineries.

Fast forward to today, and these islands are playgrounds for tourists.  Popular year round because they are 'hurricane safe' — outside the hurricane belt in the Caribbean.

The largest island is Curacao.  The main city is Willemstad, which is also a cruise ship port.  You can take postcard photos here of the colourful townhouses, which are very similar to the architecture of Amsterdam.  Cas Abou Beach has the widest stretch of white sand.  There is a popular Underwater Park.  Snorkelling, fishing and sailing are available.  For evening, there are many casinos on the island.

The second largest, and most well known island is Aruba.  It is flat and has the driest climate, almost desert in places.  There is a large cruise port here in Oranjestad (Orange Town).  The best beaches are here too — Eagle Beach and Baby Beach.  Aruba is one of the honeymoon capitals of the world due to many luxury resorts on the island.  There is a popular dive site just a few hundred feet off the shore — a sunken German freighter from World War II — many species of tropical fish have made their home there.

The smallest, and least populated island in this chain is Bonaire (Good Air).  So small that there aren't even any traffic lights in the city of Kralendijk or anywhere on the island.  Famous for the Bonaire Marine Park, it is a diving paradise.  The island is surrounded by reefs.  The trumpetfish is the 'star' here for snorkelers and divers.  You can also find flamingoes and 4 species of sea turtles on the island.

Needless to say, dining out is an amazing experience for seafood lovers!  Lobster, barracuda, grouper, shrimp, mahimahi, tuna — you name it, you can have it!  And of course, then you can wash it down with some of the finest Dutch beer!

If you are looking for a new sun destination experience this winter, consider the ABC islands.  They're a little more difficult to get to, but well worth the trip.  For more information, contact Carla Nelson, Branch Manager, Maritime Travel, 250.489.4788.