Curacao: Headed for Hato

David started the day with something called the Açaí bowl. It was purple, cold and thick like ice cream. It contained fresh fruit, oatmeal milk, granola nuts and dried fruit. Very refreshing in this hot and humid weather.

Breakfast of champions … the Açaí bowl.
The cruise ships are parked just outside of St. Anna Bay. We passed by this scenic overlook as we headed to Hato caves.

Running parallel to most of Curacao’s north coast, are cliffs that were formed 200 million years ago by the same forces that pushed the island up from the Caribbean Sea. These forces caused receding waters to percolate down through the porous limestone terrace, creating a region honeycombed with fissures and grottos. The caves are a dramatic example of this unusual geography.

Our tour guide explained how Curacao is formed in layers going up in height, which are called ‘terraces’. Most caves on the island are found in the second terrace. The Hato Cave is uniquely found in the third terrace of the island. To reach the entrance, you need to go up about 50 steps.

At Hato, you climb up to enter the cave, not down like in most caves.

Over the years, the caves provided shelter for some of the island’s early inhabitants, the Caiquetio Indians (from Northern Venezuela) and then later to escaped slaves who used many caverns to hide from their masters. Several Indian skeletons and 1,500-year-old artifacts have been discovered there.

Cavernous chambers …
… Stalagtites, stalagmites and fruit bats.
Petroglyphs from the Indian inhabitants.
Hato Cave park has a turtle exhibit. The turtles are not native to Curacao, the Indians from Venezuela brought them.
The Chobolobo Landhuis is home to Senior Co Curacao distillery.

Next stop is Chobolobo and the Curacao distillery. Landhuis Chobolobo is an iconic 19th-century mansion. The property’s history is rather sketchy but never had any other use than to serve as a country residence for wealthy merchants.

Spaniards came to Curacao around the 1500 and one of the plants they brought with was the Valencia Orange. The arid climate and soil conditions changed the juicy fruit into a bitter, almost inedible produce. The project was forgotten and the Valencia orange grew wild and abandoned, not even touched by the goats.

Decades later, someone discovered that the peels of this orange contained an ethereal oil with an extraordinary pleasing fragrance. This orange is called Lahara and is indigenous to Curacao. The Lahara is inedible. However the dried orange peels are perfect for the production of Curacao liqueur and provides a unique taste.

Today, Senior Co. is the only brand in the world that uses Lahara to make Curacao liqueur. The name “Curacao” is the name of a “place” and therefore cannot be trademarked. This is why there are many brands of “Curacao” liqueur on the market today. Senior also produces other liqueurs than Curacao, like a chocolate and tamarind liqueur.

Curacao has one flavor but comes in five colors … blue, orange, clear, green and red. In addition, there are other flavors such as chocolate, tamarind, coffee, rum raisin.

Since 1946, Chobolobo houses the “Senior Co.” distillery which has produced the famous Blue Curacao. True Curacao is made with the Laraha orange that only grows in Curacao. The entire process is done by hand … everything from picking the oranges, peeling and drying, mixing the recipe and distilling to bottling and labeling.

David and I along with Oliver from Switzerland; Ann Marie from Holland; Blake from Kentucky; Karen from Vancouver with our guide Ely.
Ely served everyone their choice of mixed drink from the Chobolobo list. I gave the Tamarind Sunset cocktail a try and David did a Rum Raisin Mai Tai. We ended up buying a bottle of the Tamarind liqueur.

Today’s beach is Jan Thiele which is just outside of Willemstad. All decorated for the holidays, the complex includes five restaurants and three beach clubs. There is a fee for beach entrance, parking and chairs.

Our strategy is to stay away during the hottest part of the day (we are near the Equator after all). We usually roll into the beaches around 4:00 when the crowds have left and there are no charges for entrance, parking or chairs.

A nice size iguana roams the beach.
Jan Thiele, like several of the beaches here has a large infinity pool that overlooks the rocky ocean side.
The infinity pool features the view of the ocean without the waves or sandy shoreline.
But for those who prefer rocky sand and waves there’s also a small beach area at Jan Thiele.
Beach bars with tropical beverages match the colors of the sunset.
The end of another day in paradise.

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Jane is a resident of Browndale neighborhood in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.

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