Where to Stay in Curaçao
Marriott Emerald Beach & Stellaris Casino
This place used to be my go-to hotel in Curaçao. It pains me to say this but unfortunately it closed back in 2016, when it was sold to The Piscamar Beach Resort of the Orco Group. I'm still including it here though because there are hopes if it reopening again.
In a 2016 press briefing, we learned that the new hotel group has agreed to invest $33.7 million dollars into the property to completely refurbish it and even add an additional store. I hope that actually happens, but if Curaçao history says anything, it is a very large possibility that they won’t follow through with the project. For whatever reason—whether it’s political, monetary, or for logistical reasons (I’m not sure the answer, perhaps it’s a combination of some or all of these factors)—a lot of projects fail in Curaçao, which is probably a good explanation for why there aren’t a lot of great resorts on this beautiful island. Many of the hotels that were built in the late 60s and early 70s (the Hilton in particular) have not been redone since being built and are in a state of disrepair The Marriott, built in the early 90s, wasn’t nearly as bad as the Hilton, but it definitely needed some work. I’m sure the Hilton, for example, must have been redone at least several times since it was built nearly 60 years ago, but it sure doesn’t look like it (Side note: don’t stay there, no matter how much money you save—it’s foul).
Prior to closing, the Marriott Emerald Beach and Stellaris Casino was our favorite place to stay because it’s a Marriott chain and required very little rewards points to book, so we could stay an entire week there on points and not spend a dime. It also had decent rooms with beautiful ocean views, several restaurants on property, and myriad bars strewn about the property. There was a beach bar in particular called the “Board Room” that we absolutely loved. Right on the water, you could sip cocktails either on the deck where you can watch the crabs scatter across the rocks or sit in a swing at the other side of the bar. The Marriott also had this great arrangement where they would have happy hour (2 for 1 drinks) at the pool bar at 5 pm, happy hour again at the Board Room at 6 pm, and then happy hour at the main hotel bar at 7 pm. So what that meant is that all the booze-hounds (like us…) would follow each other from one bar to the other each night. It turned into a bit of a ritual and meant that we easily made friends on each trip.
Unfortunately, it looks as though we’ll need to find a new hotel now though. Despite the fact that there have been reports that it’s being remodeled and will open sometime soon (though no reports of exactly when that might be have surfaced), a quick drive-by of the resort this last April revealed that not much progress—if any—had been done. Yes, the entire property is fenced off and we did see a few pieces of heavy machinery, but other than that, it did not look like much was going on. The staff at the Renaissance in town (another Marriott umbrella hotel) even said to us that it was supposed to reopen next year, and that it was going to remain a Marriott. I remain skeptical, but my fingers are crossed. I will update this post if I hear new news.
UPDATED: THE CURACAO MARRIOTT HAS REOPENED!
I'm thrilled to report that crossing my fingers for that long really worked! The Curacao Marriott reopened its doors and welcomed guests again toward the latter part of 2019. We are hoping to go back soon to check it out and I will report back afterwards! If you have the opportunity to go before me, please shoot me an email and let me know your thoughts:
This place is easily the nicest resort on the island. It has a Rosewood-like feel, with a lot of luxury amenities. The entrance to the resort actually feels like Bali, with lush tropical gardens, stonework and Balinese Buddha statues strewn about. There’s a beautiful, protected private lagoon with a beach that can only be enjoyed by hotel guests or those willing to pay the $50 per person beach day pass. Baoase Luxury Resort offers free use of kayaks, snorkels, and paddle boards, so you won’t get bored. And the restaurant—claimed to be the finest on the island—has beautiful views of that blue Curaçao sea.
The price difference between this place and the next nicest resort is astronomical though—rates here are about $5-700 a night for their base rooms (which will run you almost $4,000 for a 5 night stay after taxes) and as much as $1,800 a night for their Superior Private Pool Villa, which will set you back $9,000 for only five nights. However, with that price tag comes the service and exclusivity that you would expect from someplace like a Rosewood or a Four Seasons, and the private villas are insanely beautiful and well-appointed. Whether it’s worth it for the money is a whole different question though. Curaçao is known for being cheap, and the other resorts reflect that. The next nicest resort on the island—the Santa Barbara Resort (below)—is only about $200 a night.
The Santa Barbara Resort is a nice happy medium between the absurdly overpriced Baoase and a dump like the Hilton (again, please don’t stay there). The resort is well-appointed, has nice finishes and actually looks as if it belongs in beautiful Santa Barbara, California (where I lived for many years and still live close to), with red tile roofs, cream colored stucco and dark mahogany wood finishes. The property has great king bed rooms for as low as $100 a night if you can take advantage of one of the hotel’s many online “sales” or for about $200 full price in the high season. During their “Summer Cyber Sale”, for example, you can get a Premier Water View King for only $114 (regularly $229) a night or their 960 square foot Sunset Suite for $414 (regularly $829). They also offer a series of high-end suites that can sleep up to four and have a full kitchen, a dining room, living room and multiple bathrooms with stunning balconies that overlook the sea.
The property has several great restaurants, an adult pool, a kids pool, pool bar and private beach. And if you’re a golfer, you’re in luck—the Santa Barbara Resort is home to the Old Quarry Golf Course, rated “Best Caribbean Golf Course” by USA Today. It’s a Pete Dye Course with absolutely stunning ocean-view holes. They also have tennis courts and a world-class spa. The Santa Barbara Resort has a little bit of something for everyone.
The only negative I should point out about the Santa Barbara Resort (though I suppose it wouldn’t be a negative for everyone) is that it’s a bit far out of town. The Santa Barbara Resort is situated at almost the furthest point on the southern
portion of the island, putting it about 30 minutes out of downtown Punda or well over an hour to get to Westpunt in the northern part of the island where the best beaches are. So if you want to enjoy the best beaches, scuba or free dive, or party in town, staying at the Santa Barbara Resort will mean a lot of driving to and from Westpunt or spendy cabs to get you to and from town. If you are one of those who enjoys unplugging and not leaving the resort, then this is probably still a good option.
If you came to Curaçao for the sole purpose of diving, staying in Westpunt is your best bet. There aren’t any major resorts there, but there are a number of small family-owned and run boutique hotels and lodges, just like the Lodge at Kura Hulanda, which is located just above Playa Kalki beach and near all the best dive sites. The Lodge has two restaurants, which both serve excellent meals (a bit more upscale, with prices to match). Request to eat on the terrace for an incredible view while you dines. You can also schedule a massage at the lodge, whether you’re staying there as a guest or not. If the Lodge isn’t for you, they also have a sister property in town, the Hotel Kura Hulanda.
Rent a House
You can get a killer deal on stunning, gigantic homes with ocean views and private pools on VRBO or HomeAway for a fraction of the cost a similar house would run in the States.
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