The ABC Islands - Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and are the western-most islands of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean, and as such, avoid the hurricanes. They are situated just off the Venezuelan coast. Here is my Top Ten of things to see and do in the region.
Here is our summary of the best beaches in the Durch Antilles
Palm Beach, you will find lots of tall hotels here and it's quite a busy beach but good for swimming, snorkelling and water sports. For a quieter area head to Eagle Beach, it has calm seas and you can see pure white sand far into the distance so it's great for swimming. Baby beach has a shallow, warm turquoise sea protected by breakwaters making it a great beach for families.
Best beach here is Sorobon Beach near Lac Bay. There are a couple of bars here and a chance to do some windsurfing: the water is shallow and there are trees if you prefer it in the shade. Don't stray too far as there is a nude beach next door! Sorobon Beach Resort charge a fee to strip off but provide a wooden fence extending to the water to give privacy.
Curacao has just under 40 beaches, from small areas in front of hotels to secluded coves. They are not the best beaches in the Caribbean, but the sea has excellent visibility so is great for snorkelling and the water temperature is a steady 76 degrees F. The biggest beach is Blue Bay - there is a small admission charge but it is worth paying and there is also a nice restaurant there.
Make sure you pick up a map from the rental office. Before you go off road I recommend a stop at the California Lighthouse, where you get spectacular 360-degree views. A large part of Aruba has a moon-like terrain and is an amazing (if sometimes bumpy) experience. There are plenty of things there to stop and have a look at, including:-
Snorkelling here is some of the best in the Caribbean:- take a catamaran and visit the famous Bonaire National Marine Park
The Queen Emma pontoon is named after Queen Emma (1890-1898) and was built by Leonard Burlington Smith in 1888 and it connects the Punda and Otrobanda districts. Also known as the "Swinging Old Lady", the bridge has 16 floating pontoon boats to support the "Pontoon Bridge." It swings open using two powerful ship motors, allowing ships to access the port. Scores of schooners tie up alongside the canal for the floating market, and by the bridge you will find sellers from Venezuela, various West Indian islands & Columbia with an array of fresh fruits and vegetables.
See shipwrecks and coral reefs as you descend 150 feet. You will also see hundreds of tropical fish in various colours, shapes and sizes.
This is a great tour that takes you through historic Willemstad. It begins at Fort Amsterdam and has an excellent commentary. You pass Pietermaai Cathedral and the historic Fort Riffort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site built in the 19th-century that once guarded the island with 56 cannons in its 27 arches. You will also see the Queen Emma pontoon bridge and the floating market, and picturesque homes built in the 1800s in Scharloo. One of the stops is at the pretty "wedding cake house." You will also see the Mikve Israel Emmanuel Synagogue, Queen Wilhelmina Park and finally Fort Amsterdam - built in 1635 to guard the entrance to the harbour.
Located at the harbour of Willemstad. Opening hours: Monday - Sunday 10.00 am - 05.00 pm. This museum shows exhibits from the 17th to the 19th centuries; here you can trace Curaçaoans African roots from the transatlantic slave trade, from slave capture in Africa and the relocation in the New World. You will also see how the African cultural heritage has influenced Curaçaoan and Caribbean societies until today.
Covering 20% of the island, the Arikok National Park is an ecological preserve where you can see caves here including:-
Barcadera, which is across from the Bonaire Caribbean Club, is an old cave that was once used to trap goats. Here you can admire the stalactites.
Great in Curacao (over 200 shops) - and this is where the Curacao blue liqueur comes from. Not much in the way of shops in Bonaire and quite expensive in Aruba.
So there is my Top Ten - do you have any favourite things you like to do and see in the ABC Islands? Let us know and share your tips below!