The ABCs of the Southern Caribbean

Travelwise

Commonly known as the ABC Islands, the three western-most Caribbean islands of the Leeward Antilles in the Southern Caribbean — Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao — are situated just off the coast of Venezuela. Each island is recognized for its own unique beauty, history and attractions. Because they conveniently fall south of the Caribbean’s hurricane belt, the islands are a popular tropical destination for visitors year-round.

From white-sand beaches and turquoise seas to spectacular diving and exotic animal encounters, the ABC Islands of the Caribbean boast something for every sun-seeking traveler. All three islands are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Aruba and Curacao are autonomous, self-governing islands while Bonaire is a municipality. You’ll find Dutch influence intermingled in each one of the islands, especially when it comes to some of the architecture, language and food. Papiamentu and Dutch are widely spoken and used on each island. In addition, Spanish and English are understood and spoken, making it quite easy for visitors to communicate with the locals. The US dollar is widely accepted on all the islands.

Aruba is only 15 miles off the Venezuelan coast. Aruba is a relatively dry island with consistently fine weather. Because of its dry climate, the vegetation includes a wide variety of cacti set among interesting rock formations and the trade winds-sculptured Divi Divi trees. The northwest coast is rugged with high waves. For thousands of years, pounding waves and strong winds have slowly chiseled away at the limestone cliffs along Aruba’s north coast to create several natural bridges. On the Southwest coast there are seven miles of palm-fringed, powder-white beaches. Palm Beach and Eagle Beach are considered two of the finest beaches in the Caribbean.

When it comes to hotels in Aruba, there are many options, with everything from all-inclusive mega resorts to small boutique properties and pricing that ranges from budget to luxurious. Night life also has a wide offering with many night clubs, bars, restaurants and casinos. And of significance is the peaceful hidden Natural Pool located within the National Park of Arikok. The pool was created by a unique rock formation that protects it from the pounding sea. It’s a great spot for swimming or snorkeling. All around Aruba, there are exceptional sites for scuba divers. You can discover wrecks of World War II and magnificent corals.

Bonaire has been known as the Diver’s Paradise of the ABC Islands. It is a paradise for all nature lovers, particularly divers. The clear waters surrounding Bonaire easily get 30 meters of visibility. Bonaire’s Marine Park has more than 85 dive sites and more than 350 recorded fish species. Dozens of experienced dive operators are located around the island, offering dives in varying degrees of difficulty. For non-divers, the same traits that make Bonaire spectacular for diving make it equally magnificent for snorkeling. Many of Bonaire’s exquisite coral reefs are easily accessible from shore. Bonaire also has a national park with more than 195 bird species. From biking and hiking to bird watching and caving, one must experience Bonaire’s vibrant natural landscapes. You can hike the trails and find the salt lakes of Bonaire as well as Goto Lake, with its pink flamingos. Bonaire has a far more laid-back vibe than Aruba. It is an ideal place to escape from the mega-resorts and the world in general.

Situated in the middle of the ABC islands is Curacao, the most diverse of the three islands. Curacao is best known for its colorful, Dutch-inspired capital of Willemstad. The gabled buildings that line the sea could just as easily be located in Amsterdam if not for their rainbow of colors. Curacao has a number of great beach resorts; however, its vibrant capital also merits some quality time. From the Queen Emma Bridge to the historic neighborhoods, Willemstad’s colorful architecture and quaint shops make for a perfect day. Queen Emma Bridge — better known as the Pontoon Bridge — is supported by 16 floating pontoon boats and swings open several times a day to allow ships to enter the port. When the bridge is open, a free ferry shuttles pedestrians from one side to the other. The island is comprised of green hills, wild beaches, Blue Curacao liqueur, wild flamingos, friendly locals, plenty of shopping, street art, delicious food and so much more. Rent a car to explore all of Curacao’s beauty.

Each island is unique, beautiful, diverse, welcoming, warm, sunny and full of friendly locals. Contact your local professional travel consultant and let the planning begin!

About Donna Croushore 14 Articles
Donna Croushore is owner/manager of Creative Travel & Cruise, located in Port Warwick. She can be reached at 757-898-4006 or visit the website at www.creativetravelandcruise.com.

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