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To me these two photos capture the spirit of Curacao. On the left, a long-in-the-tooth street musician works the streets of the capital city, Willemstad, showing both tenacity earned from the island's volatile history and the people's love for music. To the right, a young girl is dressed up for the annual Carnival closing parade, one of the most festive and celebratory experiences in the Caribbean, beaming with artistic pride.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Of course there are the beaches. Perfect, azure, white-sand beaches like Kenepa Grandi (pictured). Closer to the capital you'll find man-made beaches, but we advise you to venture to the northwestern coast, where prototypical Caribbean beaches like this one await, along with crowds of locals enjoying the island's copious sun and surf.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Unlike Bonaire, its neighbor to the east, Curacao boasts a dense, jungle-ensnarled interior, as is typified by Christoffel National Park. Arrange to take a day trip into the park, where you can summit the peak of 1,240-foot Mount Christoffel, the island's highest point. Just go early to avoid the midday heat, and bring plenty of water.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Of course the island's treasures aren't solely rooted in terra firma. The coral island on which Curacao sits has created a rich aquatic environment with countless species of fish and coral (including more than a few playful dolphins and turtles). Hook up with dive operators like the island-wide Ocean Encounters for diving or snorkeling excursions (including intro-level courses).  
Credit: courtesy, Ocean Encounters 
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Curacao's other iconic image is of its pastel-colored buildings, especially in the historic district of Willemstad. The island's naturally deep channel (seen here, looking into the Punda part of the capital from the Otrobanda side) and sheltered harbor made it a vital arrow in the Dutch's Caribbean quiver, and that explains both Curacao's good economic fortune and its less-than-scenic oil refinery.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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The Dutch influence can be seen all over the island—be sure to visit one (or several) of Curacao's landhuis properties. These old plantation houses have been renovated and transformed into stellar museums and guest houses.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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Today's Curacao offers more than merely Dutch cultural influence. Locals typically speak four languages—Dutch, English, Spanish, and Papiamento, the local dialect. The language skills come in handy, from helping out lost travelers (ahem) to negotiating with vendors at Willemstad's Floating Market, populated mostly by Venezuelan and Columbian fishermen and farmers who make the pilgrimage daily.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
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However you spend your day, just be sure you're seaside at sunset. Curacao may not boast the most reliable fuchsia sunsets in the Caribbean, but think of it as an excuse to grab a drink, sit, and soak in where you are...because you'll be gone before you know it. Until you come back.  
Credit: Nathan Borchelt 
 
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