Destinations in The Caribbean with a Queer-Friendly Atmosphere
The island of Curaçao is a place where you can be yourself. There is a lot of attention paid to this on the island, and it is one of its main attractions.
As you stroll through the charming city of Willemstad, Curaçao's capital, you will quickly discover that the island is famous for brightly painted Dutch architecture, which is that of the island. For me, the rainbow of colors cascading across the streetscapes on this island is a constant reminder of this island's acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community of all races, cultures, and ethnicities.
In spite of the fact that queer families have been visiting the Caribbean for decades, many nations here are anti-homosexual and discriminate against their own LGBTQ+ citizens. Many in the community are forced to decide whether spending their money in a more accepting location would be a better investment.
A recent visit to Curaçao confirmed that it deserves to be on LGBTQ+ travelers' radars as one of the region's most queer-friendly destinations. Between the two islands are the so-called ABC islands, which were all former Dutch colonies and are known for their liberal outlooks. As of March 2023, the latter two islands will also allow queer nuptials, following a recent ruling that allows same-sex marriage in Bonaire and Curaçao.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site for 25 years, Willemstad's historic city center is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. We rented electric scooters from Greenwheels Harley and took them on a tour of the island with professional guide Tirzah Statia who is also a member of the LGBTQ+ community and offers tours to visitors of the island.
“On Curaçao, you can be yourself,” she told me. “That’s one of the main attractions of the island. I can be myself, I can walk around with my partner, I can go out, and I can feel safe. Sometimes, LGBTQ+ travelers have to first look at safety when considering a destination, along with are you accepted?' I feel accepted on my island, and that’s why I want people to come here."
The Kaya Kaya community project focuses on the beautification of the Ser'i Otrobanda district through art and murals, and Tirzah showed us all around the city to learn about its interesting history and colonizers. In Papiamentu, a beautiful local language that blends Creole, Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch, she taught us words and phrases.
It is the sprawling Curaçao Sea Aquarium, which focuses mostly on regional marine life and the importance of the ocean to islanders, that is one of the best family-friendly experiences on the island. Also on site is an active coral-growing program that visitors can view and learn about.
Multiple private experience areas are available within the center's dolphin experience program, which is aimed at therapy for children with autism. As we walked past the large outdoor lagoon, several dolphins swam up, curious about us - an unexpected thrill. However, it was the nearby Ocean Lens experience that made the trip memorable.
Visitors begin at the sea's edge, descend a ladder 17 feet, and emerge into a pod that has a spherical glass window that looks out into the depths of the ocean. It would have been easy to spend the entire afternoon gazing into the crystal-clear Caribbean water, watching myriad large fish swim by.
Taking advantage of Myronchi Trip's three-hour hike and snorkeling adventure was a different experience. In the first part of the tour, we ascended to a windswept lookout overlooking Boca Ascension inlet on the island's northwest side to learn about the island's flora and fauna. Sea turtles surfacing every few minutes far below us caught our attention.
Our guide then took us to a calm beach for a memorable snorkeling excursion. Our underwater excursion included coral gardens, schools of blue fish, and the submerged remains of a small airplane.
In the afternoon, we rode Jet Skis and visited several popular beaches including Kenepa Grandi and Lagun as part of Touriffic Curaçao. Additionally, we snorkeled and saw more sea turtles - though this time they were very close to us.
Among the island's accommodations is the Renaissance Wind Creek Curaçao Resort & Casino, which was built along (and incorporated into) an old fort that now contains a shopping and dining area. At Natural Blends Esthetics Rif Fort, guests can book massages and spa treatments.
A short drive westward from the capital city, Coral Estate Luxury Resort offers a spectacular Caribbean beach and reef, as well as the incredible Koraal Rooftop Terrace restaurant. Check out the adorable Mondi Lodge, which features a two-story cabin built around a huge tree, for a more intimate garden experience.
There are a lot of great restaurants in the city, including Sal the Kitchen, which specializes in paella and emphasizes socarrat, the crunchy and flavorful bottom part of the dish. One of the best ceviches I've had in years was served at Ceviche 91 Gastrobar. A laid-back meal at Maira's kitchen in Otrobanda is perfect after a long day of island exploring. Her kitchen is Mediterranean inspired with a local touch.