On a clear day in Curaçao - and that means most days - you can see Venezeula a few miles across the sea in South America. But don’t spend too much time looking. There’s more than enough to see and do in this large, lively island that has for centuries been a major cultural and trading crossroads.
When you hear salsa and merengue on the buses and glimpse the Latin style and verve of the islanders, you’ll know you’re not very far from South America. Neither, culturally, will you be that far from the Old World.
The Dutch merchants who colonised the island and built the capital, Willemstad, had the brightly-coloured houses and warehouses designed to remind them of their homes in Amsterdam.
Add in the immigrants and traders who settled there from rest of the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Asia - it is estimated the island is home to 50 nationalities - and you have the recipe for a relaxed and cosmopolitan melting pot that offers everything for the perfect tropical vacation.
Sunbathers will find 38 popular beaches, from large strands to secluded sun-traps cut into the rocks on the craggy coast, while the Curaçao Underwater Park is a haven for divers and snorkellers - a 12-mile (19km) reef with coral beds, walls and shallow wrecks. Watersports such as fishing, windsurfing and water-skiing are major island activities, as is golf.
For exciting after-dark entertainment, there are smart casinos, discos and dozens of restaurants offering Caribbean and international cuisines.
Curaçao is an island of salsa, jazz and tumba - a local specialty. Curaçao`s annual Salsa Festival and Jazz Festival are among the highlights of events each year. And during February’s Carnival Week the streets and beaches really are alive with the sound of music. The islanders do not need an excuse to party, but if they did there are any number of religious and community events that are celebrated with music and dance.
In the back-country - kunuku - there is a 10-square-mile nature preserve which has species of flora and fauna found nowhere else in the Caribbean. Eco-tourists will want to visit the 4,500-acre (18 sq km) Christoffel National Park to see protected iguanas and tiny Curaçao deer. They can also take in the island’s ostrich farm and sea aquarium - one of the region’s largest - where they can swim with lemon sharks.
We’ve left one of the best features of Curaçao to the end - the famous blue, orange, red, green, and clear liqueurs made here from the bitter laraha oranges grown on trees imported by the Spanish from Valencia. Enjoy!