We got married in Aruba in May and honeymooned in Curacao after for a week. They are definitely much different places. If you are going to Curacao for a day I would suggest renting a car and driving the coast and ending up downtown to see the sights there including the floating market and swinging bridge. The beaches are not as sandy, but the cliffs are beautiful. There are many hidden beaches cut into coves. One of my favorites was Knip.
DH and I did that a few years back. We went three days, two nights. I am at my cottage now so I don't have my full email addresses but if you sent me an email I will give you all the details from our trip.
We stayed at the Marriott for one night and Avilla for one night. You can't walk around there at night at all. We went to this wonderful restaurant 3 blocks down from our hotel. Owner of the restaurant drove us as she said YOU CAN NOT walk at night and a taxi won't come for such a short distance.
About 5 years ago we decided to spend two nights, 3 days in Curacao. We were traveling minus children and thought this might be an opportunity to visit Curacao more deeply than the two times we stopped there on a cruise ship.
We took a quick 20 minute flight from Aruba and had arranged a private island tour through TABER TOURS to meet us at the airport in the morning and spend the day seeing the island. We had heard before that walking around at night was not recommended and our tour guide reiterated this to us.
We had a very nice day but Curacao is not "Aruba"! The island's first industry is not tourism and they were just starting to move towards promoting their tourism industry.
The first big difference we found were the beaches. In Aruba, the government has allowed each hotel to "look after" the beach in front of their hotel but in Curacao this is not permitted. As a result the beaches are a little more "rugged". We actually went to a very nice private beach on one of our cruise stops at the Sea Aquarium. This area had a nice beach and was in the process of developing (what else) a time share complex.
The downtown area is large and parts are very nice but it was sad to see so many empty stores. The economy was hitting everywhere. Lots of history to learn and see in Curacao but not as many good restuarants and shopping was just (if not better) in Aruba.
The first night we stayed at Hotel Avilla (before it was renovated). It was a very nice place located in the downtown district. It had a small but nice, quiet beah. A lot of people from Holland stay there and we were surprised that none of them had really heard much about Aruba and hadn't even considered going there on a vacation??? We ate at a wonderful restuarant 3 blocks from the hotel. It was a lovely old house that was run by a husband and wife team. We walked there as it was still day light but we knew not to walk back at night. At the end of our meal we asked if we could get a taxi and the owner (wife) asked where we were going. She said that it was not safe to walk at night downtown even though we were only blocks away (we knew this but my point is that she told us again) she was going to drive us as a taxi would be mad to have to come for such a short distance.
Second night we stayed at the Marriott on the "other side"-this is how they characterize the two areas that are separated by the Queen Juliana bridge. When taking taxi's they will charge you more if you have to cross the bridge. Anyway, we stayed at the Marriott and it was large but we didn't love it. Avilla was nicer. Small pool and the beach was ok. Rooms were clean but simple. We spent the second day wondering around downtown and went to a very nice restaurant along the water in an old building that used to be a fortress. We stayed on "our" side and just overlooked the downtown core. We had originally planned on spending all of day 3 in Curacao and heading back to Aruba at the end of the day but decided to head to the airport first thing in the morning as we really had covered Curacao and if we wanted to stay at the beach we would enjoy it more in Aruba.
We were glad we went and saw Curacao but wouldn't run back there unless on a cruise ship. I think that it is a great port for a cruise ship but would be hard pressed to stay a week there. It gave us an opportunity to explore another island. The flights were not cheap but it satisfied our curiousity to see Curacao.
Randi, thanks so much for the info.
We are thinking of a day trip instead of staying.
The girls want to go and see it, so they will have to wait until the spring.
The heads up was great. thanks so much for giving me your update.