We’re in Curacao we love it, we’re talking about the newly renovated and reopened Curacao Marriott Beach Resort.
Famous chef Dino Jatiani, who was blown off the island of St Maarten by the hurricanes in 2017, shared he was hired immediately by a luxury cruise ship company, and when his liner docked in Curacao one day in January of this year, he visited the resort, still under construction and interviewed for the Executive Chef’s position. How could they say no to award-winning, charming, Caribbean-born, Dino??
The food & beverage outlets under his direction are all up and running. We loved Zala a Gastro Bar with a collection of bar bites, in the heart of the lobby with talented bartenders, cozy seating areas and sweet servers.
Zala became our own living room during our stay, we sat around working, nibbling, and sipping. We had the crispy Brussel sprouts twice, the Korean short rib tacos, and the veggie dim sum. From adjacent Izakaya sushi bar we let the good times roll: We loved the Angry Iguana with coconut shrimp, avocado, cream cheese, BBQ eel, spicy mayo and wasabi tobiko. What’s not to love?
Did I mention the Soba salad, with tempura shrimp over Japanese style buckwheat noodles? Where can we get that in Aruba??
C-Spice on the pool level of the hotel is the resort’s beautifully appointed signature fine-dining restaurant delivering a modern take on upscale Caribbean dining, for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu lists Dutch Caribbean, European, and Latin American favorites with fresh fish, shrimp and lobster, and an artisan brick pizza oven. We chose our own pie toppings from among the dozen listen: Pepperoni, Calamata olives and caramelized onions. Why not?! We sat inside, in the cool, slate-hued dining room. We’re Aruban, we like it air-conditioned.
Naturally, the restaurant has gorgeous al fresco seating on the open-air terrace, mid tropical garden.
Alas, we never got to the pool bar. Next time.
The Curacao Tourist Board Regional Manager Janine de Windt picked us up for a spin through Willemstad with a lunch stop at the historic Plasa Bieu. The hall is now significantly cleaned up and upgraded by the government. We visited Zus di Plaza, a famous Creole cook, savored her awa lamunchi, mochi di piska and karni stoba, her moist and buttery funchi, no tutu on Tuesday, and for dessert we wolfed down her notorious arepa di pampuna, wow.
Talking about experiential dining. This is the ultimate soul food hub, and its packaged well so visitors and locals may partake. Even germaphobics will approve of the level of cleanliness and organization.
Janine told us cos ta hot in Curacao, they are building, upgrading and diversifying their tourist product (They had 6,000 rooms on island in 2015, 50% Hotel rooms & 50% Apartments/Villas, when they started focusing on the island’s growth momentum, which is now coming to fruition.)
The way Janine sees it, guests get a similar beach experience at Pescadera Bay, similar to Palm Beach Aruba, at $350 a night instead of $1,000. She has a point.
We visited the number #1 Willemstad attraction, Arubans love it, Sambil Curacao shopping mall, strategically located within 10 minutes of the airport, and the hotels. The fish shaped mall, open 365 days a week, makes going to shop in Miami redundant, with over 100 stores, restaurants, cinemas, entertainment for kids and a huge educational display, focusing on the tragic circumstances created when plastic meets marine life.
On our last full day, we took a trip on Miss Ann to Klein Curacao, which I have never done before. Motoring on a 105-foot beauty of a yacht to the tiny island, and spending the day on a virgin beach, BBQ lunch, guided snorkeling tour included, was a much-enjoyed experience. The island is just 1.7 km2, and it has no permanent inhabitants, just an old 19th century light house and some boat wrecks, courtesy of captains who did not stay out far enough.
Hato airport, was very friendly upon arrival, and quite spectacular upon departure – WinAir plane was just one hour late. The airport can be proud on its stylish shops, including sampling and tasting stations, and at least 10 food options in addition to a gastro bar, Juan Valdez coffee and clean restroom. Makes a huge difference. I think we also have an Aruban ambassador there.
The only but, are airline tickets, they are expensive, $350 per person including airport tax. In a recent American Airline sale, we bought tickets to Miami for $290. Just saying.