The five member isles of the Netherlands Antilles - Curaçao, Bonaire, St. Eustacia, Saba and St. Maarten - are collectively the most gay friendly destination in the West Indies, writes OutUK correspondent Ernie Areldete. Unlike the former British colonies of Bahamas, Turks & Caicos, Jamaica and Belize, which have all refused entry to gay cruise ships, the Netherlands Antilles have a long reputation for welcoming all people and, believe it or not, they are a part of the European Union.
“Bon Bini” is how you say welcome in their sweet native language, Papiamentu, a Portuguese-based Creole heard on the streets and in the homes of the ABC islands, Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, which are about 35 miles off the coast of Venezuela. Dutch is used as the medium of instruction in schools and in the courts. Spanish is also widely spoken, with English close behind.
The Dutch Caribbean is like a gay friendly ship sailing in a solidly conservative sea, largely because of the liberalizing impact of the mother country. As Holland has led the way in sexual freedom in Europe, its rippling effect has been felt in its tropical outposts. The Antilles provide generous residency rights for domestic partners and the Dutch Caribbean has never had any anti-sodomy laws to repeal. A native born Dutch subject, or just an established resident of the Netherlands Antilles can bring a same sex partner into the country to live with the full protection of the laws of the European Union, of which the Netherlands Antilles form a distant, but integral part.

Curaçao’s biggest draws are its location outside the hurricane belt, its sun blessed nude beaches, dazzling casinos and exquisite Dutch colonial architecture.

GAY FRIENDLY

Gays and Lesbians are truly welcome at all resorts in the Dutch Islands. Same sex dancing is commonplace. Holding hands and kissing hardly merits a glance. Most resorts are just as glad to be the site for a same sex commitment ceremony as a heterosexual wedding. Curaçao (pronounced cure-a-sow) is the birthplace of one of the world's most erotic dances the Tambou and of course an extremely potent liqueur. The island hot spot is El Gato Negro. The hole-in-the-wall gay bar attracts a very late night crowd. It doesn’t really get rocking until 1 AM. It’s small, but stylish and provides a nice dance floor, indoor and breezy outdoor seating.

There’s a huge party organized the first week of each month, too big for the bar, so it’s usually held at a technical college about 15 minutes away. Partiers tend to be more outrageous than at the bar. I saw several young men with three, and four-inch long fingernails, some curled like a tiger’s claws, painted in brilliant designs and patterns.

WHERE TO STAY

I fell in love with the Kura Hulanda Hotel (pictured right), a meticulously restored community composed of eighty authentic 17th and 18th century buildings, that were rescued from imminent collapse. The four distinct on site restaurants are worth sampling. News Café serves light meals, Jaipur serves Indian and Thai specialties, Museum Restaurant is perfect for lunch while Astrolabe serves gourmet dinners.

The Kura Hulanda Museum houses one of the most spectacular collections of African Art outside that continent. There’s also a very moving Slave Exhibit, with authentic restraints, that will touch your soul and bring a tear to your eyes. There’s also a tranquil outdoor sculpture garden, where you can read a book, or just sit and contemplate nature and life. There’s an art gallery, barbershop and beauty parlor, as well as two swimming pools, and spa.

The Avila Beach Hotel is another historical landmark property. The main building housing reception, erected in the 1700's, was the Governor’s official residence. Avila Beach, is naturally, located right on the coast, a beautiful crescent-shaped body of crystal clear, aqua blue, shallow water. Very much like a gigantic swimming pool, except for the occasional dolphin swimming by. Classical concerts are performed at La Belle Alliance Recital Hall which is on the property, live Blues and Jazz is played on the beach, setting the mood for a lively weekend.

Avila Beach Hotel also boasts a connection with the Grand Liberator, Simon Bolivar, the hero who brought independence to his native Venezuela as well as Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and the country named after him, Bolivia. His two-story home, Octagon House, is part of the complex and right on the seashore. He brought his two sisters to live here out of harm’s way during the long struggle against Spain. and lived with them here during periods of Spanish ascendancy in his beloved South America.

Dining is superb at Avila Beach, especially the incredible tapas buffet at the Blues Restaurant on their private pier. Dozens of selections, from lamb chops to seafood and vegetarian choices. You can enjoy the national dish, Keshi Yena, a meal created in darker days. In centuries past Dutch visitors would import their giant wheels of soft Gouda Cheese, but the outside layers would shrivel and dry on the long passage from Northern Europe. The slavers would slice off the desiccated pieces, and toss them to the slaves who stuffed the scraps with chicken bits or ground beef, and prunes, peas, raisins and whatever else was available, creating a meal so tender and delicious that it melts in your mouth.

OutUK also recommends the gay friendly Floris Suite Hotel (pictured below) created by trendy Dutch designer Jan des Bouvries. All suites are equipped and furnished with first class design materials and feature natural stone tile floors, solid mahogany doors and windows and designer neo-classical furniture in dark woods. The lush tropical garden, designed by professional landscape architects, surrounds a sumptuous swimming pool, shaded open-air restaurant and pergolas, patios and terraces.

You can find out more about The Floris and other hotels in all price ranges on Curaçao at our hotel partners Bookings. You can browse through an online brochure for each hotel and instantly check availability and book at special rates too. Getting to Curaçao is easy. KLM fly from Heathrow with connections from many UK regional airports and return fares are around £500 including taxes.

THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK
Avila Beach Hotel (Penstraat 130 T: 599-9 4614377) Website
Hotel Kura Hulanda (Langestraat 8 T: 599-9 4347700) Website
Official Tourist Information Website

Revised January 2015.

 

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