Curaçao Marriott Beach Resort & Emerald Casino
Update: The Curacao Marriott closed on September 5, 2016 for an 18 month renovation under new ownership.
A few years ago, my husband’s family planned a beach getaway for my mother-in-law’s 60th Birthday. The destination: Curaçao, one of Dutch ABC islands in the northeastern Caribbean, about 40 miles north of Venezuela. The trip was planned for a week in late February, when the weather on the island is just right- their dry season, with temperatures steady in the low 80s (°F). We chose to stay at the Marriott on the island because of the resort’s beachfront location, amenities, and the suites available for our big group. Plus, we had saved up some Marriott Rewards points, which we could use at the hotel for food and entertainment.
The group was flying in from lots of different places- Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Denver and L.A.- so we all arrived Curaçao’s Hato International Airport at different times. My husband and I were the last members of group to arrive the hotel, just in time for the sunset. The Marriott’s open air lobby sits above their many pools and private beachfront, making for an awe-inspiring entry. There’s also a casino inside the resort, which provided fun entertainment after dinner and drinks each night. Even better- we left at the end of the week with money in our pockets (the roulette wheel was good to us!)
“Curaçao claims 38 beaches—some long stretches of silky sand, most smaller coves suitable for picture postcards.” -Fodor’s
The beachfront location is especially ideal because there’s a coral reef very close to their shoreline. Although none of us had our diving certification, we enjoyed many hours of snorkeling right off the Marriott’s beach, using the hotel’s diving equipment which was available for rent. We went out for a few hours each day to explore the reef, swim with the many tropical fish, and look for sea turtles in the crystal clear water. Next time, we’ll be certified so we can dive deeper into the magical underwater world.
One day, we went into the town of Willemstad, which is the capital city of the island and just a few minutes drive from the resort (and the ride from the hotel was complimentary). Willemstad is characterized by its brightly colored buildings lined along the harbor. The buildings reflect the architectural style of Amsterdam, but the pastel colors give it a Caribbean twist. It’s a very popular destination for cruises, so the port often swells with tourists as the cruises dock there for the day. Shops and restaurants line the streets, and the downtown area’s two districts (Punda and Otrobanda) are connected by the floating Queen Emma pontoon-bridge. The bridge opens throughout the day to let the large cruise ships in and out of the harbor.
The resort’s staff was incredibly welcoming and attentive, and greeted us each morning with a smile. By the end of our time there, we had made quite a few friends- at the pool bar, the casino, and at each of the hotel’s four restaurants. We especially loved the swim-up bartender’s mojitos. Although the breakfast was quite expensive- $16 USD for continental or $23 for the ‘Full American Breakfast’- we used our points to get Marriott gift cards, so we happily spent the gift card balance on warm waffles, eggs benedict and creamy lattes. Some mornings, a few people ate at the buffet, and because the staff let them take to-go plates, we were able to share fresh fruit and pastries with the rest of the group without having to pay for the full buffet.
On the night of my mother-in-law’s actual birthday, the staff helped us plan a special dinner at their private gazebo on the beach. With their help, we had a beautiful setting to celebrate her birthday right on the ocean, and the kitchen made special arrangements to serve us there with only a day’s notice. They even had a cake made for the occasion and brought it out as we sang to her! They most certainly went above and beyond to accommodate us.
Reading past reviews of the resort, we expected the rooms to be a bit disappointing, but we were pleasantly surprised. All of our rooms had an ocean view (full or partial) and the suite reserved for my mother-in-law had a nice lounging area for us to gather before dinner. Yes, the decor was traditional and perhaps a bit ‘tired’, but we spent so little time there that it didn’t negatively affect our experience in any way.
We also got great insight from the staff on where to explore in Curacao. We had read in Fodor’s that “Curaçao claims 38 beaches—some long stretches of silky sand, most smaller coves suitable for picture postcards.” After gathering directions and maps, we spent a few hours each day on our rented mopeds, riding to the small beaches on the west end of the island. One of the most beautiful spots on our exploration was Little Knip Beach, or ‘Playa Kenepa Chiki‘ which we learned was a local favorite on the weekends for barbecues. We also spent a few hours at Blauwbaai Beach and Playa Cas Abou, soaking in the sun and sipping on Amstel Bright. The bright blue water, white sandy beaches, and painted sunsets we witnessed at these beaches are forever etched in my mind. Curaçao is decidedly one of the most beautiful places on the planet.