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The Natural and Historic Beauty of Curacao's National Parks

Aug 11, 2008
While most people visiting Curacao spend their time on the gorgeous beaches or exploring some of the world's best coral reefs, there are also a number of fascinating destinations within the island's interior. If you are looking for adventure on land in Curacao, there is no better place to start than one of the national parks. Christoffelpark, Curacao's largest and most ecologically-diverse nature preserve - Shete Boka, a site dedicated to sea turtles and the beautiful northern coastline - and Den Dunki, a historic site ideal for relaxation - each provide adventurous travelers numerous opportunities for sightseeing and outdoor recreation. If you want to experience the best of both worlds in Curacao, make some time in your beach routine for a tour of the island's national parks.

Curacao's most well known park - Christoffelpark - features a vast expanse of trails that traverse up and around Mt. Christoffel. The easiest hikes can be enjoyed by families with small children, while adventurous travelers can devote the morning hours to an ascent of Mt. Christoffel. Regardless of which path you choose, there will be plenty of unique plants, birds and creature to identify. In fact, there are several species residing amongst the eight trails of Christoffelpark that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, including the Curacao White Tailed Deer and the Palabrua, a reclusive native owl. Even if you don't feel up to hiking, the park can still be enjoyed by automobile, as a few scenic routes visit many of the park's most striking sites.

Christoffelpark also has its share of historic sites, including one of the Curacao's first plantations and well-preserved ruins of colonial buildings. While the Savonet plantation didn't leave any structures behind, the wells and dams of this early colonial settlement are still visible throughout the park. The Zorgvlied plantation - perched on the side of Mt. Christoffel - features a number of interesting ruins, including the foundation of the original house and slave's quarters.

Curacao's most newly minted national park - Shete Boka - is located along the island's rocky northern coast. The park begins at the picturesque inlet known as Boka Tabla. As you descend the rocks towards the Caribbean waves, you will find a series of steps carved into the cliffs that lead into a remarkable cavern. At the mouth of the precarious inlet, you can dangle your feet over the sea and watch the waves crash against the rocks. Above the cavern, you will find an incredible vista of Curacao's windswept coast. A well-maintained dirt road leads from Boka Tabla to a series of six smaller caverns, two of which have dedicated hiking trails. In addition to being great places to enjoy a view of the Caribbean Sea, all of the inlets within Shete Boka are protected sea turtle breeding grounds.

The Boka Pistol Trail in Shete Boka offers visitors a chance to see one of the sea turtles' hidden breeding grounds up close. In addition to the placid coves frequented by sea turtles, hikers will find plenty of spots worth photographing along the hour-long trek. As the trail follows a stretch of windswept shoreline, visitors can expect plenty of crashing waves and remarkable views from atop the limestone cliffs.

The Boka Wandomi Trail carves a calmer path, but the views are no less spectacular. Set amongst the same limestone cliffs as the Boka Pistol Trail, the Boka Wandomi Trail is known for its rolling, black lava hills and natural stone bridge resting above the Caribbean Sea. This trail leads back to the Boka Tabla trailhead and can be comfortably hiked in about one hour.

Den Dunki National Park provides an elegant location to enjoy Curacao's climate while immersing visitors in many lesser-known stories of Caribbean history. During the colonial period, the park was used by the Dutch as a camp for African slaves. After the slaves were emancipated, the land was used for nobler purposes. After being purchased by a wealthy family in the 19th century, the picturesque property was used as a swan park and outfitted with numerous ornamental fountains, wells and gates. Today, many of the swan park's architectural embellishments remain alongside markers dedicated to the island's multifaceted past, while the trails that weave through the Den Dunki offer an opportunity for a peaceful afternoon escape.
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Each of Curacao's national parks offers great opportunities to experience the unique history and natural beauty of this remarkable Caribbean island. When you have had your fill of fun at the beach, head inland for a taste of the Curacao that locals cherish and tourists have come to adore.
About the Author
Justin Burch writes articles about travel in Curacao for the Marriott Resorts.
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