Destination Curacao :: The Gay Friendly Caribbean
Curacao’s catchphrase is "Dutch attitude, Caribbean latitude" and it couldn’t be more of the truth. As I’m sitting here in Boston in the midst of a summer of what feels like a never-ending string of sufferingly hot and humid days strung together with the occasional "freezing" one that totally throws you off, I think back to this time last year when I was sitting by a pool, a beach, a cafe in Curacao, sipping a cold drink, and enjoying the color around me.
The Caribbean isn’t exactly known for its warm, welcoming embrace of LGBT vacationers. Along with the Bahamas, they’ve pretty much shut their door on the "gay dollar," which is totally fine. If you’re reading this, you know that there are plenty of welcoming, gay friendly destinations out there. Curacao being one of them, and the exception in the Caribbean.
Curacao is about the size of the Spelling’s backyard, and a former Dutch (and before that, British) island in the Caribbean. It’s A Parliamentary Democracy and seat of the government of the Netherlands Antilles, an autonomous part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. "Just next door" to Bonaire, St. Eustatius, and St. Maarten the island is also just a stones-throw from Venezuela. Getting there from the East Coast is quite easy, and American offers daily flights from most major cities.
Curacao offers a fabulous melange of culture and color in its flora, along its streets and especially in the people. And while there aren’t any exclusively gay inns or resorts on the island, there doesn’t need to be; the island as a whole is gay friendly and very welcoming. In fact, in the last few years Curacao has reached out to gay travelers, with both the island and most major hotels joining the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA), and the promotion of the annual "Get Wet Weekend" to the LGBT community in North and South America and Europe.
Last year’s party was fantastic, with visitors from all over the world, and of course lots of locals. For those of you that are about to stop reading because you’re thinking "White Party," don’t worry. The "Get Wet Weekend" offers many things for everyone, and it’s definitely not a circuit weekend. In fact, it’s not like any other gay weekend I’ve seen anywhere else. Combining the best parts of Pride celebrations from around the world, the "Get Wet Weekend" is a series of events that cover the gamut. Last year’s festivities included a Caribbean Jungle party at a bar, a fantastic Movie Under the Stars (and on the sand!) get-together, a Lifestyle Forum (where locals shared their experiences and traded ideas with members of the international community), The Wet and Wild party, and- my favorite- the Aqua Lounge Pool Party.
Unlike most pool parties I’ve been to in LA, Miami, Nice, etc., the Aqua Lounge Pool Party was a casual and fun mix of people from down the street and around the globe. Lesbians from Africa, guys from Europe, Brazilians, and locals all mixing, drinking, and actually talking to each other! Being a former Dutch island, of course there are a lot of guys from the Netherlands, so if tall, blonde and Nordic is your thing...
A bit of advice: avoid Curacao in the middle of the summer because it’s hotter than a demon’s ass and at least as humid. I went in late August and managed to survive the heat, but I think this was largely due to the fact that I wore as little as possible and stayed in (or very near) the water the entire time. Wearing a long-sleeved shirt for dinner- even linen- meant sweating like a whore in church, which is not my favorite feeling.
Right now is the perfect time to plan for the Get Wet Weekend. This year’s festivities go from September 27-30th, and if you book now, you can get great rates both for airfare and hotels. Which brings us to...
Willemstad- Curacao’s main city- has 11 hotels that are members of IGLTA- an incredible number considering the small size of the island and the fact that this represents nearly all accommodations on the island. What this means for LGBT travelers is that any major resort you choose is going to be gay friendly and welcoming of same-sex couples.