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Curacao Questions--Where to Stay/ New & Experienced Diver Couple

Discussion in 'General Travel and Vacation Discussions' started by Pittsburgh_Mom, Jul 21, 2019.

  1. Pittsburgh_Mom

    Pittsburgh_Mom ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

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    Hello, everyone! This is a long, probably overly wordy post seeking some travel guidance from a new diver/newish mom who's feeling overwhelmed with travel planning, so please be patient with me! :)

    I am getting my certification finally; I have dove before with an instructor with me, so I know I can get down and love it, and have done SNUBA (not the same, I know, but again, no problems) and anticipate continuing to enjoy diving. My husband, on the other hand, is a little bit more of an experienced diver, but not super experienced--he has done maybe 35-40 open water dives. Diving together is something we have dreamed of doing and we are finally in a position in our lives to make this happen. We are planning our first dive trip to Curacao in early October, in time for their dive fest. HOORAY! I am SO excited (for the diving, but also the trip away with him)!

    I am here to ask for some advice on where to stay, and then also where to dive.

    Where to Stay:
    If it helps to give context, here is a little about what we are looking for and our experiences:
    • We partially want to dive on the trip for sure, but we're also looking for a vacation together just to relax and read and veg out without our kiddos, so the trip/resort/hotel does not have to be 100% dive focused.
    • We would love to stay at a place where we can dive, but don't mind going off the resort/away from the hotel to dive. So ideally we'd be well positioned for various dives (more notes and questions on that below). I love a hotel feel (Starbucks in the lobby? Sweet!) as long as there is a nice, warm, CLEAN pool, while my husband sort of prefers more of a tropical resort feel (with a warm, CLEAN pool). We'd REALLY prefer adults-only, but it's not that big of a deal. (We have kids. We love kids. We love a break from our kids/kids in general once in a while.) All-inclusive is not necessary (not big drinkers), but restaurants nearby or on-site are really nice. We do NOT, for this particular trip, want to grocery shop, cook, clean, etc., so we're not looking for an "apartment" style vacay.
    • For planning purposes about where to stay and eat, can someone help compare Curacao for me to elsewhere we might know in the Caribbean? How would you describe Curacao compared to any of these places?We've been to a lot of the Caribbean before and seen a wide variety of lifestyle, price points, languages, exchange rates, etc. I can't think of where all he, I, or the two of us have been, but some would be Aruba, Beilze, Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Bermuda (not really Caribbean, I know), Key West and Key Largo (not sure if those count), the Dominican Republic, various places throughout Mexico and Cozumel, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Paradise Island, St. Thomas, etc.

    Finally, here is where we are looking so far.... Has anyone stayed at: (1) the Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort or (2) Coral Estate Curacao? Would you recommend either of those, or somewhere else?

    Where to Dive:

    I am going through NAUI OW and AOW coursework prior to this trip. My husband is PADI.
    I really want to take a fish identification course and maybe snap some photos, but I probably won't snap photos because I'll still be pretty new.

    My husband can handle his own equipment and gear, and has much of it, but he would prefer to have a DM with us/go with a group, since I will be so new overall, and it's our first real trip like this together.

    We'll bring our own fins and masks and snorkels, but rent everything else.

    My husband has seen a lot of fish and coral--I would love him to see some really cool stuff. He does not deep water dive, and he is not wreck certified. I have seen very little (though I did snorkel with whale sharks, and that was incredible!), so I could probably swim in a circle with 3 fish and be awed, but that won't do it for him.

    I've spent hours going through maps and reviews of dive sites on my own through Google and the Curacao diving websites and am losing my mind. Desperate for a short list. Thoughts on where to dive that would be great for both of us/great for divers of different skill levels?

    If you made it this far, thank you so very much. I really appreciate any help so I can narrow this down and just lock in on a place and make reservations. I used to be so good at trip planning, but my brain is baby-fried, I swear! Thank you again! :)
     
    markmud likes this.
  2. tkaelin

    tkaelin Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: CT
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    If you want a hotel/resort feel with restaurants and pools on site have you looked at Lions Dive? We stayed there once and enjoyed it. Nice property, rooms, beach and restaurants. Dive shop on site with ok shore diving and boat diving. Our preference though is to stay at a small quiet place where we have a kitchen, excellent shore diving on site and nearby with the option of going out to eat once in a while. Some prefer the resort hotel set up and others prefer small quiet with a kitchen and prime house reef. Sounds like you are looking for the resort hotel set up and would be interested in what you think of Lions Dive from your research.
     
  3. Pittsburgh_Mom

    Pittsburgh_Mom ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

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    You know what, I did not look at Lions Dive closely. I just looked again when you posted this, and I see I was confused because it was mentioned as a package with the Sunscape, so I thought it was the same resort. I will definitely check it out. Thank you! :)
     
  4. tkaelin

    tkaelin Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: CT
    1,628
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    113
    I thought Lions Dive was much nicer and a bit more private than Sunscape. I have not stayed at either of the places you asked about so can't help you there.
     
  5. diversteve

    diversteve moderatorem noster omnipotens

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
    Location: everywhere
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    Neither of your resort choices are what you seem to want. SB Resort is about as far east as you can go and still be on Curacao. There's really almost nothing nearby - including food. So unless you're stay/eat/dive on the resort people - I'd look elsewhere.

    Equally Coral Estates is so far west you'd be driving to anything. Willemstad is about 1/2 from there - the nearest nice restaurant is probably Landhuis Daniel - about 20 mins. inland on the main road. It is a great shore dive if you get out there though - used to be the Habitat Dive resort. I've read they market more to Euro's now.

    I second TK's recommendation - Lions Dive has the main Ocean Encounters shop 50 yds away.
    Decent small beach, nice, large pool, beach bar, Hemingway's is supposed to be one of the better restaurants on the island. Also they're just across from the Sea Aquarium which means there's other restruants shops in hte area - including Mambo Blvd. Once you get certified, you both might like the Dolphin Dive - they use 3 dolphins from the park on a shallow reef nearby. It's $200pp though.

    The only adults only place on Curacao that I'm aware of is the one frequented by ladies of the evneing.

    Sunscape is probably Not for you. B4 it was Sunsape it was a Breezes Kids resort - they still have the trapeze and other kid attractions.

    The Marriott in Piscadera Bay checks all your boxes. It was really nice before they remodeled this past year. Really nice pool complex with swim-up bar, Carib Sea may have moved back in there by now - otherwise they're at the Hiloton next door - short walk. PBay has a convention center but it didn't seem to be used much. So the properties there all have fast internet. There;s several good restaurants nearby or it;s a 5 min. drive to the north side of the Willemstad harbor.
    The Megaport is between them but the cruisers all walk off and go south to downtown so it's real quiet at night.

    Note I'm not referring to the Marriott Renaissance which is closer to Willemstad but next to the Megaport - the cruisers walk past it on their way to town. Also they have zero beach being on a low cliff over the water - to compensate there's sand around their pool. It's just weird.

    The Hilton next to the Marriott in PBay has nice grounds but the hotel itself is vintage 60's - and they're about to start remodeling it. Next to the Hilton is Pirates Bay - a beach bar/restaurant/dive operation right on the water. Live music some nights.

    What you will really enjoy about Curacao is that many of the beaches are also excellent dive sites with on-site dive operations and usually food. Porto Mari has it all - and is a locals beach also so busy on weekends. Cas Abou is nice, Playa Lagun also. Varsenbaai is one site where you should see seahorsaes, can snorkel with turtles off the beach, there's a pontoon boat wreck at 80' at the dive turn point to the east off the beach. Lot's of stuff lives under it.

    Tugboat is a signature Curacao dive and only 18' deep. The nearby pier is crawling with stuff and if you go around the point east (seems south) there's an eel field at about 80' Save that one for later - it drops fast and there's some current.

    hth, I've been to all the places I mentioned except Sunscape.
     
    drrich2 likes this.
  6. diversteve

    diversteve moderatorem noster omnipotens

    # of Dives: I'm a Fish!
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    Curacao is a lot like Aruba but not as crowded. Once you leave town it will remind you a lot of Gorda or St. Thomas's East End - except there's shore diving all along the coast. (I love Gorda)

    Ocean Encounters is one of the safest dive operations I've ever seen. I wanted to just show up Friday morning to do the Dolphin Dive but they asked me to have a Curacao DM sign off on dives we did with another shop earlier in the week. They asked a couple others on the boat to do a checkout there near the dock. Although they advertise PADI and SSI - I'm sure they;re on the NAUI dealer website also - looked it up once for someone. Wedefort (sp) is the other NAUI shop. Not that it matters if you get your card b4 you go.
     
  7. Pittsburgh_Mom

    Pittsburgh_Mom ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

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    Thank you. We are definitely looking into it!
     
  8. Pittsburgh_Mom

    Pittsburgh_Mom ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

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    Thank you for explaining! Can you help me understand for sure... even if a shop abroad is listed as PADI, for instance, and maybe does not say NAUI, will they still accept my NAUI OW/AOW?
     
  9. Pittsburgh_Mom

    Pittsburgh_Mom ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

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    Wow, thank you. That is immensely helpful. I think we are maybe leaning towards Lions Dive, but that one Marriott sounds great, too. It sounds like the island is really safe to move around on... not like places we've stayed in Mexico or the DR or Jamaica where it's absolutely best to stay on your resort... and not get near the boundaries. Thank you SO much!
     
  10. flyboy08

    flyboy08 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

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    NAUI, PADI....makes no difference once you have the card....
     
    Pittsburgh_Mom likes this.

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