The Netherlands Antilles is divided into two groups of islands. The south group which is located just off the coast of Venezuela includes Curacao and Bonaire. The north island group consists of Saba, Sint Martin (the southern portion of St. Maarten, and Sint Eustatius. The largest city in the region is Willemstad which is Curacao’s capital. Aruba was once part of the Netherlands Antilles, but seceded in 1986. The remaining five islands and the Dutch government dissolved the Netherlands Antilles in 2010. Curacao and Sint Maarten are now autonomous countries like Aruba. The remaining three islands have become municipalities in the Netherlands.
Scuba diving and snorkeling are popular in Curacao, though some of the island’s coral reefs have been affected by tourism and have been replaced with artificial coral blocks. The geckos, sea turtles and underwater sea caves have also contributed to the island’s popularity with tourists. The population is very diverse and helps to make a case for instituting Papiamentu as the island’s official language which would help to facilitate all the residents who want to pursue their education in Curacao. There are two dozen Landhuizen (country homes) with historical significance that are open to the public. When the Dutch first arrived in Curacao they built forts all around the island for protection. Six of the forts remain today. These include Waterfort, Fort Amsterdam, Fort Beekenburg, Fort Nassau, Fort Riffort, and Piscadero Bay Fort. Hot springs on the island provide a source of natural minerals. The wet season on the island runs from October through December. Prostitution is legal on Curacao only for foreign women who come to work in the open-air brothel called Campo Alegre. The US State Department claims there is some sex trade trafficking that operates in the Antilles.
Bonaire is known for its fabulous dive spots and flamingos that have made the island their home. Wind and kite surfacing, along with snorkeling are popular attractions on the island. There are a dozen day tours that will take tourists to the salt flats, the slave huts that housed the people who worked in the salt flats in the early days, Spelunk Cave, Sorobon Beach, Cardushy Distillery, on eco tours and to the Donkey Sanctuary. Additional tourist favorites are the Cultural Park Mangazina di Rei that is described as the best cultural exhibit on the island and the 1,000 Steps Beach.
The island of Sint Eustatious is very much off the beaten trail and is the perfect place in which to unwind. The typical 80 degree temperatures never vary by more than 2 or 3 degrees. Attractions on the island include Fort Oranje and Doncker/DeGraff House.
When visiting the 34-square mile island of Sint Maarten make time for a dolphin swim encounter, and a trip to the Butterfly Farm. If you want to try alternative transportation while you are on the island you can rent a Harley or an ATV. You can even take a ride on a gondola or spend the afternoon at an open-air bazaar in Marigot. The island also enjoys a thriving nightlife.
Finally, Saba is a place where tourists can enjoy challenging hiking trails and diving. The Harry Johnson and Dutch Museums, Shark Shoal, the Hole in the Corner, the Tent Reef Wall and the Twilight Zone are also popular day trips.
The islands have accommodations in all price categories. There are boutique hotels and resorts, hotels and hostels, condos, inns, B&B’s, bungalows and guest houses. Youth hostels may not be available on all the islands. Hostels may also be found under the title cheap hotels.
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