Christoffel

Picture of christoffel_logo The northern end of Curacao is fairly rugged, sparsely populated and a worthwhile day trip from elsewhere on the island. We didn't feel that anyplace on Curacao was particularly overcrowded but if there is a beaten path, this is likely to be off of it. The interior of the northern tip is mostly preserved as Christoffel National Park.
Picture of savonet A visit to the park involves a visit to the Savonet Landhuis as it is also the park headquarters and from here you can buy tokens to get onto the mountain and coastal driving loops.
Picture of landhuis A landhuis is the Dutch version of the Caribbean plantation house. Savonet is preserved as a museum. When in use they produced just about everything that can be grown in the tropics on this estate. There was a substantial population of workers (slaves, indentured servants, etc...) and one wealthy Dutch family. The museum opened in 2010 and has a pretty impressive collection of artifacts from the Dutch, the slaves and the indigenous populations.
Picture of cactus_tree Cactus trees are all over the wilder portions of Curacao. We think they're pretty darn cool though so here is a picture of one. Along with the main plantation home you can wander around the stables and some of the outbuildings including the laundry facility. There are foot trails crossing all over this part of the park but it is easier to get to the further attractions via the driving loops.
Picture of christoffel Christoffel is the highest point on Curacao and the namesake of the park. You can hike up there from the landhuis or you can drive substantially closer to the base and begin the hike from there. It's Curacao so by the time the sun has been up for a couple of hours the park will be hot.
Picture of overlook Either way you go there are some great views on the way up. Overlooks provide views back over the Savonet estate as well as to the north and west and the town of Westpunt. There are several ruined buildings along the way as well.
Picture of road The park roads are narrow and have some excitingly steep grades. The mountain loop is one-way as is most of the coastal loop. In heavy rain some of these hills could become quite challenging.
Picture of slingshot Our favorite sign in the park. No slingshot hunting (apparently). I don't think we've ever come across this particular icon before. Presumably they felt it necessary.
Picture of birds Nearby Westpunt is the town in the region. It's not much more than a couple of crossroads but it does have a few restaurants and a couple places to stay. We ate lunch at Jaanchies which is an institution around here. Their food is excellent and it's a good place for the adventurous eater and anyone looking for some true Curacaoan cuisine. They also feed the birds so they have quite a lot of them around. We saw plenty of these bananaquits (the smaller yellow birds on the right) and troupials (the larger bird on the left) around Curacao but this was a convenient place to get them all in one photograph.
Picture of grote_knip It really doesn't get much nicer than the Knip beaches. From an airplane they are strikingly beautiful and from the ground it's pretty much the same. Kleine Knip is to the south and is a smaller version of this beach (as the name suggests). This is Grote Knip which has parking on the bluff, a snack bar (closed while we were there) and some changing rooms (price varies based on your nationality). Of course all you really need is this sand and this water. Frigate birds and wild pigs are thrown in for free.
Picture of knip_beach A view from down on the beach as well. There is good snorkeling directly from the beach. We saw a gold spotted snake eel (non-venomous) swimming just off shore. The Knip beaches are not well-signed so a good road map of the island is recommended (we acquired an excellent one from the rental car counter at the airport).

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