ABC Magical Islands to Explore
by Stefanie Michaels
Three islands make up the ABC islands, a group of 3 islands in the southern Caribbean, consisting of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao. These islands are located off the coast of Venezuela and are part of the Lesser Antilles. All three islands are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, with a status of special municipality.
They’re known for beaches, with crystal clear waters, excellent diving and snorkeling sites, and Dutch colonial architecture.
Aruba sits 18 miles north of the coast of Venezuela. Powdery white sandy beaches and turquoise waters abound here. Aruba is also known for its desert-like terrain, which is unusual for a Caribbean island.
Here’s some things to do in Aruba:
- Visit Eagle Beach: Known for its pristine white sand and turquoise waters, it is considered one of the best beaches in the Caribbean.
- Explore Arikok National Park: This park covers 20% of the island and is home to diverse landscapes, including cactus-studded deserts, rocky cliffs, and beautiful beaches.
- Snorkeling at Antilla Shipwreck: This shipwreck, lying off the coast of Aruba, is a popular spot for snorkeling and diving, as it is home to various marine life and coral formations.
- Try windsurfing: With consistent trade winds and clear waters, Aruba is a top destination for windsurfing and kiteboarding.
- Visit the Natural Pool: This unique swimming hole is carved into the rock and surrounded by cliffs, offering a scenic and serene swimming experience.
- Explore Oranjestad: The capital city of Aruba is a colorful and lively place with numerous shops, restaurants, and historical landmarks to discover.
- Take a scenic drive to the California Lighthouse: This iconic lighthouse provides breathtaking views of the island and the surrounding sea.
- Enjoy a sunset dinner cruise: Sailing along the coast as the sun sets over the Caribbean is a truly unforgettable experience.
Bonaire is the tiniest of these islands. It is known for wind surfing, amazing snorkeling and diving ops, as well as its national park, which is home to thousands of flamingos.
Here’s some things to do in Bonaire:
- Snorkeling or Diving at Klein Bonaire – This small, uninhabited island is a protected marine park and is home to some of the best snorkeling and diving spots in the Caribbean.
- Visit the Washington-Slagbaai National Park – This park covers almost one-fifth of the island and is home to diverse landscapes, including cactus-studded deserts, rocky cliffs, and beautiful beaches.
- Explore the town of Kralendijk – This charming and colorful town is the capital of Bonaire and is filled with shops, restaurants, and historical landmarks to discover.
- Visit the Donkey Sanctuary – This sanctuary is home to Bonaire’s famous wild donkeys and offers visitors a chance to meet and interact with these fascinating animals.
- Kayak through the mangroves – The Bonaire mangroves are home to a variety of birds, reptiles, and marine life, and kayaking through them is a peaceful and scenic way to explore the island.
- Go bird watching – Bonaire is home to over 180 species of birds, making it a paradise for birdwatchers and nature lovers.
- Visit the Salt Flats – These vast salt pans, located on the southern coast of Bonaire, are a unique and fascinating natural attraction.
- Take a sunset sail – Sailing along the coast as the sun sets over the Caribbean, offering “wow” views of the island and the surrounding sea.
Curaçao is known for its colorful Dutch colonial architecture, and its beaches, watersports and nightlife. It’s also home to a UNESCO World Heritage site, the historic inner city of Willemstad.
Here’s some things to do in Curaçao:
- Visit Willemstad – The capital city is known for its colorful colonial architecture, vibrant street life, and the iconic “Punda” and “Otrobanda” neighborhoods.
- Explore Christoffel National Park – Hiking and exploring this park gives you an opportunity to see the unique flora and fauna of the island.
- Visit the Curacao Sea Aquarium – You can interact with a variety of marine animals and learn about the island’s underwater world.
- Snorkel or dive at the Blue Room Cave – This underwater cave is famous for its bright blue waters and diverse marine life.
- Go to the Curacao Ostrich and Game Farm – Here you can see a variety of exotic animals, including ostriches, and learn about the island’s colonial history.
- Attend a Cultural Festival – Curacao is famous for its festivals and cultural events, such as the Curacao North Sea Jazz Festival and the Curacao International Film Festival Rotterdam.
- Visit the Curacao Museum – You can learn about the island’s rich history and its connection to the Netherlands, Africa, and South America.
- Try Local Cuisine – Curacao has a diverse culinary scene that reflects its mix of African, South American, and Dutch influences. Try dishes such as stoba, a hearty stew made with goat meat, or kadushi, a soup made with cactus.
TIPS: The official language spoken is Dutch— they are part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. However, due to the island’s history and trade, many residents also speak Papiamento, Spanish, and English.
The Netherlands Antillean Guilder or ANG is the national money. US dollars are also widely accepted and some businesses may price items in dollars.
The time it takes to travel to the ABC islands depends on your location of departure and mode of transportation. If you’re departing from the US, by air, direct flights are available from major cities such as Miami, New York, and Houston, and typically take around 4-5 hours.
Departing from Europe? The total travel time could take anywhere between 8 to 12 hours.