Planning To Visit The ABC Islands
When we booked our cruise to the southern Caribbean, we were excited about the chance to visit the ABC islands. Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao sit very south in the Caribbean, just above Venezuela. They are out of the hurricane belt and are great options for fall travel when other islands are threatened. A few years ago, we visited Curacao for a week to scuba dive. But had not yet explored the other two islands.
When we packed for our trip, we added an extra bag with snorkelling and scuba gear. We really hoped to enjoy the great underwater world. All three of the ABC islands were known for water activities.
First Stop In Aruba
The first stop on our cruise to visit to ABC islands was in Aruba. We started our visit to Aruba with a short walk into town. We wandered around the waterfront and shopping district.
Our afternoon tour of Aruba took us to several different spots around the island. The first stop gave us a view of the underwater world on a semi-submersible boat. The bay was full of all kinds of different water sports. We circled the Arashi coral reef and the Antilla shipwreck (a World War II German freighter). The water was so murky we saw little.
We then headed up the north coast of Aruba. We stopped at the California Lighthouse for pictures. Then headed along the volcanic shores to the Natural Bridge. Our final stop was at the Casibari Rocks. A large pile of massive rocks we another leftover from the volcanic eruptions in the sea surrounding Aruba.
We saw quite a lot on our day trip around Aruba. It was a busy way to start when you visit the ABC islands.
The Cruise Port In Curacao
The second cruise port on our trip to visit the ABC islands was in Willemstad, Curacao. We arrived early as the sun rose. There is no better sunrise than the view at sea.
We visited Curacao many years before on a scuba diving trip. So we had a good general sense of the island. We had originally planned to scuba dive again in Curacao. The poor visibility in Aruba was a warning. So we just watched the weather. The pounding seas confirmed that Curacao would not provide us the great underwater sights that we knew were available.
The ship was docked close to town. It was easy to walk off the ship from the new cruise port. Taxis and tour operators were at the gate but we headed towards the old fort. The walls of the fort remained but encircled just a shopping and restaurant spot. We climbed to the top of the walls for our first clear view of the harbour area.
We don’t normally bring back souvenirs when we travel. But the delft blue pottery store had several cute souvenirs with “Holland” on them. How could we not take back something that identified us?
When you visit the ABC islands, there will be many reminders that these islands are part of the Netherlands.
Crossing The Bridge Over The Harbour
The harbour had two bridges that crossed between the two sides. There was a very large high car bridge. And a pedestrian bridge on pontoons that swung to let boats in and out. The buildings on the banks were colourful. They reminded us very much of the houses lining the Nygaard Canal in Copenhagen.
A giant heart with love locks sat on one side of the pier. This Punda Love Heart by Carlos Blaaker was a much better idea than putting love locks on bridges. And far more artistic too!
When we headed back across the pedestrian bridge after we walked through downtown, we heard the whistle blow. And then the bridge started to move. We were surprised we were allowed to stay on the bridge as it opened fully to let several boats through. After it was completely moved to the side, it remained that way for some time. People who wanted to cross needed to find the ferry. Luckily we were on the right side and headed back to the ship.
Walking Through A Deserted Downtown Willemstad
After we walked across the bridge, we wandered the streets of Curacao. It was Sunday and the town was pretty much shut down. We were the only cruise ship in port and we were told our ship was too small to keep the shops open for.
Even the MacDonalds was closed. But when we saw the cow statue, a sign pointed to an Italian gelato shop. We were happy to find it open. But were delighted when we found the darkest chocolate gelato. It was a perfect way to cool down.
The cow was not the only art we found as we wandered. We are always on the lookout for street art. The 3D flowers on the wall called to us. This was a Smallesteeg wall relief mural by Esteban Ferrales. Bright colourful street art decorated other walls.
In the first week of January, we found many signs of Christmas in the islands. The harbour area was still decorated with snowmen and Christmas trees. We found Santa’s Factory. And the biggest Santa statue we have ever seen!
On our cruise ship visit the ABC islands, we had very long port days. This gave us lots of time to explore the islands. It also provided the opportunity to see the islands after dark. From the ship, we got a great last view of the colourful city of Willemstad as night settled in.
Visit The ABC Islands And Don’t Miss Bonaire
The cruise ship finished the itinerary to visit the ABC islands in Bonaire. We have always wanted to visit Bonaire for scuba diving. As the ship docked, we looked down and could see clear to the bottom. We were definitely going to head underwater in Bonaire.
David wanted to visit Klein Bonaire (the island just offshore), so we took the Caribe water taxi over. It was an easy 15 minute transit to the island. A long walk along the beach got us to a spot right where the coral dropped off into the sea. When we headed underwater in Klein Bonaire, we were immediately met great views of coral and fish.
We were very glad we went underwater in Bonaire. The water visibility was great and there was so much to see in shallow water when we snorkelled. We imagined how much better it would be to scuba dive in Bonaire. When next we visit to ABC islands, we will definitely look at returning to Bonaire.
A Great Taste Test When You Visit The ABC Islands By Cruise Ship
We were glad we found a cruise that provided an itinerary to visit the ABC islands. It was a busy day in Aruba. We found it to be bigger and more commercial than the other islands. Our water experience in Aruba unfortunately was not the best. But it was great to see the volcanic nature of the island. It took us back to our travels through the volcanic islands of the north Atlantic.
On our return visit to Curacao, we saw little new. But Willemstad was a great colourful town to visit – just not on a Sunday!
Bonaire was our favourite stop on our cruise to visit the ABC islands. Our great underwater experience in Bonaire will definitely draw us back for a return visit.
It is possible to move between the ports if you visit the ABC islands. So you might want to visit more than one and find your favourite. A cruise to the southern Caribbean was a good way to taste test and see the different atmosphere on the islands.
Have you a cruise to visit the ABC islands? Have you stayed for a longer vacation? Which island was your favourite?
PIN To Pinterest: