Far from Willemstad and Mambo Beach is Christoffel Park, tucked away in a pristine corner of Curaçao. This rugged nature reserve is full of rare wild orchids, gigantic cacti and enormous iguanas, surrounded by elegant colonial mansions, an impressive rocky coast and of course the deep blue Caribbean ocean. Welcome to Curaçao's Wild West. You won’t find many tourists in this beautiful corner of the island.
Curaçao can easily be divided in two. The upper part of Banda Ariba is flat. Here you will find the airport, the colonial cityscape of Willemstad and beach resorts full of tourists. Banda Abao, the lower part, has rolling green countryside with rugged scenery. Here lies Christoffel Park, Curaçao’s largest nature reserve, home to animals such as the Curaçao deer, Curaçao falcons, Curaçao barn owls and Curaçao pigeons – all these animals, as the adjective in their name suggests, are found only on Curaçao. You may also spot pelicans and flamingos, and some 250 other species of tropical birds.
The road to Westpunt divides the national park in two: to the east lies the part that slopes down towards the coast, and west of the road lies the larger part of the reserve that encompasses the 372-metre-high Mount St Christoffel. The Savonet Estate, a beautiful ochre-coloured plantation home from 1662, has been fully restored to its original state and now houses a museum about the history of the 3 large aloe and indigo plantations that once operated here. The estate is also the gateway to Christoffel Park.
From the estate, 8 walking trails wind their way through the park. The toughest trail leads to the top of Mount St Christoffel. Due to the heat and lack of shade, this 2-hour hike should only be undertaken early in the morning. There are also mountain bikes for rent at the estate, or explore part of the park in your (rental) car, following one of 4 marked routes. Carmabi, the organisation that manages the national park, organises a daily jeep safari guided by an experienced park ranger.
“Due to the heat, Mount St Christoffel may only be climbed early in the morning”
From a going on a quad safari across rugged rocks to relaxing by a five-star swimming pool, this part of the island has plenty to offer. Christoffel Park adjoins Shete Boka National Park. Although named Seven Bays, the park actually boasts 10 bays. Together, they form a rugged lunar landscape with loud crashing waves. The small beaches are nesting grounds for 3 different species of sea turtle.
The only hotel on this side of the island is the super luxurious Kurá Hulanda Lodge & Beach Club. The hotel also sells day passes so outside guests can spend an afternoon sipping cocktails by the swimming pool or lounging on the beach. Jaanchie's restaurant is a mandatory stop for a bowl of aphrodisiac iguana soup. Not your cup of soup? Then try some of their excellent fresh fish dishes.