Among the island territories of the Dutch Caribbean are hidden gems where tourists can experience thrilling adventures or relaxing getaways. All part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the six islands are known for their friendly inhabitants and laidback attitudes. Travelers looking to enjoy popular activities such as gambling and shopping can find everything they want in the Dutch Caribbean islands, but for people who prefer smaller crowds and less developed areas there are several choices as well.
6. Sint Eustatius[SEE MAP]
For a relaxing vacation on an uncrowded island, tourists should head to Sint Eustatius, also called Statia or Statius. Unlike many of the bigger islands in other parts of the Caribbean, Sint Eustatius moves at a slow pace and welcomes visitors to enjoy an authentic experience free of tourism fads. With barely a hint of modernization, the island has only one town, Oranjestad, a charming place to shop, eat, and unwind. On Sint Eustatius, travelers can spend their days hiking, exploring, and diving at a leisurely pace. People looking for a little more excitement should visit in July for the Statia Carnival, which features music, dance, and the best of local cuisine.
5. Saba[SEE MAP]
Tourists might be surprised to learn that the highest point in the Kingdom of the Netherlands is located on the smallest special municipality, the island of Saba. Home to the volcano Mount Scenery, Saba does not have the sandy beaches most notable in the Caribbean, but attracts tourists for its beautiful scenery and diverse and vibrant ecosystem. Accessible by plane or sail boat, Saba is close to Sint Maarten but is a location unlike any other in the Caribbean. It boasts a world-renowned dive site, beautiful rainforest trails, and plenty of places to relax. It is truly an ideal destination for fans of eco-tourism.
4. Bonaire[SEE MAP]
Bonaire is almost exclusively dedicated to scuba divers and snorkeling due to its lack of sandy beaches. Most dive sites around the island are easily accessible. In fact, Bonaire is the top destination in the world for shore diving, with each of its more than 80 dive sites being right offshore. The clear waters and visibility makes Bonaire an attractive place for underwater photography as well. Travelers wishing to relax on land can grab some binoculars and go birdwatching or visit some of Bonaire’s intriguing sights. The island offers a range of accommodations, including modest hotels, large resorts, villas, and oceanfront apartments.
3. Sint Maarten[SEE MAP]
So strongly desired by two countries because of its beauty and location, the island of Sint Maarten, or Saint Martin, is shared by the Netherlands and France. Sint Maarten comprises the bottom third of the island. The island offers a golf course, several places to eat or relax with a drink and great shopping in Philipsburg. But no trip to Sint Maarten would be complete without visiting at least one of the island’s 37 beaches, ranked among the best of the Caribbean. Tourists can choose between a variety of destinations on the Dutch side of the island, from Cupecoy Beach on the western side to Dawn Beach on the east. Travelers can enjoy the more popular beaches or sneak away to deserted spots. The beaches on the eastern side are generally windier with rougher waters in contrast to the beaches on the western side.
2. Curacao[SEE MAP]
Located near Venezuela in the southern Caribbean, Curacao is growing in popularity as a cruise ship destination and is even expected to offer space tourism in 2015. A main draw of this Dutch island is Willemstad, the capital city. Willemstad features building styles you’d find in the Netherlands, but painted in beautiful pastel shades. The city is divided into two main sections with the St. Anna Bay between them. Travelers will find shops, restaurants, and museums on Punda. The other side of the island is mainly residential streets. The bay offers a chance to dive and swim with dolphins. Many people visit Curacao to enjoy snorkeling and diving without the need for a boat.
1. Aruba[SEE MAP]
Aruba is known for its gorgeous weather featuring sunny skies, cool breezes, and almost nonexistent rain. One of the most popular Dutch Caribbean islands, Aruba boasts a unique contrast of gorgeous white sand beaches and dessert terrain. Visitors can tan or snorkel one day and then go horseback riding or hiking the next day. There is even a Spanish gold mine. Dutch colonial architecture can be found in the capital city of Oranjestad situated on the southern coast. Visitors can shop in boutiques, stroll on the waterfront, or sample a variety of culinary experiences. Aruba has several great resorts, 12 casinos, restaurants of all degrees of formality, and bars.