Imagine finding a beach in the heart of Manhattan. That would be ridiculous, right?
This idea might not be far-fetched, based on my stay at the Renaissance Curacao Resort and Casino. This Caribbean hotel manages to bring a tropical beach experience– complete with sand, palm trees and sweeping views– to the center of downtown Willemstad.
Looking at the scene below, you would never suspect that this idyllic beach is located in Curacao’s version of Times Square:
In order to create an urban beach experience, the Renaissance Curacao had to start from scratch.
Willemstad, Curacao’s capital and a UNESCO World Heritage site, isn’t a typical Caribbean destination; it is brimming with colonial history, architecture and culture but does not have any natural beaches within the downtown area. The main attractions are a floating bridge, which swings to and fro when ships pass, and the beautifully preserved colonial buildings.
The beach at the Renaissance Curacao has real sand and salt water but is self-contained like a swimming pool. Located on a second-story platform adjoining the hotel, it blends in seamlessly with the cliffs and sea below. It’s essential an ‘infinity pool’– taken to the next level.
The infinity beach is quite large– 75 meters long and around 21 meters wide– so it never felt crowded. We enjoyed swimming out to the edge and watching the waves hit the rocks below. In fact, we were staring out at the source of the water in our pool. The resort’s sales director confirmed that the water in the infinity beach is seawater pumped from 15 meters below the surface, at a rate of 3,000 gallons per minute.
Before arriving at the Renaissance Curacao we spent a few days driving around the island and exploring different beaches. Many beaches in Curacao charge an entry fee, in addition to the cost of renting a chair. It was refreshing staying at a hotel with its own beach, since we could lounge all day without being hassled. And no car was required!
The first thing you’ll see at the Renaissance’s infinity beach are palm trees, straw huts and rows of comfy deck chairs. We didn’t have a problem snagging seats in the shade, as many guests were committed to getting golden tans (with mixed results). When we first checked in, the water level was a bit low at the beach and it looked more like a swimming pool. We got the full effect when we came back for a later visit.
We didn’t waste any time ordering tropical drinks from the bar. Of course, we had to try at least one cocktail mixed with “curacao,” since it is made on the island!
The swimming pool
If you prefer the feel of tile under your feet, the Renaissance also has a traditional infinity pool. During our visit it was mainly used by families.
The pool overlooked a dock that was constantly in use– first by a freighter, and then by a cruise ship. This was the one flaw we found with the Renaissance’s beach; we could never get a good view of the sunset since it was always blocked by a ship!
We did manage to get some interesting shots of the freighter, the Knudsen. It looked rather majestic at twilight.
We weren’t the only ones fascinated by this freighter; an adorable iguana stopped his stroll across the Renaissance courtyard to get a better look.
The Renaissance Curacao is located in the middle of Willemstad’s tourist district, steps away from the restored Ris Fort and a short walk to the Queen Emma floating bridge. We parked our rental car for free in the parking garage and spent our nights exploring the city on foot. Dozens of restaurants, cafes, museums,markets and amazing works of street art are within walking distance of the hotel. We only glanced in the casino, which is located next to the hotel’s lobby.
The Renaissance Curacao complex includes a large shopping mall with international chains like Birkenstock and Diesel. We were not here to shop, so we bypassed the stores; however, they seemed to be popular with the cruise ship passengers passing through the mall on the way from the pier to the floating bridge.
Our room had a fantastic view of the infinity beach and the main walkway from the pier, so when the cruise ship docked we enjoyed watching the passengers stream by. There was a TV in our room, but people-watching was more entertaining!
The architecture of the Renaissance Curacao mirrors the classic style of Willemstad buildings,with smooth concrete walls and pastel colors. However, since it is newly built, there is no musty smell in the rooms or common areas.
The lobby is large and airy, with large glass murals on the walls and pastel accents. I would describe the decor as “modern Caribbean.”
I was taken with the chandelier, which looked like an abstract sculpture of a jellyfish (but perhaps the Swarovski Crystal version).
WiFi is free in the Renaissance lobby, so Jake quickly whipped out his iPad. While the rooms only offer wired Internet access (not the best for bloggers), in the lobby we were able to check emails, post Twitter updates and read TripAdvisor restaurant recommendations on our mobile devices.
Our room was clean, comfortable and appeared to have all new furnishings. While I love beach destinations, I find there is usually a mold or mildew problem due to the tropical climate. I did not detect any odors in the Renaissance and had a sound sleep.
The bottom line
We absolutely loved the infinity beach at the Renaissance Curacao, and that alone would justify a stay here. This property is the only one in downtown Willemstad providing a true beach resort experience (man-made or natural). The Renaissance is within walking distance of many local attractions and nightlife, which will appeal to visitors who aren’t renting a car. We recommend the Renaissance for first-time visitors to Curacao, travelers on weekend getaways who have limited time to explore the island, and those who want a mix of urban and beach experiences.
For more information
We received a 2-night stay at the Renaissance Curacao in order to write this review for Downtown Traveler. As always, all opinions are our own and we always provide accurate, truthful information to our readers.
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