Travel without a plan experiment: my Curacao trip report

I can’t believe I never told you the details about my travel without a plan “experiment”! While I have shared most of my Curacao adventures, I have failed to explain, in detail, the outcome of my Curacao experiment. So! What better time than Travel Tuesday toย share this with you!? Let’s hit it! ๐Ÿ˜€

travel without a plan, Curacao Nov 2011

what I love about travel: Locals like him

Travel without a plan: The Hypothesis

I’m going to be honest here: I thought it wasn’t going to be that great. Don’t get me wrong–I loved the adrenaline rushes I was feeling weeks before the trip as I knew I would goย plan-less. I mean, I did it in Israel and let’s be honest: It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. No way I could have planned 3 weeks straight of hitchhiking and couchsurfing solo across historical sites and kibbutzes! However, I at least had a plan-as-you-go mentality: While I had no itinerary when I departed, that quickly morphed into a “I know what I’m doing 2 days from now” mentality. Yes: I had itineraries written down 2 days ahead of time during the last half of my trip. This, however, would not be the case in the Curacao experiment…at all.

And I was scared because of it!

Why, you may ask!? Because I thought I would miss out on a thing or two. And do I know how the “travel regret” hits me…hard! So I was challenging myself in a big way.

Travel without a plan: The Methodology

Just bought a RT ticket Miami-Curacao. That’s it. Granted, I sent some Couchsurfing requests. Yet, in the end, I said: “Screw this, let’s make this the real Travel Without A Plan experiment!” I was even going to hit Bonaire in the process, but wasn’t going to buy that plane ticket until after I got to the Curacao airport. Yah, NUTS!

travel without a plan, Curacao flight

Curacao sunset from above

Travel without a plan: The Experiment

I arrived to Curacao with only one colorful duffle bag and a purse. Once at the airport, I simply asked a clerk where to go to book a flight to bonaire for a few days. She said: “Don’t go there if traveling solo! You’re young and unless you are diving, Bonaire can be boring. Spend your whole vacation in Curacao instead. You’ll have fun, I promise!” And so this is how I stayed in Curacao for 5 days…

Then, it was the Operation Finding a Cab. Charged me $25 as no one else was going, but at least he spoke Spanish and we had a great conversation on the way. I commented that I had not booked a hotel and told him about my Curacao experiment. What did my cabby think? A0 Estas loca. B) Te voy a ayudar (I’ll help you out). And so after asking “for any cheap hostel or guesthouse by the center of town,” I arrived at Villa Colombia. $13/night for a bed, including full breakfast? Oh yah, it’s on!

travel without a plan, Villa Colombia, Curacao

My Curacao guesthouse: Villa Colombia, No 74 – 79!

Villa Colombia was just a 10-minute walk away from the center, called Punda. For 5 days, I lived in the middle of a true Curacaoan neighborhood. Which of course, made the walk out and back to the guesthouse wonderful. I took in the daily Caribbean life, had a Curacaoan mom (my host!) that spoke Spanish, and was taken care of like family. Mom even exchanged my dolllars for florines (Curacaoan currency) at the fair market rate.ย I doubt I could have planned this so well!

travel without a plan, my Curacaoan host

my Curacaoan mama and me!

My days consisted of walking around the center of town, taking photos, and getting food at local restaurants, which was easy as virtually everyone spoke Spanish in addition toย Papiamento (Dutch Caribbean dialect) and Dutch; sometimes also English. I had some great conversations and understood that Curacaoans were pretty similar to us Puerto Ricans. After all, we are all from the Caribbean ๐Ÿ™‚

me walking toward Curacao's center: Punda

action shot!

On my second day in Curacao, I befriended a Venezuelan guest called Sonia, and we would hit town together many times. Also, that same day, I met a couple of Latinos in the center of town, Yara and David, which were on their way to the beach. After Sonia told me to go alone because she wanted to do more shopping, I hit my first Curacaoan beach!

travel without a plan, Mambo beach Curacao

Mambo beach

Once at Mambo Beach, I really befriended the Latinos. I learned that Yara was actually a tourism exchange student, so she was living on the island. This meant that after the impromptu day at Mambo Beach, I got to see her awesome cottage in a completely different town and met more exchange students there!

travel without a plan, Curacaoan cottage 1

the exchange students’ Curacaoan cottage! So lovely

travel without a plan, Curacaoan cottage 2

The layout of the Curacaoan cottage was nice

travel without a plan, Curacaoan cottage 3

hammocks and…a KMART pool! XD haha I call those like that =P

That same night, I went out with all of them after eating some home-made Curacaoan fish and veggies. We danced the night away (live Latin band, YAY!) and sobered up by eating Curacaoan fast food afterward.

travel without a plan, Curacao clubbing

me with Dutch girl Sandra (center) and Latina-Dutch Yara (right) at the nightclub

My 3rd day was a day trip with Yara and David to Blue Bay with another Curacaoan friend of theirs. This was a beautiful resort and we had a blast, despite the cloudy weather!

travel without a plan, Blue Bay Resort, Curacao

part of the grounds of the Blue Bay Resort, Curacao. It was gorgeous!

travel without a plan, Blue Bay beach, Curacao

entrance of the main beach at Blue Bay resort

travel without a plan, Blue Bay, Curacao

Blue Bay beach view

What about my fourth day? On a tour, hopping some of the best beaches of Curacao and even a grotto all day! Oh, and did I mention it included an amazing lunch (I ate iguana in Curacao!) and free beer all day long?! Booked last-minute (the night before) and got a sweet 60% discount. Bargaining, of course. Ahh, gotta thank Egypt for the practice! ๐Ÿ˜€

travel without a plan, Porto Mari beach

Porto Mari beach

travel without a plan, eating iguana in Curacao

IGUANA I ATE!

travel without a plan, Boka Kalki

Boka Kalki

Finally, Mr Mitch (@Mackinnontweets) arrived from his house build in Argentina and we spent the last leg of my trip together. Sharing travel stories while watching the ocean, eating amazing food at the more upscale restaurants in town, and even gambling at the local casinos was the perfect ending to my trip.

travel without a plan, Curacao harbor

watching ships leave harbor with Mitch before dinner

walking to our restaurant (it was on a high floor)

travel without a plan, Curacao restaurant

gorgeous view with dinner!

a little gamblin’ after dinner (Photo: Mitchell Mackinnon)

Oh wait! I almost forgot to tell you: the hitchhiking was the pinnacle of this trip!

We took the local bus to Cas Abou beach on our last day in Curacao. You see, we were told we would only have to walk a couple of meters from the bus stop to the beach…wrong! It was more like a couple of kilometers… Soooooo after about 10 mins of walking and no coast in sight, I encouraged Mitch to hitchhike. He agreed, and we flagged the next vehicle: a mom and daughter from the Netherlands, who spoke perfect English and were quite chatty and amusing. Just fabulous!

Curacao hitchhiking

300 meters? Not so much!

Cas Abou beach, Curacao

Cas Abou beach (Photo: Mitchell MacKinnon)

Travel without a plan: The Conclusion

One of my best trips to date, for sure! I proved my hypothesis wrong: I didn’t really miss anything, except for the diving. Which, in all honesty, iw as planning to do on a different trip anyway. So for not having a set plan (not even a hotel!), I paid close to nothing for a room, good several free meals, saved on exchange fees, and met some amazing people on the way! The best part? Living like a Curacaoan and seeing how they go about their daily life. I only took public transportation (except for 2-3ย occasions) and stayed in a residential neighborhood. Just treat after treat! Traveling like a local surely is better than just being a tourist

Punda, the center of Curacao, at night

Cas Abou beach again

Artwork in Punda, Curacao

Curacaoan rum — oh yes

Do you have a great Travel without a Plan tale? Share it below!

28 thoughts on “Travel without a plan experiment: my Curacao trip report

  1. WOW this looks & sounds fantastic! Love the colours and the brightness in the photos. Also, your host mama’s hair is FANTASTIC. Rihanna-red, only brighter. Love it. Even the iguana.

    • Haha! That’s actually a hair wrap! But it looks great regardless ๐Ÿ˜‰ glad you enjoyed the post! Thanks for commenting

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  3. Just spent a day in Curacao (off a cruise ship) beautiful and colorful island. Very welcoming too. Glad to know the experiment went so well… I often think it’s all about mindset on the road…. you definitely had the right mindset for the “no plan” adventure.
    stay adventurous, Craig

  4. What an awesome trip to a beautiful island! Curacao has always fascinated me and looking through your pictures just increased my excitement for our cruise port stop there later this year. I’m glad your travels without a plan worked out well.

    • You will love Punda! Arriving to the center of town in cruise ship must be even more magical ๐Ÿ™‚ I loved seeing the ships disappear in the horizon

    • Indeed! I feel that if it’s a culture I’m somewhat familiar with, the *total* travel without a plan experiment works beautifully ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Love the story of your trip and the photos. We always travel without a plan (we research the area before we go though) so it isn’t a case of getting there and wasting precious time trying to figure out what to do. But there is such a rush to ‘just decide’ to go to thise or that city. And find a cute place and decide to see if there is room for the night.

    • Indeed, the rush was a big part ๐Ÿ˜€ Researching the place at least for safety issues is recommended, though. Then, just book everything once you arrive! If it’s not a crowded, touristy place and you are not staying in a hotel nor are traveling for a holiday, II believe this is the best way to travel

  6. Nice trip! Funny days you got!! I was to give up of my trip to Curaรงao (I intend to go there nest month). But i just found luxury hotels and beachs…its not my kind of trip.
    But according to your post, its possible to have a different experience ๐Ÿ˜‰ Good news!

    • Don’t give up! Simply tell your taxi driver to take you to Villa Colombia in Punda ๐Ÿ˜‰ they should know! I didn’t have their contact info because the cab driver simply took me there. Indeed, there is always a budget way to see a place and truly experience it as a local!

  7. great fotos–great story–spent 10 years wanting to go to curacao and have been going back for add’l 10 years–instant friends for life–great water, great cacti, great snorkeling, great beaches, great vibe

    • ๐Ÿ˜€ I can’t wait to experience diving and snorkeling in Curacao. I did the latter one day in Cas Abou, but it was cloudy and I was apparently snorkeling on the wrong side of the beach, so not much action. Great excuse to return! ๐Ÿ™‚ thanks for commenting

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