December 9, 2019
The Baoase Luxury Resort in Willemstad helps make Curaçao a most appealing Caribbean destination.
Prime suites at the Baoase Luxury Resort feature their own private plunge pools.
When talk of five-star experiences turns to the Caribbean, Curaçao doesn’t always enter the conversation. But the powers that be at Baoase (rates from $575; baoase.com), a resort tucked away on the south side of the island, are doing all they can to change that dialogue.
As soon as I’m settled into my digs at the property, I see how well they are making their case. The suite where I’m to spend the next few days checks off all the barefoot elegance boxes: a four-poster bed enclosed by sheer curtains, an outdoor bath garden of sorts with shower and soaking tub, an alfresco dining room with adjacent kitchen, a personal plunge pool flanked by bougainvillea and a slice of private beach complete with a small dock should one want to jump into the ocean.
I arrive late in the day, when the summer light is at its kindest, and quickly set out to discover what makes Baoase special. Those charms reveal themselves fast. Not far outside my room, I encounter the resort’s restaurant (and its romantic gazebos for two) just feet away from a tranquil inlet beach (its waves gently lapping the shore) and a lagoon-like pool shaded by palm trees. Water features of various kinds reveal themselves as my exploration continues. Although colonial in tone, Asian touches like Buddha sculptures nod to the owners’ penchant for Balinese style, while a private helipad hints at the resort’s well-heeled clientele.
Water features and Asian touches throughout the property solidify Baoase’s idyllic charm
As far as accommodations go, Baoase houses 23 rooms, suites and villas, often all booked, yet the place manages to maintain its boutique intimacy. At night, tiki torches and soft music perpetuate the property’s idyllic quality. It’s evenings like this that its owners must have envisioned when they founded the resort a decade ago. As the story goes, proprietors Ad Van Der Valk and Bibi Rutten fell in love with the site and set about building a vacation home on the land. In the process, they decided a luxury resort made better sense. When Baoase finally opened in 2009 with 15 villas, seasoned travelers quickly made it their destination of choice. The addition of extra accommodations with couples in mind and a Michelin-star chef (René Klop) only added to the appeal. Soon enough, industry accolades and editorial love from major travel publications followed. Baoase was officially on the map.
A view of the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge and Handelskade in Willemstad
I think of all that as I tour Willemstad the next morning. My day begins early with breakfast at Hofi Cas Cora (hoficascora.com), a no-frills establishment that’s considered the island’s first farm-to-table eatery. Over an organic greens omelet and fresh orange juice, the waitress points out the workers tending to the field below and informs me the eggs I’m eating were collected just hours prior. From there, must-see spots in Curaçao follow. At the Scharloo neighborhood, I encounter massive street murals with social messages, but few people photographing them. The city is rather quiet when I visit—I’m told an important soccer match is being televised that day—so the crowds at normally busy areas are manageable. I find my way to the Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge, which connects the Punda and Otrobanda quarters of the city, and the Pietermaai District, with its pastel buildings and Latin Quarter spirit. Lunch takes me to Restaurant & Café Gouverneur de Rouville (de-gouverneur.com), where I’m seated on the terrace with an enviable view of Handelskade, the picturesque waterfront strip well-known for its candy-colored 18th-century buildings. That evening I find myself at Fort Nassau (fortnassau.com), a restaurant on what was once Curaçao’s main fort (dating back to 1797) that boasts the best panoramic vistas of the capital and menu standouts like pumpkin ravioli in truffle sauce. The following day, I’m off to Playa Knip on the west side of the island, a beach often cited in best-of-the-world lists. Lunch that day takes place at Karakter (karaktercuracao.com), a breezy spot for simple tapas and umbrella drinks.
Back at the resort, I’m treated to a massage in an open cabana not far from that aforementioned helipad. Hours later, chef Klop’s Michelin skills are put to the test during his Asian Night Dinner, a feast of dim sum, dumplings and sushi that solidifies the appeal of Baoase, an in-the-know favorite that’s ripe for discovery.
Photography by: the resort; Handelskade photo by sara winter/istockphotocom