The paradise islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, or in short the ABC islands, lie off the coast of Venezuela. All three are often chosen as the ideal winter sun holiday, but they each have their unique character.
About ABC Islands
Aruba is the most “American” and therefore the most comfortable island in the region. Large, beautiful beaches, a long boulevard to stroll over night after night and a wonderfully compact center in the capital, Oranjestad.
The holiday is concentrated around the “high rise“, so you can still find great undiscovered places. It is the island with the flamingos and it is the island with the most delicious restaurants. Enjoy carefree and comfortable – certainly – with a small child? Aruba!
Bonaire is the smallest and most authentic island of the three. A big village, actually. Here it is us knows us and that is more than cozy. The first week of your vacation you are exploring, the second week you are at home (and the third week you never want to leave).
It is the island of surprises, despite its small size. And although diving, snorkeling and fish-watching are worldly on all three islands, Bonaire takes the cake anyway. Divers (and snorkelers) paradise!
If we really really have to choose, we think Curaçao is the “nicest” island. And by fun we mean especially: versatile. Curaçao is the largest of the bunch and the capital, Willemstad, is also a really big city where everything happens and can be experienced.
The beaches are beautiful (understatement) and a bit further apart than in Aruba, which makes Curaçao a bit more challenging.
ABC Islands History
Little is known about the original inhabitants. Excavations indicate that Curaçao must have been inhabited for hundreds of years. These Indians, Arawaks, were from mainland South America.
Evidence for this is the fact that they used the same objects and worked, lived and lived in the same way as the Native Americans on the South American mainland. They were primitive Indians, still living in the Stone Age, who lived on fishing and plant food. Historians disagree who discovered Curaçao.
It is known that it was discovered in 1499, either by Alonso de Ojeda or by Amerigo Vespucci, after whom the American continent is named. Vespucci is known to have visited Curacao. No written evidence of a visit to Curaçao by Alonso de Ojeda is known.
The Spaniards called the islands “Islas de los Gigantes” (Islands of the Giants) because the Native American population stood head and shoulders above the Spaniards. In 1513, the Spaniards declared the ABC islands “Islas Inutiles” (useless islands) because of the lack of gold and natural resources. The Indians were then taken as slaves to the island of Hispaniola.
ABC Islands Weather
Thanks to its location off the coast of Venezuela, not far from the equator, you can enjoy a dry, tropical climate in Curaçao, Bonaire and Aruba where it rarely rains. In the lee of Venezuela, the northeast trade pass has little influence on the weather on these islands.
Caribbean nights here are not sultry but dry and warm. Only in October, November, December and January there will sometimes be a splash of rain. However, the rain does not last long, so you can quickly enjoy a carefree holiday again.
The best travel time for the ABC islands is all year round. Every month of the year you can enjoy a tropical holiday here, thanks to 8 to 9 hours of sunshine per day and temperatures of around 86 ºF (30ºC).
However, you don’t have to worry about it getting too hot and sticky – the sea breeze provides a pleasant, cooling breeze.
ABC Islands Facts
The ABC islands consist of Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao. Aruba has 101,484 inhabitants and an area of 180 km2. Bonaire has the least inhabitants of the ABC islands with 18,143 and an area of 288 km2. Curaçao has the most inhabitants and the most surface.
More than 150,000 inhabitants live on Curaçao and the island has an area of 444 km2. On the ABC islands they speak Dutch, Papiamento and English. Aruba pays with Aruban Florin, Bonaire with US Dollar and on Curaçao with Antillean guilder.
What To Do in ABC Islands
Do you like water sports? Then “One Happy Island” Aruba is the place to be for you. Thanks to the trade wind, the climate is ideal for diving, snorkelling, sailing and surfing.
Even if you prefer to take it easy, Aruba has a lot to offer. For example, Aruba’s longest beach, Eagle Beach, was voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean by TripAdvisor. Ideal to recover from all that water adventure!
Aruba is also the best ABC destination for shopaholics and revelers who can indulge themselves in the numerous shopping centers and vibrant nightlife.
Island number two, Bonaire, is best known for its coral reefs and exotic fish. The fascinating underwater world earned the island the nickname “Divers Paradise” and made Bonaire one of the most popular diving destinations in the world.
Do you prefer to stay above water? Then you can discover the surprising fauna and flora in the vast National Park Washington Slagbaai or the Old Dutch colonial buildings and explore numerous shops and bars in the capital Kralendijk.
Curaçao literally and figuratively lies midway between the other two islands. You will find various interesting sights as well as sports activities and beautiful places.
For example, the capital Willemstad boasts a rich history and unique character on the UNESCO World Heritage List, but you can also enjoy white sandy beaches, idyllic bays or beautiful walks and diving tours in Curaçao.
In the Christoffel National Park you will find many hiking trails and you even have the opportunity to climb the Christoffel Mountain. Spotting flamingos in the Flamingo Area is also a must do!
ABC Islands Attractions
The most beautiful thing that Bonaire has to offer is the underwater world. Bonaire is one of the best snorkeling and diving destinations in the world. You will find coral along almost the entire west coast of Bonaire, which grows very close to the land in most places. This means you hardly have to bother to see fish and other sea life with your own eyes.
There is a wide variety of sea animals to discover, including special animals such as moray eels, barracudas, seahorses, rays and sea turtles.
Washington Slagbaai National Park
This nature reserve is spread over about 5643 hectares of land in the northwest of Bonaire. There are many educational but also recreational activities. Think of a tour by mountain bike or car, hiking, kayaking, diving, snorkeling and bird watching.
There are many rock formations with different types of appearance. There are also chalk ridges and cooled lava flows. The flora and fauna in this park are special with some unique species.
Saliñas (Saline Ponds)
Saliñas are salt lakes. The large Saliñas can be found in the north of Bonaire in the Washington Slagbaai National Park. Because only water can flow into the lake and not out, this is called a salt lake. There are also salt pans, which can be found in the south of Bonaire. Salt pans are referred to as an artificial lake.
Aruba has a large number of fantastic beaches, each with their own character and audience. Those who take the car and leave the crowded beaches Palm Beach and Eagle Beach behind can enjoy very quiet beaches that will give you a paradise feeling. Kitesurfers can indulge in Boca Grande in the northeast.
Beautiful white sand in combination with very clear turquoise water can be found at Baby Beach in the southeast. In Oranjestad you can go to Druif Beach, which is located on the south side of the city.
Fort Zoutman Oranjestad
The capital of Aruba is Oranjestad, which has a colorful and attractive center built entirely in the Caribbean style. A very beautiful building is the Royal Plaza Mall. In the ancient Fort Zoutman you can visit the Historical Museum of Aruba.
This neighborhood in Curaçao literally means “the other bank”. It is therefore seen from Punda on the other side of the Saint Anna Bay. From here you have a beautiful view over the colored houses on the Handelskade on the Sint Anna Bay.
Otrobanda is connected to the Punda district via the Queen Juliana Bridge and the Queen Emma Bridge. You will find a library, conference center and the Kura Hulanda museum.
Willemstad is the capital of Curaçao. Most of the shops and restaurants can be found in this historic city. The center is split in two by the Saint Anna Bay. On the east side is the Punda district and on the west side the Otrabanda district.
An attractive part of Punda is the Handelskade, where the beautifully colored houses form a beautiful composition. It is not without reason that this part of Willemstad is captured so much by photographers.
The Hato caves on Curacao offer a lot of history on an area of approximately 4900 m² with stalactite caves and water features. The vague murals, some of which are as much as 1,500 years old, date back to the time when Indians lived there. Later many slaves hid there.
With a guide you can admire many of these caves and hear all the stories and myths. You will probably also see some iguanas and bats.
ABC Islands Accommodation
Aruba has the highest numbers of all inclusive hotels. For years, Aruba has been a popular travel destination in the Caribbean for tourists, so the island has responded to this with this type of accommodation.
The accommodation on Curacao and Bonaire, on the other hand, is of a smaller scale. There is a higher number of hotels that is run by local families. Also, the apartments and resorts are smaller than on Aruba.
The ABC island are located close to each other, but offer a totally different travel experience. Which one to choose depends on your interests, though one thing is certain: they will not disappoint.