The restored country estate houses, or landhuizen, emerge here and there in the parched countryside. Not all of them are open to the public but it is worth visiting some of those that are.
Set in 503 ha in the east part of the island is Brievengat. Its exact date of construction is unknown, but it is believed to date from the early 18th century. It was used in the 19th century to produce cattle, cochineal and aloe, but a hurricane in 1877 devastated the plantation and the house which were gradually abandoned. Shell later took over the property to extract water from the subsoil, but in 1954 when it was in a state of ruin Shell donated it to the Government who restored it to its former grandeur. The windows and the roof are typical of the local style but unusual are the arches extending the length of the house and the two towers at either side, which were once used to incarcerate slaves. Daily 0915-1215, 1500-1800, entrance US$1.10, children half price, bar and snacks, live music on Wed and Fri and often on Sun, check beforehand, open house on Sun 1000-1500 with folklore show at 1700 on last Sun of the month. T7378344. Take the bus marked Punda-Hato from Punda at 15 mins past the hour and get off at the Sentro Deportivo Korsou.
Chobolobo, at Salinja, came into the Senior family in 1948 and Senior & Co make the Curaçao liqueur here, using a copper still dating from 1896 and the original Valencia orange known locally as Laraha. The clear, orange, amber, red, green and blue are for cocktails and all taste the same; others are chocolate, coffee, rum raisin. Chobolobo is worth visiting, but if you resist the temptation to buy Senior & Co’s products you will find them cheaper in the duty free lounge at Hato Airport although they occasionally run out of some brands. The original Curaçao Liqueur can only be purchased on the island. Copy cats are exported from Holland etc. Mon-Fri 0800-1200, 1300-1700. Free and visitors may taste the liqueur. T4613526.
Near the Hato international airport on Rooseveltweg, are the Hato Caves which contain stalactites and stalagmites, a colony of long nose bats and pools among spectacular limestone formations. There are also some Caquetio rock drawings believed to be 1,500 years old. Guided tours every hour, the last one at 1600, 1000-1700, adults US$4, children US$2.75. T8680379, F8688114.
Jan Kok is the oldest landhouse on the island, dating from 1654 and overlooking the salt flats where flamingoes gather. 1100-2100 high season and 1100-1900 on Sun low season. Bar and restaurant, guided tour Tue, Thu 0900-1300 through the salt pans and the landhouse. T8648087. Take the bus marked Lagun and Knip from the Riffort, Otrabanda, at half past the even hour in the morning or half past the odd hour in the afternoon. Santa Martha, built in 1700 and restored in 1979, is used as a day care centre for the physically and mentally handicapped but is open to visitors. Mon-Thu, 0900-1200, 1300-1500, Fri 0900-1200, if you call in advance, T8641559.
Ascension, built in 1672 and restored in 1963, is used by Dutch marines stationed on the island. First Sun of the month 1000-1400 only. T8641950. Local music, handicrafts and snacks. Take bus marked Westpunt from Otrabanda. Landhuis Kenepa or Knip, near the beach of the same name, is a restored 17th-century landhouse where there was a slave rebellion in 1795. It has a collection of antique furniture and an exhibition about the Kenepa people. T8640244, F640385. On the same bus route as Jan Kok.
The Christoffel Park covers an area of 1,860 ha in the west of the island, including Mount Christoffel at 375 m, which was formerly three plantations. These plantations, Savonet, Zorgvlied and Zevenbergen, are the basis for a system of well-marked trails, blue (9 km), green (7½ km or 12 km) and yellow (11 km), and there is a red walking trail up Mount Christoffel which takes about four to five hours there and back. You can see a wide range of fauna and flora, including orchids, the indigenous wayacá (lignum vitae) plant, acacias, aloe, many cacti, calabash and the tiny Curaçao deer. The ruins of the Zorgvlied landhouse can be seen off the green route. The Savonet route takes you to the coast and along to Amerindian rock drawings, painted between 500 and 2,000 years ago in terracotta, black and white. In this area there are also two caves (take a strong torch), one of which is about 125 m long and you have to crawl in before you can stand up (lots of bats and lots of guano on the ground) and walk to the ‘white chamber’(stalactites and stalagmites) and the ‘cathedral’.
The 17th-century Savonet Plantation House is at the entrance to the park on the Westpoint road, but it is not open to the public. However, several outbuildings are used. There is a small museum with archaeological exhibits, Guided tours are available, special walks at dawn or dusk are organized at random, check in the newspapers, evening walking tours to see the Curaçao deer, maximum eight people, reservations essential. You can rent mountain bikes and horses in the park, T8640363. Stinapa publishes an excellent Excursion Guide to the Christoffel Park, Curaçao, by Peer Reijns, 1984, which is available at the Park administration. A basic map of the trails is also provided. The bus Otrabanda-Westpunt passes the entrance to the park. Rancho Alfin at the park also does tours, including night trips, sunrise trips and a romantic package for honeymooners, T8640363, 5608229. Museum. Mon-Sat 0800-1600, Sun 0600-1500. T8640363. Park. From 0800 Mon-Sat, NAf35 per person, admission to the mountain side closes at 1400 and to the ocean side at 1500, although you can stay in until later. On Sun the park opens at 0600 and closes at 1500, no admittance after 1300 and 1400 for inland or sea routes.
Behind Spanish Water Bay on the south coast rises Mount Tafelberg, where phosphate mining used to take place.