Curaçao's Coolest All-Inclusive Resort | Islands

Curaçao's Coolest All-Inclusive Resort

Curaçao’s Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort feels like an island on an island. Sprawled out over 27 acres, it's sandwiched between the calm waters of Spanish Bay and the jewel-toned Caribbean Sea. Opt for the all-inclusive option to keep the Coco Loco mojitos coming without sweating the tab.

Top 15 Things to Do in Curaçao | Best of the Caribbean | Best All-Inclusive Island Resorts Ever

Curacao's Best All-Inclusive Resort | Where to Stay in Willemstad Curacao | All-Inclusive Island Vacations | Santa Barbara

I felt happily stranded at the Santa Barbara Resort but thankful for the plush creature comforts (like this pool) that make it a AAA Four Diamond property.

Curacao's Best All-Inclusive Resort | Where to Stay in Willemstad Curacao | All-Inclusive Island Vacations | Breakfast

Pastechi, a flaky Antillean pocket pastry, makes for a hearty breakfast before hitting the links. Tee time super early? Good thing there are extra stocked on the golf-course beverage cart.

Curacao's Best All-Inclusive Resort | Where to Stay in Willemstad Curacao | All-Inclusive Island Vacations | View

This is my view at breakfast, so on second thought, maybe I'll push that tee time back an hour or so.

Curacao's Best All-Inclusive Resort | Where to Stay in Willemstad Curacao | All-Inclusive Island Vacations | Golf

Old Quarry, the on-site Pete Dye golf course, gets its moniker from a limestone harvesting operation dating back to 1875. Views like this make head-down golf a struggle.

Curacao's Best All-Inclusive Resort | Where to Stay in Willemstad Curacao | All-Inclusive Island Vacations | Divi

The divi divi tree, Curaçao's national tree and nature's perfect umbrella, is my cooling-off place after 18 holes in the southern Caribbean sun. But it's not just for shade: The pods were once used for tanning leather and can still be used to spruce up footwear. Plus, it also sports a built-in compass — the bent branches always point west.

Curacao's Best All-Inclusive Resort | Where to Stay in Willemstad Curacao | All-Inclusive Island Vacations | Beach Pod

Unlike the divi divi tree, these beach pods are purely for shade and comfort, and still just steps from the water.

Curacao's Best All-Inclusive Resort | Where to Stay in Willemstad Curacao | All-Inclusive Island Vacations | Paddleboarding

Pioneers in the art of vertical tanning, two of the sunshine-deprived members of my party couldn't resist paddle boarding in the calm waters of the resort’s protected channel.

Curacao's Best All-Inclusive Resort | Where to Stay in Willemstad Curacao | All-Inclusive Island Vacations | Gelato

Gelati Bella Italia, the resort’s caffeine and sugar stop, takes the requisite perk-me-up emporium formula a sweet step further. Coffee in the morning; two scoops of smooth stracciatella or bacio in the afternoon.

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Curacao's Best All-Inclusive Resort | Where to Stay in Willemstad Curacao | All-Inclusive Island Vacations | Atabei

Relaxing with a cup of loose-leaf tea at Atabei, the on-site spa, I learn that the treatments take their healing cues from the ancient Arawaks, Curaçao’s indigenous people. I went for the stemps massage, where warm sachets of herbs de-stress my muscles, and the lahara scrub, which combines brown sugar, orange peel and distilled Curaçao liqueur, exfoliates.

Curacao's Best All-Inclusive Resort | Where to Stay in Willemstad Curacao | All-Inclusive Island Vacations | Ocean

After my massage, I stumbled down to one of these secluded limestone perches and quickly dubbed them “serenity benches” — perfect for enjoying another cup of tea while watching the waves crash the shoreline.

Curacao's Best All-Inclusive Resort | Where to Stay in Willemstad Curacao | All-Inclusive Island Vacations | Aquarium

Sure, observing sea life swim behind glass or getting the petting-zoo experience via touch tanks can be fun. But at Curaçao’s Sea Aquarium, just a jaunt from the resort, I actually fed a sea turtle his lunch through the Animal Encounters program operated by Ocean Outfitter.

Curacao's Best All-Inclusive Resort | Where to Stay in Willemstad Curacao | All-Inclusive Island Vacations | Chi chi

Venturing beyond the resort is fun too. At Serena Janet Israel’s Art Factory, I picked up a handpainted Chichi doll done by a local woman and painted one of my own. Inspired by the tropical garden setting, I dressed my Chichi in bold hues, and my finished product got kudos from Israel herself for embodying the Caribbean's colorful essence.

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Curacao's Best All-Inclusive Resort | Where to Stay in Willemstad Curacao | All-Inclusive Island Vacations | Equus

Equus, a horse stable turned rustic restaurant, is open only Friday nights and fills up fast. No forks or knives meant things got messy as I pulled hunks of charcoal-fired shish kabob off totem-pole-size towers of barbecued beef, chicken and veggies. The only side I needed was a bucket of Polar beer.

Curacao's Best All-Inclusive Resort | Where to Stay in Willemstad Curacao | All-Inclusive Island Vacations | Resort

The lobby lounge was my nighttime haven, the ocean breezes and cool travertine floors the perfect antidote to a day in the sun.

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