At the edge of the Willemstad’s floating Queen Emma Bridge, aka The Swinging Old Lady, the group I was traveling with stopped and got off our scooters from Curaçao Green Wheels, preparing to walk our wheels over the capital city’s charming bridge which lightly floats on 16-pontoon boats. Riding scooters across the old bridge—circa 1888—is forbidden. Minding another very important rule from Dewi Pomario of the tourism office, we completely powered down our electric scooters to ensure the responsive little puppies wouldn’t accidentally leap forward while crossing over to Otrobanda—one of four distinct districts in the rainbow-hued city, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Curaçao’s globally recognized wall of colorful Dutch-Caribbean buildings called Handelskade was at our backs and, as if on cue, we stopped in the middle of the bridge for photos. We all removed our helmets—required to ride per Green Wheels owner Karl Vervuurt—and slung them over handlebars while striking Instagram-worthy poses.
It’s worth noting that if a boat approaches while you’re on the bridge you’ll hear a warning siren before the bridge is unhinged and slowly begins swinging open and—sorry-not-sorry—this may mess with your photoshoot. An orange or blue flag will be raised depending on how long the boat will take to pass, so you’ll have a chance to exit the bridge if you want. An orange flag indicates it’ll only take a few minutes (pro-tip: consider staying on the bridge and going along for the short, novel “ride”). A blue flag, however, indicates the boat will take around 45 minutes—so best to beat it off the bridge if you can’t spare the time.
Injecting whimsical flair, the scooters come in a range of shocking colors, conveniently matching the city’s vividly painted structures. Deciding which one channels your mood (I was feeling mustard-yellow) may be the toughest part of your scooter experience because, Vervuurt says, driving the scooters is easy, so much in fact that a driver’s license isn’t required to rent—you just need to be at least 15 years old. To be on the safe side, however, Vervuurt goes through the basics at the rental office before releasing first-timers onto the streets of Willemstad.
Riding on sidewalks is prohibited but roads in town are generally narrow two-way traffic—perfect for natural speed control. In Curaçao, you drive on the righthand side of the street like in the US, so no adjustment needed there. The scooters offer an advantageous way to explore the city—helping you cover lots of ground quickly without upsetting Mother Nature due to their innovative electric design.
Across Sint Anna’s Bay, I restarted my scooter to begin exploring this side of town, known for its symbolic, artsy murals on streets like Quintastraat, Willemstraat, and Frederikstraat. Familiarize yourself with the signature strokes of artist Jhomar Loaiza, whose murals dot Willemstad—notably Women of Curaçao in Otrobanda. Vervuurt stresses to fully stop while snapping photos but you’ll want to get off anyway, to pose by murals and walk the Colorful Steps, an iconic sight which is meant to evoke the diverse mashup of nationalities on the island. And as long as your scooter is parked, you may as well hop up next to Hortence Brouwn’s sculpture Mama Zulaika for a selfie.
If your eyes need a break from Otrobanda’s blindingly beautiful street art, stimulate your tastebuds instead, with mango ice cream at local favorite Don’s Ice Cream Shop. For those hankering for something a tad stronger (and not driving), order the legendary drink “Green Rum” at Netto Bar—the oldest bar on the island (1954). Personally, exploring makes me ravenous, and I found Bario Urban Street Food the perfect antidote. Bario has something for everyone, with multiple unique food vendors serving out of windows, amounting to a food-truck vibe, yet artfully woven into one restaurant. The effect is intoxicating with vendors offering edgy local cuisine served under twinkling lights—plus, there’s amazing live music.
In the interest of pressing on to engage with the unique hidden-gem district of Scharloo, cross back over the bay via the Queen Juliana Bridge. The highest bridge in the Caribbean at 1,640 feet, you’ll want to pause and catch unforgettable views over Willemstad. Re-board your scooter and in under 10 minutes you’ll arrive at the mesmerizing mural Three O’Clock Romance by beloved artist, poet, and personality Francis Sling at the intersection of Radarstraat and Bargestraat. Find your parking place on the street and set out on foot to embrace this magical painting (#3oclockromance).
Duck inside Sling’s nearby gallery “ArtCave” open Thursday-Saturday to peruse and purchase art. The walls dance with stories, emblematic of the charismatic artist who says his life work is to translate what lives inside of us. Connect with Sling’s assistant Jhuriene Sambo to arrange a painting workshop, a must-not-miss opportunity. The group I was with—most of us inept with a paintbrush—enjoyed lots of laughs as Sling patiently guided us through painting flamingos.
Leaving your scooter parked where it is, refuel your soul in another way by ducking around the corner to De Broeders for street-style soul food and live entertainment. The inside space is alive with upbeat island-style graffiti, a seamless extension of the public artsy murals of Scharloo. In the expansive garden, the vibe fuses casual and cool, a hip urban atmosphere—with sail-cloths and swaying trees—where I inhaled my chicken tacos and mojito.
In Punda, a few-minutes ride from Scharloo, slowly drive the streets of Wilhelminaplein and Breedestraat to soak in the vibrant streets, brimming with little shops against the backdrop of candy-colored structures. Park your scooter to meander with a hibiscus iced-tea from Bonchi Coffeehouse in hand—a signature recipe with freshly puréed hibiscus flowers—to better face the piercing eyes of Frida Kahlo, an art mural on Windstraat. At Punda Wings, pose between the iconic wings and using the hashtag #pundawings, post on social media to join the mural’s global fanbase.
Cruise down Nieuwstraat in Pietermaai for a strong sense of this happening part of the city, dubbed the “Soho District.” If you’ve rented your scooter for the week, a responsible alternative to renting a car, you’ll have the freedom to leisurely move from day-to-night and watch Mundo Bizarro come to life in the evenings, tuck into a rich dining experience at the nearby restaurant BKLYN, or nurse a Tropical Sizzle, a craft cocktail found only at Ochenta, the island’s top cocktail lounge.
Buzzing around from place to place on your colorful scooter is perfect for the attention-seekers among us. Think: linen jumpsuit, red lipstick, aviators and a flowy accent scarf billowing in the wind, something Vervuurt would applaud. After all, maximizing fun while exploring this exciting city is the point of Green Wheels.