Sandals Finally Comes to Curaçao—and the Party was Absolutely Out of this World

With the Blue Man Group and a bevy of local VIPs rolling out the red carpet, things are already heating up at the island’s newest resort.

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Sandals Royal Curaçao
Sandals Royal Curaçao is packed with “firsts” that longtime guests and first-time visitors are sure to love. Corey Hamilton for Sandals Resorts

For more than 10 years, the late Gordon “Butch” Stewart dreamed of opening a Sandals property on Curaçao. Who could blame him? Wiser travelers have kept the C in the ABC Islands a big secret for years, but it was only a matter of time before the rest of the world took notice. And it turned out that the only thing stopping the Caribbean’s most recognizable resort brand from starting the party sooner was land. As in, where would it go?

The answer, as many of us learned two years ago, was the Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort, which Sandals eventually took over and spent 2021 renovating and upgrading. And when it came time to officially open its doors on June 1, 2022, Curaçao not only became the seventh island in the brand’s portfolio, but also a sample of what’s to come for this iconic brand.

Few people have been as celebrated for their vision and creativity in tropical hospitality as Butch Stewart, so it’s no surprise that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. His son Adam has taken the lead as Sandals Resorts Executive Chairman, and it’s clear that he not only shares his father’s enthusiasm for innovation, but he also views Curaçao as a place for new beginnings. “Every time we come to Curaçao, we fall more in love with this destination,” the younger Stewart told us during the recent grand opening of his empire’s 16th property, and it was evident through every step of the festivities that he meant it.

Blue Man Group
Sandals Resorts Executive Chairman Adam Stewart joined the Blue Man Group in celebrating this spectacular occasion. Corey Hamilton for Sandals Resorts

Sandals Royal Curaçao formally rolled out the red carpet several weeks after opening, and immensely loyal guests traveled from all over the world for arguably the most exciting party in the Caribbean this year. Joining Adam in a chorus of glorious praise for this project was a Who’s Who of the island’s most recognizable names and faces. Also, the Blue Man Group, because there simply ain’t no party like a Curaçao party, especially when it’s on a Sandals property. A miniature Carnival celebration even broke out, which was truly a sight to behold, since the island hasn’t hosted its most epic event in two years.

“Our vision for the Sandals Royal Curaçao experience was inspired just as much by the island’s

natural beauty and colorful culture, as it was by our guests and the many ways they can engage

with this amazing destination,” Adam said on June 1, as the first wave of guests marveled at the design and new concepts featured at this sprawling resort. But as we chatted on the day before the spectacular welcome party, he teased at something even bigger ahead.

“Our purpose is to share the four corners of the Caribbean with the rest of the world,” he explained. As we witnessed firsthand the excellence of the company’s debut property in the Dutch Caribbean, it was clearly working. Devout Sandals guests are immensely loyal travelers with a tendency to stick with an island or resort out of familiarity and consistent expectations. Those who answered the call to visit Sandals Royal Curaçao and enjoy this island for the first time were blown away by what they found.

That was very fitting for an event that was all about “firsts.”

Introducing Sandals 2.0

Dos Awa Infinity Pool
The Dos Awa Infinity Pool proves Sandals always has clever new ideas. Sandals Royal Curaçao

The one phrase that came up more than any other over the course of four days was “labor of love.” Just as Butch sought to bring a resort to Curaçao, Adam and his team have been eager to finally use this chance to answer the most important question any company can ask: “What’s next?”

Calling this a test run would be an understatement, because everything guests experienced during both openings of Sandals Royal Curaçao is likely here to stay. If anything, certain elements will be enhanced or fine-tuned—after all, there are always hiccups and bumps in the road during these occasions. It’s just that this time it felt like there was an extreme eagerness to impress, as if everyone had been aching to unveil the new concepts and changes to the Sandals concept.

“Sandals 2.0,” as Adam called it, was developed as an opportunity to see what the company can do better in terms of its “island-first” approach. “Every single aspect of hospitality will be reviewed,” he declared prior to unveiling new-look uniforms that are as stylish and indicative of Curaçao’s culture as they are functional for that tropical heat (and those delightful ocean breezes). Certainly, he meant that in terms of what will be available and can be expected at the resort, but our favorite part of Sandals 2.0 is what’s happening away from this 3,000-acre property.

Sandals Mini Cooper
Guests can book a Mini Cooper from the resort to drive into town and explore the island’s creativity. Sandals Royal Curaçao

The ”Island Inclusive” concept is proof positive that Sandals wants to showcase the destinations now more than ever. For the first time in the brand’s history, the all-inclusive dining options are broadened to include restaurants in Willemstad’s colorful neighborhoods. I cannot stress enough how creative the culinary scene has become on this island, so giving guests the opportunity to borrow one of the resort’s Mini Coopers or hop on a shuttle and visit local restaurants and bars—like the phenomenal Sal, The Kitchen, and BKLYN, which is arguably the coolest spot on the island, if not beyond—is a gift and a blessing.

On Property is Always on Point

Bungalows
The Kurason Island Poolside Butler Bungalows will have couples basking in sunshine and romance. Sandals Royal Curaçao

Adam and his team clearly knew how creative this island is when they embarked on this journey, because the new accommodations and amenities showcased at this property are right in line with Curaçao’s emergence. Sandals has always been about firsts, dating all the way back to when Butch invented the swim-up bar, but the debut concepts at Sandals Royal Curaçao are certain to make first-time guests reconsider their loyalties. 

With 351 rooms and suites available, guests won’t be disappointed with the variety. They might sweat a little, however, from the stress of committing. After all, every room from the Subi Premium to the Amante One Bedroom Oceanview Butler Royal Suite will provide comfort and subtle luxuries, but to see the Kurason Island Poolside Butler Bungalows and Awa Seaside Butler Bungalows in person is to realize that love at first sight is real. 

It always comes down to personal preference, though, and there’s no wrong decision here, because every accommodation was designed to spoil. Still, it’s acceptable to be jealous of another guest’s bungalow.

Sandals Royal Curaçao
There’s plenty of ground to cover here, which means guests will always work up an appetite while exploring. Sandals Royal Curaçao

And while the Island Inclusive might be my personal favorite, that’s not to say the new dining options here aren’t great enough to make guests wonder why they’d need to go anywhere else. The resort offers eight restaurants, with seven of them being brand new to Sandals, and Vincent and Aolos are undoubtedly highlights. The clear favorite among guests, though, seemed to be the trio of beachside food trucks that are serving great burgers, mouth-watering bao buns, and mango margaritas so sweet that even golfers want to grab a few to go before they start a round at neighboring Old Quarry.

The cherry on top of the firsts emerging from this resort is the elevated, bi-level Dos Awa Infinity Pool, which was a massive hit based on the number of guests who flocked to it each morning—and rarely left until dinner time. 

A Focus on the Island

plastic soccer goals
Future Goals is a program that involves collecting Curaçao’s plastic waste and turning it into soccer goals and other fun items. Sandals Royal Curaçao

As this “labor of love” came to fruition, Adam and his team never lost focus on the relationship with Curaçao and her people. Sandals notably provides an incredible number of jobs across seven islands, and that will increase as Adam fulfills his goals of covering the four corners of the Caribbean. But he believes there is more to be done, and that’s where the Sandals Foundation excels.

On Curaçao, the brand’s philanthropic effort has teamed with the Netherlands’ AFC Ajax franchise to support and promote Future Goals, an incredible, impressive endeavor that uses a variety of plastic waste, including fishing nets and water and soda bottles, to create soccer goals to be used by local youth teams. Additionally, the crew here also produces retail items like keychains, trophies and medals, and even little sea turtle toys that kids will absolutely love.

Efforts like these hardly get the spotlight they deserve since we’re usually so excited to take a dip in the infinity pool or get a delicious cut of meat at Butch’s Chop House. Chances are most guests will come and go without even learning about what’s being made from trash on Curaçao or how many kids are receiving free dental work in Jamaica, but what matters is it’s happening.

While people danced and toasted champagne as fireworks exploded above the first of its kind bi-level infinity pool, Adam Stewart, undoubtedly grinning ear-to-ear, had to know that this weekend of firsts was living up to every ambitious hope he, his father, and the rest of their family and company had for when this day would inevitably come. It’s only the beginning at Sandals Royal Curaçao, but it’s safe to say that this is the first of many amazing years ahead.

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