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Take a short flight to Curaçao, a tropical paradise beneath the hurricane belt where the skies are blue, the sea is beckoning, and the weather is perennially warm and placid.

“Are you ready? 1.. 2.. 3.. NOW!” our diving instructor shouted as the eight of us took a deep breath and swam beneath the waves that roared and crashed above our heads onto the walls of the doorway to the underwater cave. I bear in mind thinking as I swam: How a lot farther till we will come up for air? What occurs if I come up too soon? What if there is a shark swimming round in there?

Ten seconds later, these fleeting ideas disappeared as I noticed my fellow swimmers shooting to the surface, laughing, and saying this was one of the craziest things they’d ever done. I could not agree more.

The sight earlier than us was virtually psychedelic. We had entered an underwater cave named the Blue Room, appropriately dubbed for the different hues that surrounded us because the light reverberated across the chamber, bounced off the partitions, and illuminated the water below. We took turns snapping silly underwater photos of one another on somebody’s GoPro digicam as we explored the cave and swam across the coral reef that lay 20 ft below.

One thing I am going to say about Curaçao: You’re in for a real deal with in the event you’re willing to push the boundaries of your comfort zone. Slightly off the beaten path and throroughly gorgeous, this Dutch Caribbean island paradise is positioned within the southern Caribbean safely beneath the hurricane belt, making certain a warm, tropical local weather curacao all inclusive resorts year long. The most effective half: It is super-affordable.

Wander through colorful, dreamlike Willemstad

The multi-hued Dutch buildings that line St. Anna Bay in Willemstad are so quaint and picturesque, they’re like a 3-D submitcard. Take your perfect, trip-defining picture with the large CURAÇAO and DUSHI signs in Queen Wilhelmina Park, the Dutch Caribbean counterpart to the famous “I Amsterdam” signs in Europe. Visit the Queen Emma Bridge, a pontoon bridge that locals call the Swinging Old Lady because it swivels open and runs parallel to the land to allow boats to pass by. Watch for the flags and clear the bridge when the alarm sounds to keep away from being trapped on the bridge until it closes once more, or catch a free ferry nearby to get to the opposite side if you happen to’re all of the sudden caught throughout the water.

Eat island cuisine proper alongsideside the locals

You’re certain to work up an urge for food walking round downtown Willemstad. Stop by the Old Market, or Marsche Bieuw, for a style of island cuisine with beneficiant parts and affordable prices. Sit among the locals in this first-come-first-served cafeteria-like setting and sample native favorites like fried plantains, stobá (stew), funchi (polenta), and pumpkin pancakes, and wash it all down with a deliciously fruity batido smoothie ($7 for a plate with stobá, funchi, fried plantains, beans, and rice; three pumpkin pancakes for $1; batidos are $three each). In the event you’re into steak and seafood, check out The Grill King in downtown Willemstad, recognized for its grilled surf and turf dishes and overwater dining (entrées from $20), or for a bit of nice eating, try the St. Tropez Oceanclub within the stylish Pietermaai district, the place you can feast on dishes like salmon sashimi tapas in a swanky club-like ambiance while a lounge singer roams the crowd belting out everything from Whitney Houston to Katy Perry (tapas from $7, entrées from $29).