Willemstad, Curacao's capital is a UNESCO World Heritage site because of its importance in the slave trade in the 18th and 19th century. Willemstad blossomed in this period, and Willemstad grew rapidly. Over 300 years later these buildings are still there, and in great condition.
Your first look at Curacao across the small channel from the ship is just like looking at a scene somewhere in Amsterdam or any city in the Netherlands. Pastel colored buildings (complete with the hoist towers so common in the Netherlands) line the waterfront and it is hard to believe that you are actually in the deep southern Caribbean almost to South America.
Willemstad is what sets Curacao apart from the rest of the Caribbean islands. Curacao might have many charms to it, but its biggest charm is its beautiful city.
Picture Over the last two decades, Bonaire has consistently ranked as the finest snorkeling and scuba diving destination in the Caribbean. A major reason for this prominence is the island's diligent stewardship of its marine resources -- all of the waters off Bonaire's coast have been legally protected since 1979, and it shows.
But there is plenty more to do here. The unusually steady trade winds that wash over the island create ideal conditions for world-class windsurfing, and the shere beauty of its semi-desert landscape is home to an outlandish assortment of wildlife. Iguanas meditatively toast themselves atop the desert rock formations of Washington Slagbaai, while vast orange-pink clouds of flamingos drift across bone-white salt flats. Divi-divi trees bend into surreal sculptures of the wind itself, and towering cacti stand as reminders of the Caribbean's diverse ecology.
Oranjestad ("Orange City") is the capital and most important city of Aruba located on the southern coast near the western end of the island. The town was built around Fort Zoutman in 1796 and Oranjestad has been the capital of Aruba ever since. The fort is still one of the town's attractions, others being the tax-free harbor and the Willem III Tower, located near the fort. The city is named after the first King Willem van Oranje-Nassau (William of Orange-Nassau), the first heir to the Dutch House of Orange.
Small portions of the city are formed from a series of man-made expansions of land into the sea. Present-day Renaissance Marketplace as well as the adjacent Queen Wilhelmina Park, are within part of this expansion. Dutch colonial architecture is less visible than on neighboring island Curacao, but several modern recreations have emerged, including the outdoor shopping mall at Royal Plaza, and a few scattered buildings along Main Street and on the Main Square. Due to increased government interest in maintaining the island's cultural heritage, a number of old buildings and houses in the center of town have been transformed into colorfully restored landmarks, such as the lime-colored Civil Registry on Wilhelminastraat.
Cartagena, formally known as Cartagena of the Indies, is a large city seaport on the northern coast of Colombia. Founded in 1533 by Don Pedro de Heredia, and named after the port of Cartagena in Spain's Murcia region, it was a major center of early Spanish settlement in the Americas, and continues to be an economic hub as well as a popular tourist destination.
Hot, sultry, filled with the sounds of music and bright with color and tradition, Cartagena has an impressive heritage. Gold and silver left the port bound for Europe, pirates looted the city, and a walled fort grew to protect both shipping and the slave trade.
The walled old town of this fortified Spanish colonial port is a gem. It's packed with churches, monasteries, plazas, palaces and noble mansions with overhanging balconies and shady patios. It pays just to wander through the old town.
Colon (Panama City), Panama
Colón is the sea port city on the Caribbean Sea coast of Panama near the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal. The city is the capital of Panama's Colón Province. The city was founded in 1850 as one end of the Panama Railroad then under construction. For a number of years early in its history, the sizable United States emigré community called the town Aspinwall while the Hispanic community called it "Colón". The name "Colón" is in honor of Christopher Columbus.
Much of the city was burned during a Colombian civil war in 1885, and again in an accidental fire in 1915. In 1900 the population was some 3,000 people. It grew ten-fold with the building of the Panama Canal. In 1953 Colón was made a Free Trade Zone.