The Netherlands Antilles is a former (until October 10, 2010) autonomy within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, which geographically consisted of two island groups in the Lesser Antilles archipelago in the Caribbean Sea. The group of three large islands of Aruba, Curaçao, and Bonaire is located in the southern part of the Lesser Antilles archipelago, off the coast of Venezuela. A group of three smaller islands, St. Maarten, St. Eustatius and Saba, is located in the north of the archipelago, about 1000 km from the main islands. St. Eustatius has maritime borders with St. Kitts and Nevis to the east, St. Maarten is bordered by land by the French overseas community of St. Maarten to the north, by sea with the British overseas territory of Anguilla to the southwest, and by sea with the French overseas community of St. Barthelemy to the southeast.
Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, the Paradise Islands, are the name given to these three flat islands of limestone cliffs surrounded by coral reefs. The three islands as a whole are home to about 250,000 people, most of whom are black and mulatto. They use a Creole language called Papiamento (formally the national language is Dutch). The dominant religion is Christianity, which is practiced by 99% of the inhabitants. The legal tender is the Antilles guilder (ANG) on Curaçao and Bonaire, and the Aruba florin (AWG) on Aruba.
In general terms the islands are very similar, they have almost everything in common: geological origin, social structure, economy, culture, common past. However, despite the similarities, each island has retained its own identity.
Among them, ARUBA is the main tourist center. Aruba’s west coast has been particularly influenced by mass tourism: bustling beaches, hotel-filled promenades with restaurants, casinos and crowded piers stretch for miles. Tourists of all ages come here to rest, but invariably the well-to-do. The island has more than 40 places with excellent conditions for diving and snorkeling (in some places visibility reaches 50 meters), and the constant strong winds and a variety of waves have made Aruba popular with fans of wind and kitesurfing. The spirit of the Caribbean islands on Aruba is preserved only in the cactus-covered, dry and barren kunuku, the Papiamento term for the area in the rocks, where the indigenous population of the island lived. There are very few such places left in Aruba.
In contrast, Bonaire, an island of salt, petroglyphs and flamingos, offers its immense azure waters. It is here one of the most beautiful places in the Caribbean where you can see the colorful and diverse underwater world of coral reefs. Diving or hiking the trails of Washington Slagbay National Park amidst unspoiled nature, visiting picturesque villages and towns is an authentic Caribbean experience. Bonaire’s unique underwater world makes the island an ideal tourist destination for diving, snorkeling and windsurfing. Although the island is more focused on a quiet and relaxing holiday, adventure-seekers and fans of outdoor activities will also find something to their liking here.
The largest and most important of the islands, CURASAO, is fascinating with its scenery and orange liquor. The development of this island, more than the other two, was determined by industry and politics. It is here that the capital of the former Netherlands Antilles, the seat of government and parliament, Willemstad, is located. The effects of colonial times are particularly evident on Curaçao. They can be seen in the former plantation houses, now converted into hotels, inns or museums. Curacao also has beautiful white sand beaches in secluded little coves and is considered one of the best diving spots in the Caribbean. On the island, it is a must to visit one of the local bars and order a glass of the wonderful drink of the same name, which can be different colors: blue, green, blue-green and orange.