A Caribbean escape to the depths

klein-curacao-web.jpgEven though we’re in the midst of the warmest winter ever here in the Northeast U.S., it’s still winter, with short days and gray skies, and it’s easy to start daydreaming about escape to a tropical beach.

A pal of mine who is also a travel writer recently checked out Curacao, part of the Netherlands Antilles island chain in the Caribbean. It offers all the usual attractions… sun and sand, nightclubs and restaurants… amid a European ambience. But the diving is the real eco-attraction here. The island has 40 different dive areas, some accessible from shore, with shipwrecks, reefs, a submerged airplane, a sponge forest, and lots more. Scuba is the way to go, but plenty of options for snorkelers too.

If scuba appeals, but you’ve never tried it, check out PADI for info about how to get certified. You can do it in three or four days, if you take a full-time course, or spread it over a few weeks in small doses. For more advice and FAQs, go to about.com.

lionsdivegarden.jpgMy travelling friend, Bob Curley, stayed at the Lions Dive & Beach Resort, which he says is perfectly located near the National Curacao Underwater Park, a PADI dive center, the Curacao Sea Aquarium and the Dolphin Academy. You can also rent mountain bikes there.

“Rooms and dining are a good value for the money, but don’t expect the Ritz, and Americans will need to chill out and take the resort’s Euro-centric amenities and attitude in stride,” says Bob. “If you’re looking for an active vacation in Curacao, this is definitely the place to stay.” The resort Web site says it works to maintain “the highest possible environmental standards.” It follows a policy of saving water, saving energy, monitoring waste and wastewater and “bringing nature to your hotel rooms’ doorstep.”