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The largest of the three islands, Curacao also has the biggest population and one of the highest standards of living in the Caribbean due to its well-developed oil refining business and other industries. The capital Willemstad, settled in 1634, is the financial and commercial centre of life on the island, as well as a Unesco World Heritage Site, thanks to its well-preserved, cotton-candy-coloured Dutch Colonial architecture and buildings like the Mikve Israel Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in use in the Western Hemisphere. Curacao’s history of slavery can be seen in the countryside’s plantations, and is documented in the fine Kura Hulanda Museum. There are direct and non-stop flights to the island from Miami, Florida, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Newark, New Jersey, as well as direct service from Venezuela and the Netherlands.

The secluded beaches on the western coast of the island, from Willemstad north to Westpunt, are popular for snorkelling and sunbathing. “The island attracts buyers who seek out sun, sea, sand and an overall good quality of life,” said Marielle Goedmakers-Joubert, managing director at Joubert Realty. Currently the market is trending downward slowly, but the popular areas to buy remain near Willemstad and on the water. Generally people want to buy near the financial and commercial areas, and popular developments and central neighbourhoods such as Damacor, Mahaai, Van Engelen, Jan Sofat and the areas of Spanish Water Bay and Jan Thiel Bay. In 2010, the island became an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, gaining more control over its tax revenues and governance. The currency will change from the Netherlands Antillean guilder, known as the florin, to the Caribbean guilder in 2013, but prices are typically quoted in US dollars. A typical two-bed villa is between $250,000 and $450,000 and rentals start at around $1,500 a month.

Live in Curacao: comprehensive travel site with news, events, maps to beaches and list of dive shops

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