Named one of the best small luxury hotels in the world, Hotel Kura Hulanda in Curacao must live up to high expectations.
Spread across several city blocks in the Otrobanda district in Curacao’s colorful capital city, Willemstad, the hotel is more reminiscent of a small village than an actual hotel. It is no brick-and-mortar building with numbered doors lining nondescript hallways. In 1998, this part of Willemstad was crumbling to pieces and was considered a rather shady section of the city. The owner of Hotel Kura Hulanda saw promise in the area, though, and began to buy up buildings in the neighborhood. Two years later, the hotel opened as a luxury property with 80 suites, a full-service spa and fitness center, several dining establishments, shops and two pools.
What used to act as roads are now cobblestone pedestrian walkways and performance squares. At night, pool decks become restaurants. Former homes are now luxury suites. Staying at Hotel Kura Hulanda is like visiting a small village.
Because the hotel is located in the heart of the city, it is not on the beach. The company also owns a lodge on the beach on the eastern side of the island, and there is shuttle service between the two properties several times during the day, which allows guests at Hotel Kura Hulanda to check out a much lusher and “Caribbean” environment free of charge. The hotel also has an agreement with the Blue Bay Golf Resort, and guests can enjoy the beach there free of charge as well, which includes complimentary chairs.
It’s important to let you know I won a three-night stay at the hotel at a conference, so I did not pay for my stay, nor am I under any obligation to write about it. Upon arrival, we were upgraded to a spa suite, which was a large, two-story condo with fine wood furniture and a massive marble bathroom that had a gigantic spa tub and shower. A loft overlooking the sitting area below served as the bedroom, which was ridiculously comfortable. Air conditioning units on both floors allowed us to control the temperature to our comfort.
We enjoyed a complimentary dinner at Jaipur, the on-site Indian and Asian restaurant, which was delicious. The food was hot and flavorful, and the wait staff was attentive and efficient. Prices were on par with what is charged throughout the city. Jacob’s Bar serves cocktails and coffee on the main square (and under canopies, should it rain), which we enjoyed one evening while listening to a live performer sing and play the saxophone.
In the morning, there is a breakfast buffet served in the Astrolab Observatory. The buffet, which consists of basic pastries, fruit and a few standard breakfast items, is grossly overpriced for the quality and selection. I recommend you eat breakfast elsewhere in Willemstad.
This is the part of the review where I have to admit that, though Hotel Kura Hulanda is beautiful and memorable with an impressive history, it did not live up to my expectations. There was no explanation of what amenities or facilities were available to me during my stay when I checked in, and, after receiving a letter on my bedside table that outlined what I was and wasn’t entitled to utilize, there were several staff members who told me I wasn’t allowed to take advantage of the benefits outlined in the letter. Overall, the service lacked the courtesy generally found at luxury properties.
My husband and I very much enjoyed indulging in the fancy spa suite we stayed in, but, again, there were a few things that were troubling. Knowing that the buildings are quite old, there were bound to be a few idiosyncrasies that were more quaint than problematic, such as our front door, which was very difficult to close until one of the maintenance men at the property spent time working on it (this was very much appreciated and I wish I knew who did it so I could have properly thanked him).
Beyond that, though, there was an ant problem in our suite, a few of the jets in the spa didn’t work and my husband had to clean a hair clot out of the shower so that it would drain. We received turndown service one of the three nights we stayed at Hotel Kura Hulanda, so I’m not sure if that’s a standard service or not. At the very least, it is inconsistent.
There’s no doubt about it: Hotel Kura Hulanda is very unique in its presentation, and, in comparison to other sub-par properties in the city, it is worth noting those things that make it special. Should I return in the future, however, I would like to see the service and accommodation details live up to those usually used to define a luxury property.