Curaçao’s Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort

Poolside at the resort.
Poolside at the resort.

Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort (SBBGR) lies southeast of Willemstad, the capital of 40-mile-long Curaçao. As one of the Dutch ABC islands, Curaçao offers excellent diving and fair skies, even in summer and autumn. Its sophisticated capital is a UNESCO World Heritage site, its northeast coast features seascapes more dramatic than a Winslow Homer painting, and the interior evokes the Arizona desert of cowboy movies. Curaçao also accommodates pink flamingos, fish-covered reefs accessible to snorkelers as well as divers, and a research submarine that explores the twilight zone below 200 ft.

Approaching the 350-room resort, you pass through arid, unspoiled wilderness until Spanish Colonial-style villas and a marina appear, and when the road swings around you land in front of SBBGR’s main building, with its open-air lobby, restaurants, and meeting rooms. On the sea side of this reception area families, couples, and meeting attendees lounge around large pools. To the right of the lobby are the spa-and-fitness center and a chain of rooms facing a long beach. To the left of the lobby are more guestrooms, the golf club, the Shore restaurant, and the Sea Traditions rooms.

I stayed in a Sea Traditions room, a 410-sq.-ft. refuge with earth-tone furnishings, antique maps on the walls, a patio with views of a pool and a seaside fairway, and binoculars with which I watched a hawk and other birds without leaving my seat.

The Atabei Spa beckoned. I lean toward the espresso mud wrap, but other options range from a 15-minute scalp massage to Awaken, a 5.5-hour Atabei Journey. Golf is another big draw here: Old Quarry Golf Course boasts a splendid Pete Dye layout that winds between the sea and a towering mesa. “I only planned on playing one round,” G Magazine publisher Bobby Harris told me, “but I had to go back and play some more.” The 4-court, night-lit Tafelberg Tennis Oasis rocks, too: It’s the only facility in the Caribbean with four HydroGrid clay tennis courts, and it’s run by Peter Burwash Int’l.

The Ocean Encounters dive shop offers all levels of instruction and dive trips. For non-divers, the 4-hour Discover Scuba course is an eye-opener that costs just $99 when booked in advance. Ocean Encounters also rents out kayaks, paddleboards, and snorkeling equipment, but SBBGR’s beach is not really about water toys. A boardwalk-like pier encloses the shallows, so guests can’t sail out on a Hobie-Cat or windsurfer. The hotel can arrange fishing and sailing trips on motorized craft.

Other recreation options include guided hikes and walks on the resort’s trails, bike rentals, iguana feedings, birding, and Pilates classes. Children ages 3-12 may attend Camp Arawak.

I view eating as recreation, so at Jun’s Sushi Bar outdoor patio/lounge I enjoyed both traditional sushi and updated inventions like coconut tempura shrimp roll with cream cheese (three thumbs up). Guests at poolside can order fresh salads, chicken wings, and other goodies from Splash Pool Bar & Grill’s wandering servers. Medi Restaurant offers pizzas as well as entrees. Shore, in addition to serving seafood (of course!), offers sublime meat entrees such as tenderloin on basmati rice with peach bourbon barbecue sauce.

Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort.
Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort.

rooms, rates and agent incentives
“The hotel is ‘front-loaded,’ so all rooms face oceanside,” says John M. MacMullen, director of sales and marketing. Rooms also feature iPod docking stations, plush robes, private terraces, 110V outlets, coffee makers, and refrigerators. My only complaint about my Sea Traditions room (from $209) was its distance from the reception area and beach, but that seclusion would be a plus for a business or family group, and golfers might like Sea Traditions’ proximity to the clubhouse.

The least expensive accommodations, the 410-sq.-ft. Resort View rooms, start at $146.30; guests in the ground-floor Partial View rooms (from $160.30) can walk out onto the sand. Fifteen suites offer guests options for private gatherings with friends/family, and other guestrooms can be joined. “Pricing for the all-inclusive option fluctuates based on availability, but $150 pp is about the equivalent charge,” says MacMullen.

“We have a special $99 room fee for travel agents. We also offer upgrades, amenities, and early check-in or late check-out with most of our consortia agreements,” adds MacMullen. “Agents are a valuable extension to our sales force. They have the pulse of the vacationing traveler—they know what that traveler needs and how the resort should fulfill those needs for the perfect experience.”

Don’t miss Curaçao: Sightseeing Tips for info on what to see and do.

Archived related articles (available on recommend.com/magazine/issue-archive):
Carlisle Bay, Antigua (February 2014)

contact information
Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort: (855) 590-2266; santabarbararesortcuracao.com or santabarbararesortcuracao.com/travel_professionals