Romantic, luxurious and unpretentious, Sandals Royal Curaçao is the ultimate couple’s destination. Every detail is taken care of with the resort’s generous all-inclusive packages meaning you can leave all your stresses (and wallet) at home.
Beautiful pools and manicured grounds
Spacious, contemporary rooms
Upscale dining and free-flowing cocktails included in all packages
Higher price point
Transport links to Willemstad are limited
Not for single people or families
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Sandals resorts are synonymous with romance, from the chain's extravagant wedding packages right through to every small detail, like the heart-shaped pool in their newest Curaçao resort. So if you're planning a romantic break, they're the market leaders in facilitating just that.
We headed to the chain's newest resort on the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao to see what it's really like staying at one of their all-inclusive, couples resorts.
With its crystal clear waters, vibrant UNESCO-listed capital, Willemstad, diverse cultural heritage, and year-round sun, Curaçao ostensibly feels like an obvious holiday destination but for some reason, it often gets overlooked in favor of its neighbors Aruba and Bonaire. Deputy digital editor Anna Paul explains why it's well worth a visit - and delves into the details of Sandals' latest offering.
w&h's Sandals Royal Curaçao review
Whether you're celebrating an anniversary, eloping, renewing your vows or just wanting to celebrate your love, Sandals is the place to do it. But location is important too as no matter how good the resort and facilities are, when you travel across the world you really want to see the place you're staying in. We've broken down all you need to know about Sandals, and Curaçao itself.
Located 15 miles away from Curaçao International Airport, the 44-acre resort is located within the island’s 3,000-acre Santa Barbara estate. Its west-facing location on the southernmost tip of the island means that you can see the distant mountains of Venezuela from the resort on clear days. Crucially, this location also means that it’s the perfect vantage point to soak in one of the Caribbean’s most spectacular sunsets. The unique location means it is also a resort of contrasts; the vast, rugged, and arid terrain of the resort provides a striking contrast to the lush grass, verdant greenery and turquoise pools within.
Facilities and services
The resort offers a variety of watersports, all included as part of any package. These include kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling, hobie-cat sailing and scuba diving (for anyone with the necessary certification). I was initially trepidatious about trying the watersports as I’m a rookie with a snorkel but the staff were more than happy to give me a quick training session and kept a watchful eye on me out on the water. If you can’t swim or prefer not to be out in the open water, there is also a range of land sports available including volleyball, cricket, tennis or table tennis, as well as a fully-fitted indoor gym and a program of classes. There’s a packed entertainment schedule every day too that pits couples against one another if you enjoy a bit of competition.
For an extra cost, guests can check into the Red Lane Spa where they can book a range of treatments including a range of massages, body treatments, facials as well as make-up and nail services. With romance at the forefront of everything on the resort, it’s no surprise that the spa also offers a range of couples’ treatments, including twilight massages and candle massages. Treatments can take place indoors or for a full sensory experience, massages can be conducted in shaded booths on the resort’s beach or tropical gardens. The spa uses Sandals’ trademarked Red Lane body collection products, a range of luxuriously-scented balms, butters, oils and serums that use botanicals from the West Indies.
Sandals is known for its iconic and Insta-worthy infinity pools and its Curaçao resort is no different. In fact, it even boasts the chain’s first double infinity pool, the Dos Awa Infinity Pool which is located at the heart of the resort. This expansive, dual-level pool overlooks and blends into the sparkling Spanish Waters, providing impressive panoramic views and a dreamy vantage point to take in the sunset. The swim-up bar serves stiff, well-mixed cocktails (both on the menu and on-demand) and there's day-to-night entertainment. This is definitely the busiest pool in the resort so we’d recommend claiming a lounger in the morning before they fill up. It’s worth noting that when we visited the resort, it was at near-capacity, but it crucially never feels ‘full' - everything is spacious, and that extends to the pools.
While the infinity pool is undoubtedly the star of the show, we personally liked whiling away the afternoon on the resort’s white-sand beach which was quieter with no music or entertainment. Elsewhere, the resort has a designated ‘quiet’ pool (but it does play host to couple’s volleyball at designated times), as well as several private pools, depending on the room you book. Regardless of which pool you go to, sampling a potent cocktail with the island's ubiquitous sweet Blue Curaçao liqueur is mandatory.
The resort has 351 rooms in total, encompassing 24 different room options across four categories - Butler, Club and Luxury levels, as well as the resort’s deeply luxurious ‘Love Nest’ Butler Suite level. We stayed at the Sunchi Luxury Beachfront room, which was the smallest option. Not that it felt like it, with a luxurious King-sized bed, roomy walk-in shower and spacious balcony as well as a fully-stocked wet bar and wide-screen television.
If you want to upgrade, there's a range of Club and Butler rooms to choose from, some of which feature private swim-up pools and outdoor soaking tubs, as well as chic and spacious interiors. As the name suggests, the Butler level rooms come with their own Butler Elite service and 24/7 room service. Some suites even feature their own infinity pool.
Before booking, consider what sort of holiday you want. If you plan to spend the days on excursions or at the beach or communal areas, the Luxury level is more than ample, but if you plan to spend most of your time in your own space and really want to push the boat out, it’s worth considering the upper tiers which from Club level also include in-room dining from 7am - 10pm with access to the Club Sandals Concierge service and a spirit bar in your room. Guests staying at the top two Love Nest top Butler levels also have access to the resort’s branded Mini Coopers for four hours of one day of stay if they want to venture around the island.
Finally, we’d recommend checking out the map of the resort before booking your room. Our room was located by the beach which suited us well and meant that within a few minutes of leaving our room we’d be dipping our toes in the water. It did also mean that the sounds of the evening entertainment sometimes drifted up to our balconies in the evening. This was enjoyable rather than irksome but if you want to be truly secluded, there are rooms that offer that.
One of the great pleasures of booking all-inclusive is that food and drink are in abundance. The downside of this is that at times, even the best of resorts end up favoring quantity over quality and the food doesn’t always match up to other facilities. That’s not the case at Sandals, where the resort’s 11 dining options deliver a genuinely brilliant dining experience.
Sandals stalwarts can find resort favorites here, like Butch’s chophouse, but there are also a few new concepts specific to this resort, as well as three food trucks serving Spanish, Asian fusion and local fare. The on-resort restaurants are:
- Butch’s Island Chop House: Hearty, well-cooked steaks in a classic setting. This was probably our favorite and it seems we weren’t alone as it does fill up - so book your table in advance
- Zuka: New to the resort, this lively restaurant serves cuisine from Central and South America, together with an interesting range of pisco cocktails
- Strand Seafood House: Perched on the beach, this restaurant serves fresh fish and seafood by candlelight
- Vincent: Named after the famous Dutch painter, Vincent van Gogh, this restaurant serves up European-fusion dishes. This is another one to book in advance
- Pietra: Come here for Italian food, served all throughout the day. This was our go-to spot for a buffet breakfast and made-to-order pizzas
- Gatsu: Skillfully prepared sushi in a relaxed setting
- Aolos: Mediterranean fare in a breezy setting with a stunning beach view
- Kanaal: Our regular pit-stop for freshly ground coffees, pastries and light snacks. It also hosts a cheese and wine club at night.
Guests staying for seven nights or more at a Butler suite at Sandals Royal Curaçao are also given a $250 voucher to dine off-site at one of the island’s qualifying eight restaurants along with a round-trip transfer. We loved this scheme for two reasons; not only does it support local businesses, but it encourages guests to experience the local culture and cuisine which is an interesting blend of Dutch, Caribbean, Latin and Creole influences. We headed to Willemstad and dined at Nultwintig where we enjoyed artfully prepared dishes and well-mixed cocktails in a candle-lit backyard with tables and hammocks overlooking the ocean.
Find out more about the Island Inclusive dining program on the Sandals website.
What is there to do in Curaçao?
Our first stop was the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Willemstad, located a 25-minute drive from the resort.
With its vibrant colored Dutch colonial architecture, the lively capital feels like a European city transplanted into the Caribbean, carrying architectural, linguistic and cultural elements from both. As a former Dutch colony, the dominant style of the city's buildings is derived from Dutch seventeenth-century architecture, but the rainbow-colored hues give them a distinctly Curaçaoan feel. It wasn't always this way. Rumor has it that the once-white buildings were apparently painted in the vibrant tones we see today because former governor Albert Kikkert complained that the bright white buildings reflected the sun's glare, giving him a headache - so he ordered them to be painted in colors. It later emerged that he had stakes in the local paint factory. Kikkert died in 1819 but the vibrant colors remain to this day.
We recommend booking a walking tour (https://www.dundutours.com/nl/) to get a real insight into the history of the city, and stop at Plasa Bieu for lunch, the Old Market favored by locals. If you're feeling adventurous, try the iguana soup but otherwise, there are loaded plates of hearty stews being served from an array of market stalls. We finished ours off with a glass of sweet-but-tangy Tamarind juice.
If that piques your interest in the culinary scene of the island, book a cooking class with chef and author Helmi Smeulders (https://helmismeulders.com/cooking-class/, $99 pp). Here, we made a masterfully curated menu of local dishes including Lionfish ceviche, shredded coconut chicken bites, polenta fries and a range of vibrant, fresh salads. Afterwards, we sat down to eat our dishes in Helmi's courtyard, washed down with a few glasses of well-deserved wine.
Another highlight was our trip to Klein Curaçao, a small uninhabited island 10km southeast of the main island. Accessible via various operators (we used Island Routes from $138 pp), the small island takes around 1.5-2 hours to reach from the resort via a catamaran. The ride was a little bumpy so if you're nervous on a boat, it's worth checking the weather forecast beforehand - though we personally enjoyed the drift. Once you've reached your destination, you'll be met with picture-perfect powder-white sands and sparkling turquoise seas with a rich underwater world, ideal for snorkeling.
Sandals Royal Curaçao: Final verdict
If you're looking for a low-stress, luxurious trip with a loved one, we'd wholeheartedly recommend Sandals Royal Curaçao. Yes it's expensive, but you get what you pay for, with the resort's seemingly endless dining options, cocktail bars, clear pools and palatial rooms. They have a strict no-tipping policy so you could literally spend your whole stay there without opening your wallet. However, it would be a real waste to do so and we'd also highly recommend getting out of the resort; we loved Willemstad with its bright colonial buildings, buzzing markets and fascinating (if uncomfortable) history. Jumping on a boat to Klein Curaçao was another highlight.
If we could round up our experience in a phrase? We'd describe it as 'Dushi' - the dynamic Papiamentu word used to mean a multitude of sweet sentiments. One local described it as meaning 'sweet or nice' while another said it's often used to mean 'sexy.' Someone else said it simply means 'good.' Basically, we'd conjure up all the positive phrases we can to describe our trip.
Sandals Royal Curaçao: Prices and how to book
A seven-night stay for two people at Sandals Royal Curaçao staying in a Sunchi Luxury Beachfront room starts from £3,285 per person on an all-inclusive basis with unlimited a la carte dining, unlimited drinks, water sports (including up to two scuba dives a day for certified divers). This price includes return economy class flights with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines from London via Amsterdam. To book, visit www.sandals.co.uk or call 0800 597 0002. If you're based in the US, head to sandals.com for up-to-date pricing.
A seven-night stay in the Kurason Island Poolside Butler Bungalow with Patio Tranquility Soaking Tub costs from £6,529 per person, inclusive of 24/7 butler service. These are already sold out for 2023, but bookings are open for 2024.
Sandals Royal Curaçao: Key information
Currency: Either the local currency, the Antillean guilder (ANG), or US dollars (USD). We found USD to be preferable on-site.
Best time to travel? Peak season is typically December - April, but Curaçaoa enjoys year-long sunshine is is located outside of the hurricane belt so it can really be visited at any time
Family-friendly? Adult couples only
Is spa use included? No, this comes at an extra cost
Is there free WiFi? Yes
Are airport transfers included? Yes - taxi transfers take approximately 40 minutes
For more information visit Sandals Royal Curaçao
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Anna is an editor and journalist, specializing in SEO and digital content production. First carving her career in communications and advertising agencies in Berlin and Barcelona, Anna's former life saw her work for film studios and inside a fashion house, before she moved to Metro.co.uk where her career highlights include heading up the SEO desk during the Covid-19 pandemic. Anna's published work ranges from culture and films to human interest features and live news coverage.
In her spare time, she enjoys watching movies, discovering the next big thing in music, traveling, online shopping, and poring over poetry and magazines. When she's not consuming those things, she's probably writing about them.
Originally from Glasgow, Anna has lived in Berlin, Barcelona, and London, not to mention stints in Guernsey and Athens. When she's not struggling to navigate a new language, she's always chasing the next hot trend and perfect black dress (you can never have too many).
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