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Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort, Curacao 4.5

Willemstad, Curacao

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Review Summary

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Pros

  • Lovely, peaceful white-sand beach with lots of seating
  • Three nice pools overlooking the sea
  • Excellent, upscale rooms with modern bathrooms
  • Beautiful 18-hole, par 72 golf course with ocean views
  • Four restaurants on the property, including the fine-dining Shore Restaurant
  • Nice spa, 24-hour fitness room, and tennis center
  • Ballroom and meeting facilities available
  • All-inclusive option available

Cons

  • Isolated location, not walking distance to other restaurants
  • Main pool deck gets crowded in busy times
  • Extra daily fee for Wi-Fi

Bottom Line

This sprawling, immaculate 350-room luxury resort draws both couples and families with its lovely spa, tennis lessons, kids' camp, and three pools. With an 18-hole golf course and meeting rooms, the hotel is also popular with business and corporate guests. The wide, white-sand beach and protected swimming area are also highlights. Though it enjoys a quiet location with natural beauty, the Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort is far from town and no other restaurants or hotels are anywhere close by. Still, it's easily one of the island's top options -- the Baoase Luxury Resort is nicer, but also significantly pricier, making this a terrific luxury value. 

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Scene

A natural setting for relaxed Caribbean luxury, with many business and corporate guests

Pcituresque gazebo provides unfettered views of the sea and natural landscape

The drive down the dusty, three-mile private road that leads to the Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort passes through a stark, desert-like landscape that is reminiscent of the American southwest. Guests with visions of swaying palm trees and Caribbean beaches need not be alarmed -- as soon as you step through the large, open lobby, the resort opens up to beautiful views of white sand and deep blue sea.

The area surrounding the resort is a 2,000-acre natural preserve, which provides many hiking and mountain biking trails and is full of wildlife. Historically, it used to be an old plantation that grew a variety of crops. The land also contains a still-active quarry, from which the resort’s 18-hole golf course derives its name, the Old Quarry Golf Course, and from which the quartz floors, bathrooms and sculptures around the grounds of the resort are sourced. The property itself is formerly the site of a Hyatt, and reopened as the Santa Barbara in 2010 after being bought by Benchmark Resorts & Hotels. The result is a sprawling 350-room hotel and golf course that is a prime example of relaxed luxury, where everything feels natural and breezy.

The spacious, open-air lobby features a large decorative chandelier, natural tones of taupe accented by dark orange, and rustic-chic decorations incorporating seashells and wood accents. On the lobby’s veranda, there are swaying rocking chairs with views facing out to the pool and sea. Around the edge of the property, guests will find a romantic ocean walkway and picturesque gazebo. While there are a variety of family-friendly activities on the resort -- such as tennis, water sports, kids' camp, and three pools -- the hotel is very popular with business travelers. In fact, at most times the hotel is generally booked with at least 50 percent business and corporate clients. With four restaurants, live music, and other entertainment nightly, the atmosphere is lively. There are all-inclusive packages available, which is not as common in Curacao as on some other Caribbean islands (though the slightly less luxurious Renaissance Curacao and Curacao Marriott Beach do as well, for those interested in comparing rates). The hotel is far from town and there are no other bar or restaurants close by, so a car or taxi is needed to get anywhere outside of the resort.

Location

Isolated location on a former plantation, 30 minutes from town

Map of Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort, Curacao

The Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort is located near the town of Newport, on the far southeast side of the island. It is down a long private road on a 2,000-acre property that used to be a plantation. Now most of the landscape is dry and desert-like, with good hiking and bike paths available though there is little shade. The resort itself sits on a small, partially man-made white-sand beach that is on a protected inlet that leads into the Spanish Water harbor. There are no other hotels in the area, and the nearest restaurant is at least 20 minutes away by car.

While the resort's location provides peace and quiet and natural beauty, it is very isolated. Guests will need a car or taxi to reach town or any outside dining or shopping. The resort provides shuttles to downtown Willemstad or to the Jan Thiel beach area, but the fees make a rental car appealing. It's about a 30-minute drive to town and about 40 minutes to the airport.

Rooms

Warm, modern rooms with updated technology and stylish bathrooms

Neutral tones and warm decor in the Premium Waterview King Room

The 350 rooms spread over the large property at Santa Barbara include 15 suites and several ocean-view options. The luxurious, modern rooms contain quartz floors, counters, and table tops sourced from the nearby quarry. The warm decor features medium-wood furniture, calming neutral tones such as beige, and accents in burnt orange.

All rooms include up-to-date technology such as iPod stereos and flat-screen TVs, as well as coffee and tea facilities and mini-fridges. However, even for guests on an all-inclusive package, the fridges are not stocked. All rooms offer a nice deck or patio with comfortable chairs. The hotel provides turndown service in the evenings, if desired. The swanky bathrooms are updated with nice tile and bathtubs. Shampoo, conditioner, and body wash are found in dispensers mounted to the wall of the shower, which is described by the hotel as an eco-friendly measure. There is an extra daily fee for Wi-Fi.

Features

A great golf course and heaps of activities

The Pete Dye-designed Old Quarry Golf Course has 18-holes and ocean views

Guests won’t be at a loss for activities here. The Old Quarry Golf Course, a beautiful 72-par, 18-hole course designed by Pete Dye, features some holes that run alongside the edge of the ocean. The tennis center includes four courts, lessons from an on-site pro, and a small shop. There is an on-site marina for guests arriving by sea, and a dive shop offering a variety of water sports. There is an excellent gym with a variety of new LifeFitness machines and a beautiful spa and salon, but no sauna or steam room. A few small boutique shops sell women’s bathing suits and mens and women’s designer clothes. There is a kids' club with lots of outdoor activities, for an extra charge. Other organized activities include yoga, bingo, and volleyball.

Beach

A spacious, tranquil white-sand beach with a protected swimming area

The man-made swimming lagoon is perfect for kids

The hotel’s lovely white-sand beach is a highlight of the property, and known to be one of the largest beaches on Curacao. There are generally ample lounge chairs available, and plenty of shady spots spanning the length of the tranquil sandy coast. There is a man-made rock jetty built to protect the swimming area from the choppy waters, creating a calm little swimming lagoon which is great for kids. In addition to scuba diving trips, water sports can be arranged from the dive shop, including kayaks, snorkeling and stand-up paddleboards, for a fee. There is beachside service (which reportedly can be quite slow) and a small bar for frozen refreshments. A small barbecue grill serves up lunchtime items during the day.

Pools

A chic main pool and a pool by the suites, both with ocean views

Ocean views from the chic main pool

The lovely ocean-view main pool area contains two pools -- a medium-sized rectangular pool and a large free-form pool with shallow terrace areas that allow guests to sit in lounge chairs in the water. There is also a fountain area that kids will love. Many lounge chairs and seating is provided -- but umbrellas and shaded areas fill up fast, and in busy season the pool can get crowded. Poolside cabanas can be reserved for an extra fee. A third, smaller pool located by the suites (also with ocean views) is lesser known, quieter, and blissfully uncrowded.

Food

An excellent fine dining restaurant and an optional all-inclusive package

Fine dining and sea views at reservation-only Shore Restaurant

The culinary highlight of the resort is the Shore Restaurant, a reservations-only fine dining option that faces out toward the golf course with great views of the sea. Medi is the main restaurant, often bustling, and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffet-style. Splash Bar is a popular poolside bar that serves light, island-style fare for lunch and dinner. The hotel holds a pop-up sushi bar most evenings in the lobby -- it's not an actual restaurant, but a makeshift bar, and guests gather in the comfortable lobby seating areas. The property also includes a small Italian restaurant and gelato shop, and a casual waterfront bar and grill, both which are separately owned. Most evenings there is live music in the main courtyard. An all-inclusive package is available and worth considering, given the isolated location; it includes all meals at Medi and the pool bar; select beers, house wines, and cocktails; one dinner at Shore Restaurant per seven-night stay; and discounts for Jun's Sushi, room service, and the spa. 

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Address

Santa Barbara Plantation, Porta Blancu, Nieuwpoort, Caribbean

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