There is nothing like a bike to lure the gal to a luxury hotel, and it was quite tempting, at Santa Barbara Beach and Golf Resort, on Curaçao, to have a pedal, but sadly there was not time. Silver Cloud was only in town, or rather Willemstad harbour, for a few hours, and there was much to see.
The eager-beaver executive who arranged my trip to this Preferred beauty was Mauricio Almonacid, a Colombian with a PhD in marketing from Leeds – and he had every minute planned. He knew there was limited time, both for him and his visitors, and a full house meant the entire 350-room hotel was buzzing.
Next came a tour of the 27 acres of grounds, by golf buggy. When Jack Marshall, President of Vida Group, started planning this entire giant complex he took more than a little inspiration from Pebble Beach in California, which, like here, has a Spanish Bay – Marshall had been involved in the masterplans both of Pebble Beach and Lana’i, Hawaii. Vida Group then sold this complex, here on Curaçao, to the Smeets family, who had started the Curaçao International Trust Company (CITCO) in 1939 to help Dutch nationals expatriate their wealth – CITCO is today the leading fund administrator here. I am sure all business partners want to come to visit. Look at the sheer beauty of the terrain and ocean, with perfect grass, cactus plants and sharply tilted windblown divi divi tree.
Santa Barbara’s Pete Dye golf course is par-72, 7,200 yards, and has some of the most difficult, and public, holes imaginable. You might have to drive right over water, or a road, or round a steep bend. Some staying at the 350-room resort want to be so near the golf they book the Sea Traditions Enclave, a separate blocks – 14 rooms and four suites, with a shared private pool, and butler – right next to the golf course’s first hole (the Sea Traditions Enclave, by the way, is ideal for executive retreats, or for weddings or family parties, in which case you get such specials as a catamaran cocktail cruise for your group, and a two-hour photo shoot with a professional photographer).
The sheer expanse of this luxury hotel is breathtaking. Since the typical guests stay here two weeks, there must be plenty for them to do, say lunchtime snorkel expeditions on Tuesday and Thursday, sunset sails on Wednesdays and sunset dinner cruises Fridays, with bespoke dive trips at any time. Some also want to visit the Genuine Curaçao Liqueur factory, a reminder that the famous drink is made here from dried peel of Valencia oranges, first introduced by the Spanish back in 1499.