Les îles ABC

Vivre sur les îles ABC

Iyna Bort Caruso

Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao, AKA the “ABC Islands,” are off the coast of Venezuela.

The trio of islands is part of the kingdom of the Netherlands, with cultures that mix with West Indian heritage. Dutch is the official language though England and a Creole language called Papiamentu are widely spoken.

Aruba, along with Curacao, is self-governing with its own parliament and prime minister. Located about 15 miles off the Venezuelan coast, the island is 20 miles long by 6 miles wide with Arikok National Park accounting for 20 percent of the land. Aruba benefits from direct flights from many U.S. cities and international capitals. Americans, Dutch and Venezuelans make up a sizeable portion of second-home buyers who come for the white sand beaches and dry, sunny climate. The city of Oranjestad, the capital and the main cruise port, sports a lively scene of casinos, restaurants, markets and nearby golf courses. Many of the best beaches are along this coast. Malmok on the northwestern tip is home to some of the island’s most luxurious properties. Villas here can be found on generously sized parcels, some in gated communities with ocean and golf course views. Nearby Palm Beach is considered one of the island’s top beaches.

Curacao is the biggest island and has the largest population of the ABCs. Its standard of living is one of the highest in the Caribbean due to an economy based on oil refining, financial services and tourism. Curacao’s population of some 150,000 includes people from more than 40 countries. Orange, pink, green and yellow-painted buildings are the unmistakable hallmark of the capital, Willemstad, a UNESCO World Heritage site due to its architecture. Areas near Willemstad as well as those close to the water are sought-after by property buyers. Beyond the city, Curacao has a network of caves, exotic wildlife and popular snorkeling beaches, particularly on the west coast.

Unlike Aruba and Curacao, Bonaire is not autonomous but considered a special municipality, subject to the laws of the Netherlands. It is the most low-key of the trio, drawing people for its outdoor life--especially underwater activities. Divers flock here in droves from around the world. Reefs surround the island--along with a few wrecks. Bonaire’s entire coastline is a designated marine sanctuary. Oceanfront properties are always in demand, especially in west coast communities like Kralendijk, Sabadeco and Belnem.

There are no restrictions on international real estate purchases. The two methods of owning property in the ABC Islands are freehold or land lease in which the government leases out the land, typically for a renewable 60-year period.