I’M ON THE OPENING PAGES of a spy novel, a few sips of local beer left in a plastic cup on the pool deck. My shoulders glisten from sunscreen. The sun will set in a couple of hours. This is our first day on Curaçao, an island of 150,000 people situated a few dozen miles off the coast of Venezuela and part of the so-called ABC islands that include Aruba and Bonaire. A faint, steel drum version of “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” drifts from somewhere.
The 2,000-acre Santa Barbara resort, the largest hotel property here, is stunning. We arrived on this Saturday in December and downshifted to island time—service here really does move at a languid pace—quickly. A holiday show at the Blumenthal one night, toes dug into a Caribbean beach the next afternoon. Not bad, we cackle, over piña coladas by the water.
It’s the kind of scene that makes you exaggerate a big sigh and look at the person next you and say, “This is the life, isn’t it?” I look at Gillian, my girlfriend, who’s engrossed in her own book a few feet away, and utter those exact words, because what else can you say as orange rays filter through palm trees?
THE FOLLOWING MORNING, I throw on a linen shirt, haphazardly fix a couple of buttons, and step out onto the balcony of our suite. I’ve never been an activities person on beach vacations. I prefer qu