A view along the coast at Willemstad

Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, The ABC Islands - in a Nutshell

Author: Sue
Date: 28th January 2019

Which Continent are the ABC Islands In?

The ABC Islands are the three western-most islands of the Leeward Antilles in the Caribbean Sea. They are located less than one hundred miles north-west of Falcón State, Venezuela and, as such, are generally considered to be the only Caribbean Islands that are part of South America.

Who Do the ABC Islands Belong To?

Aruba and Curacao are both constituent parts of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The other two countries in the kingdom are the Netherlands and Saint Maarten. So, the nationality of the citizens of the ABC islands is Dutch, but the islands are not a part of the European Union.

Bonaire is one of the three Dutch BES Islands in the Caribbean, along with Sint Eustatius and Saba. Bonaire was part of the Netherlands Antilles until the country's dissolution in 2010, when the island became a special municipality within the country of the Netherlands. An 80% majority of Bonaire's population are Dutch nationals, and nearly 60% of its residents were born in the former Netherlands Antilles and Aruba.

A Brief History of the ABC Islands

The ABC Islands earliest known inhabitants were the Caquetio, a branch of the Arawak. They came by canoe from Venezuela in about 1000 AD. In 1499, Alonso de Ojeda arrived at Curaçao and a neighbouring island that was almost certainly Bonaire. He is said to have called the islands Las Islas de los Gigantes, or Islands of the Giants due to the size of the native inhabitants, the Caiquetio Indians. By 1527 the Spanish had formed a government and established Catholicism on the islands. However, the Spanish conquerors decided that the three ABC Islands were 'useless', having no mineral wealth.

Nevertheless, the Spanish remained until they conceded the islands to the Dutch in the Eighty Years War. During the Napoleonic Wars, the Netherlands lost control of Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao to the British twice during the early 1800s. The ABC islands were returned to the Netherlands under the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814.

Facts and Factoids

  • English, Dutch and Spanish are spoken alongside the local tongue, Papiamento
  • The Leeward Antilles have a mixed volcanic and coral origin.
  • Aruba's currency is the Aruban Florin, but the US dollar is also widely accepted.
  • The currency in Bonaire is the US dollar.
  • The currency used in Curaçao is the Antillean Guilder (ANG), also called the Florin.

Which ABC Island is the Best?

  • Aruba is the most affluent, and has beautiful sandy beaches. That's great if you just like to lay in the sun and swim. It is very American, full of all inclusive resorts. And it's promoted as One Happy Island. I didn't like it much - I found it lacking in atmosphere. Diving and snorkelling is much better at Bonaire and Curacao.
  • Bonaire is very small and dry, but is thought to have the best snorkelling and diving.
  • Curacao is the most diverse of the three islands. more history, beaches and snorkelling.

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