CURAÇAO'S WEST END has long been frequented by Cousteau wannabes content to sleep in a shoebox-size hotel room overrun by geckos, so long as it's near killer dive spots. But now Dutch financier Jacob Dekker has shaken up the status quo. Last August, Dekker introduced the Netherlands Antilles to more upscale accommodations when he opened the island's first high-end dive-centered resort, Lodge Kura Hulanda & Beach Club. Focusing as much on land amenities as on underwater adventures, the lodge replaces lizard-filled nights with endless blue heaven.
ROOM & BOARD: Rows of towering palms and indigenous kadushi cactuses lead past the 30-foot-high volcanic cliff to 44 stuccoed suites and guest rooms outfitted with rattan furnishings. Sip a watermelon martini from the beach bar while the sun dips behind the rocking fishing boats. Later, amble over to Watamula, the club's restaurant, for local snapper steamed in a ginger-garlic paste and topped with pineapple chutney.
OUT THE BACK DOOR: The full-service dive shop runs weekly boat trips to the Mushroom Forest, a sloping plateau of green, 'shroom-shaped brain coral five miles offshore that's home to porcupine fish, smooth trunkfish, and yellowtail snapper. Or skip the skiff and swim 100 feet out from Playa Kalkithe resort's white-sand beachto Alice in Wonderland, a 60-foot coral wall where green moray eels and spiny lobsters mingle in the 80-degree crystal water.
DETAILS: Ocean-facing doubles from $200; 877-264-3106, www.kurahulanda.com