No island in the chain of the Netherlands Antilles is more Dutch than Curacao, so it should be no surprise to find that the Lion's Dive Hotel and Marina is located amid inordinately beautiful and shipshape surroundings. It also shouldn't come as a surprise that the hotel and nearby dive operation, Underwater Curacao, operate efficiently, comfortably and professionally. Nor should you be surprised that just about everything you might want to do on a Caribbean vacation lies practically right at your fingertips. Lion's Dive is a green oasis on the shores of Curacao, denying the white-hot sun of the southern Caribbean a settling place. The lush, landscaped grounds are a marked contrast to the shimmering heat that rises all around the island, and upon entering the grounds, you can't help but let out a sigh of relief, whether for real or imaginary reasons. The hotel's rooms are bright, airy and air-conditioned and offer blue-water views. There's a comfortable restaurant/bar in the courtyard, and the backyard is the biggest white-sand beach on the island. Lion's Dive is also the home of Underwater Curacao, one of the most user-friendly dive operations around. Underwater Curacao was the first full-service five-star PADI and IDC operation on the island, and they've had plenty of time to refine things so that your dive experience is seamless. Walk out of your room and down the stairs and you'll pass the compressor room. This is followed by a sign that indicates which boats are going to which sites every day. (It's a weeklong schedule, so you can plan things out.) Signs direct you to sign-up, another to your gear, etc. You could conceivably walk through this operation and never have to say more than Need some weights, a belt and a tank. The shop was apparently designed to make the diving process as simple as possible, and it shows. The staff is as easygoing (and professional) as you might expect, and Dive Curacao's instructors have to be fluent in a minimum of three languages to work there. There's a regulator test bench in the full repair shop, Mares and Suunto equipment in the dive shop and free lattice-door lockers to store your equipment. Two wash tanks are right at the dock, which is about 20 feet from where you walked in. You'll appreciate the completely covered, extremely roomy dock area, with hang lines and racks, after being in the Caribbean sun with your fish-belly-white body cooking for a day. Sea and Sea cameras and video cameras are available through the Images photo shop located next door on the Seaquarium grounds. Underwater Curacao has two well-kept 42-foot dive boats, and the boat departures are staggered around the dock, but it's still a nice touch. This is a relaxed, professional, smooth-running operation. Yeah, there are a lot of places to hang when you're diving Curacao, but if you want it all - a green (in both color and philosophy, i.e., everything that can be is recycled in one way or another) and friendly oasis for staying overnight, a nice beach for soaking rays, food and drink with an ocean view, a good dive operation for spending some bubble-blowing time and plenty to keep the non-divers amused while you're underwater - you really can't beat Lion's Dive Hotel and Marina and Underwater Curacao.ADVERTORIAL
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