Best Things To Do in Curacao
Like its sister islands, Aruba and Bonaire, Curaçao's warm waters are ideal for scuba diving, snorkeling and other water sports. If reclining in a beach chair and sipping a daiquiri is more your speed, head to the oceanfront cafes of Cas Abao Beach or Playa Porto Marie. Tired of sand and sun? Escape to Willemstad, a metropolitan city in the middle of paradise. There, you can visit the swinging Queen Emma Bridge and the fascinating Kurá Hulanda Museum, as well as plenty of rockin' beachfront nightclubs.
Updated January 11, 2019
- #1View all Photos#1 in CuracaoRecreation, SportsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDRecreation, SportsTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
If you really want to see some of Curaçao's best sights, you're going to have to get your hair wet. A fascinating world of delicate coral gardens, graceful stingrays, playful dolphins and even sunken ships awaits you in the depths of the Caribbean. The best way to explore it is with a plastic mask strapped to your face and an oxygen tank strapped to your back.
Many of Curaçao's specified dive sites are accessible directly from the beach – try Porto Mari or Blauwbaai – while others must be reached by boat. The enormous star coral formations of the Mushroom Forest are a must-see; afterward, you can take a breather in the sapphire light of the nearby Blue Room cave. You can also explore the coral-encrusted remains of the Superior Producer, a cargo freighter that went down in 1977.
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Spanning the St. Anna Bay, the Queen Emma, or also known as the "Swinging Old Lady," is a floating pedestrian bridge that connects Willemstad's two halves, Punda and Otrobanda. Built in 1888, the Queen Emma Bridge is supported by 16 pontoon boats and swings open laterally to allow ships to enter and leave the bay.
Recent travelers enjoyed having a meal or a coffee while marveling at boats sailing through the open arm of the bridge, especially when it's lit up at night. And don't worry if you get caught on the wrong side when the bridge swings open – water taxis will get you back across the bay at no charge. Plus, the proximity to the cruise ship dock makes it an easy landmark to cross off your must-see list.
- #3View all PhotosfreeHandelskade#3 in CuracaoSightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
On the Punda side of Willemstad is Handelskade, that picturesque stretch of pier you've seen on every Curaçao postcard. Colonial Dutch buildings painted in brilliant pinks, blues and yellows line the waters of St. Anna Bay. Grab a seat and a daiquiri at one of Handelskade's outdoor cafes and watch the Queen Emma Bridge swing open to let ships into the harbor or pop in to one of the shops along the water.
If you wake up early enough, you can get your hands on fresh fish and produce at the daily floating market at Handelskade's northern point. Or, you can walk across the bridge at night to see Handelskade's illuminated façades and reflections glinting on the bay. Regardless of what time you visit, you're going to want to snap a picture or two. Past visitors recommended crossing the bridge for the best photo angles.
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Tucked between gray cliffs near the northwestern town of Lagun sits the small but peaceful Playa Lagun. Located in a narrow cove, the calm waters at Playa Lagun are perfect for snorkelers of any skill level, and there are facilities to rent snorkel and scuba gear. Recent travelers lauded the beach for its crystal clear waters and beautiful coral reef, with many saying they spotted colorful fish, schools of squid, sea turtles and more while snorkeling. For the best chance at spotting turtles, visit in the morning.
It may not have the amenities of some of Curaçao's more popular beaches like Playa PortoMari or Blauwbaai, but this peaceful little cove has plenty of shade and is great for families who want a quiet swim. Plus, unlike many other beaches on the island, admission to Playa Lagun is free. Just make sure to wear water shoes or socks. Like most beaches in Curaçao, the terrain above and below the shore can be rough. Although there isn't much in the way of amenities, you can rent a chair for a small fee and you can also enjoy some refreshment at bar that overlooks the cove. The beach is located just south of the town of Lagun, about 25 miles northwest of Willemstad.
- #5View all Photos#5 in CuracaoBeachesTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDBeachesTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Both tourists and locals favor Cas Abao Beach, and it's not hard to see why. The white-sand beach is surrounded by cliffs and lush greenery, and shaded by thatched palapas (large palm umbrellas). Sea turtles, spotted eagle rays and a rainbow of tropical fish beckon snorkelers into warm, turquoise waters. Are your muscles sore from swimming? You can get a full-body massage right on the waterline. Feeling peckish? The Beach Bar & Restaurant offers a range of snacks and drinks that will sustain you all day.
Recent visitors loved Cas Abao beach for its stunning beauty and convenient facilities, although some lamented the extra fees associated with something as simple as a shower. Those who went snorkeling highly recommended it, with many saying they were able to see a diverse array of aquatic life, aka not just fish. Travelers also strongly recommended bringing water shoes or sandals, as the shallows are littered with pebbles and broken coral, which can be hard on your soles.
- #6View all Photos#6 in CuracaoBeachesTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDBeachesTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Playa PortoMari is a spot worth stopping for outdoor enthusiasts. Its rehabilitated double reef and on-site snorkel rentals make this beach a fun spot for undersea exploration. The beach also serves as a trailhead for three nature trails, great for hiking or mountain biking. If you're hungry after all the physical activity, you're in luck: Playa Porto Mari features a beach bar and restaurant that serves up enough Indonesian sateys and Dutch kroketten to fill you up for round two in the water or a nap on the sand.
Playa PortoMari does tend to get crowded. But its natural wonders and plentiful amenities (rinsing facilities, clean bathrooms and shaded beach chairs) explain why people flock here. Recent visitors were able to put aside their annoyances with other beachgoers to enjoy what Playa PortoMari has to offer. Many travelers particularly applauded the quality of food served at the restaurant, and recommended coming toward the end of the day for a truly breathtaking sunset. You also might get to meet some pigs and iguanas that frequent the area.
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In 1978, three plantations near the northern tip of Curaçao merged to create Christoffel National Park. The park houses indigenous flora and fauna, such as barn owls, the rare and endangered Curaçao white-tailed deer and 450 species of plants, including wild orchids. While you can take a scenic drive through Curaçao's largest national park, hiking or mountain biking is the best way to experience Christoffel's rugged landscape.
Recent visitors said the view from the top of Christoffel Mountain is unforgettable. You can climb the peak and back in two to three hours, but due to the high temperatures and lack of shade, the park doesn't allow visitors to start their hike after 10 a.m., so make sure to get there early. Past travelers stressed to bring at least two bottles of water and comfortable shoes, as the terrain gets rockier the closer you get to the summit.
- #8View all Photos#8 in CuracaoBeachesTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeachesTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Less than 10 miles northwest of Willemstad sits Blauwbaai (Blue Bay), one of Curaçao's most beloved beaches thanks to its plethora of offshore amenities. Just offshore is an impressive coral reef, lauded by scuba divers and snorkelers for its easy accessibility.
Recent travelers praise Blauwbaai for its tranquility and natural beauty, both above and below the waves. Others were pleased with the ample shade provided by the beach's swaying palms. But a warning for the dainty-footed: like other beaches on Curaçao, broken rocks and coral litter Blauwbaai's shallows, so watch out for your toes! A few past visitors expressed disappointment with the "overpriced" beach chairs and lackluster food and drink at the nearby bar and restaurant. Still, many described this beach as "lovely" and a "great way to spend a day." Entry to Blauwbaai costs $8 per person.
- #9View all Photos#9 in CuracaoBeachesTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeachesTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
On a small island like Curaçao, you don't have to travel far to find a beach. And if you need a convenient stop during a cruise excursion, look no further than Mambo Beach (aka Seaquarium Beach). It may be man-made, but this beach located just 4 miles south of Willemstad features the bright white sands, the crystal blue waters, a sand volleyball court and the piña coladas you've been craving. Once you've fulfilled your lounging (and drinking) quota for the day, head over to Ocean Encounters, where you can rent some snorkel gear or take a scuba trip. The area also offers a boardwalk lined with shops, restaurants and many bars, which become particularly lively on Sunday nights. This area is also well-suited to kids; Seaquarium Beach's breakwater keeps the tides calm, even on days with rough surf.
Recent visitors offered mixed reviews for Mambo Beach. Those who enjoyed Mambo appreciated the large amount of shade available on the beach in comparison to other beaches in Curaçao – and the on-site amenities and activities were hard to beat. What was a fun atmosphere to some travelers read as a party atmosphere to others, with a few travelers comparing it to Las Vegas. Safety was also a concern in the parking lot. Don't leave your bag unattended and put all your valuables in the on-site locker rooms. Also keep in mind, topless bathing is allowed at this beach.
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Described by recent visitors as a "breathtaking natural wonder," Shete Boka National Park sprawls across more than 6 miles of Curacao's north coast. It's home to 10 pocket bays where various species of sea turtles are known to lay eggs. Hot spots within the park include Boka Tabla, which sees massive waves crashing into an underground cavern, and Boka Pistol, which offers panoramic views from limestone hills.
Past visitors were in awe of the stunning views from the park, especially those at Boka Pistol. They also warn that the winds can be very strong on this part of the island.
- #11View all Photos#11 in CuracaoBeaches, Sightseeing, ToursTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Sightseeing, ToursTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
A largely uninhabited island about 15 miles off the southeast coast of Curaçao, Klein Curaçao is the ideal daytrip for snorkelers, scuba divers and sun-worshippers. You will notice a few signs of Klein Curaçao's former residents – like its crumbling, but functional lighthouse – but the tiny island's natural elements are the main reason for visiting. Its coral reefs and waters are pristine, its marine life is plentiful and its white-sand beach is longer than any other on Curaçao proper.
Like its mother island, Klein Curaçao played a sordid role in dealings of the Dutch West India Company during the 17th and 18th centuries. The 1.2-square-mile island is the final resting place of many African slaves who were put in quarantine here for being sick during the dangerous voyage across the Atlantic. After the decline of the slave trade, Klein Curaçao traded hands numerous times, playing host to a phosphate mining operation in 1871. Now, the only frequenters of the island are fishermen and tour groups. But you can still explore the remains of Klein Curaçao's past like the rusting steel hull of the Maria Bianca Guidesman, a small oil tanker that wrecked on the island in the 1960s. Just remember to bring sunscreen – there is little shade on the deserted island.
- #12View all Photos#12 in CuracaoMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Located in the home of a 19th-century merchant and slave owner, the Kurá Hulanda Museum traces the history of the African slave trade on Curaçao. Using 18th-century artifacts and scale models to weave its tale, this museum delves into an ugly era in Curaçao's past with a deft hand. Along with exhibits about the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the museum features collections of pre-Columbian gold, Mesopotamian relics and Antillean art.
Recent visitors stressed this is not a light-hearted activity, with many leaving the museum feeling somber but humbled by what they learned. Despite the disturbing subject matter, many travelers highly recommend a visit, with some saying they wished they received this kind of history lesson in school. Some suggested paying extra for the guided tour.
- #13View all Photos#13 in CuracaoChurches/Religious Sites, MuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDChurches/Religious Sites, MuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Consecrated in 1732, the Mikvé Israel-Emanuel Synagogue is the oldest Jewish temple in continuous use in the New World. Commonly called the Snoa (short for the old Portuguese word for synagogue, esnoga), the temple was founded by Jews who were fleeing persecution during the Spanish Inquisition. Tourists may visit the adjoining museum, which houses a Torah scrolls brought to Curaçao by the island's first Jewish settlers, along with other artifacts and Judaica.
Recent visitors said you don't have to be Jewish to appreciate the rich history behind this attraction. Travelers were particularly impressed with how well-preserved the building was considering its age. Many, however, were most fascinated with sand floors of the synagogue, which symbolize both the 40 years that biblical Jews spent wandering the desert, as well as the sandy floors used by secret Jews in Spain to muffle the sounds of their illegal worship during the Inquisition.
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