Curaçao travel guide
Curaçao seems a bit like a paradise on earth. Curaçao is to the Dutch what Mallorca is to the Germans, what Bali is to the Australians, but with a little more touch of paradise, after all this is the Caribbean we are talking about. Curaçao used to be a colony of Holland and today belongs to the Dutch kingdom so they all speak Dutch there besides Papiamento, which is their native language. Curaçao is probably the most colorful and cute place you will ever visit. All the houses are painted in rainbow colors that’s a huge characteristic of Curaçao and something you’ll notice immediately and never forget.
Where is Curaçao
But where is Curaçao? Curaçao is one of the biggest islands and one of the most beautiful island in the Caribbean! Only a few kilometers away from Venezuela, it has a lot to offer from the cosmopolite Willemstad, to beautiful beaches and the sea in the typical Curaçao blue.
If you are looking for sunshine and beaches, but also some culture and activities, Curaçao island is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the island life.
Willemstad, the capital of Curaçao island
Willemstad is the capital of Curaçao and this is where city life takes place. The small old town with it’s colorful houses (mostly in different shade of blue, yellow, green or red) in colonial architecture style is a UNESCO heritage site. There are a number of restaurants, local cafés, bars and small shops across Willemstad to hang out. If you are looking for authentic street food, head over to Plasa Bieu aka the old market where you will find a dozen stalls selling Curaçaoan cuisine!
As for the monuments to see in Willemstad, we can mention:
Fort Amsterdam, built in 1635 after Curaçao was taken from the Spanish and which is now the home of the governor and government offices
Fortkerk or the Protestant church in the fort whose ceiling recalls the color Curaçao blue.
The Mikveh Israel-Emanuel synagogue which is the oldest in the Americas!
The best view of Handelskade from Queen Emma Bridge
The floating bridge, the Queen Emma bridge connects Punda to Otrobanda a more modern part of Willemstad. It is from this floating bridge that you will have the best views over Handelskade, the most breathtaking part of the old town Punda.!
On the other side of the bridge, there is a neighborhood of Otrobanda, where most local lives and where you will find the best nightlife!
If you have some time on your hand, you can also wander to Scharloo, across the Waaigat Bay from Punda, to witness the beautiful mansion of the once rich and famous of the island of Curaçao.
Finally, almost impossible to miss looking up to the sky, you will see the impressive Queen Juliana Bridge that connects the city center to the countryside and rest of Curaçao!
Where to eat in Curaçao – restaurants
Gouveneur de Revouille
Right in the city center of Willemstad is where you find Gouveneur de Rouville, that used to be a colonial building. From there you can see the famous city-line of Curaçao, the colorful houses next to each other across the floating bridge. Gouveneur de Rouville serves one of the best food here on the island and you should definitely try anything with goat cheese as it is the best.
Gouveneur de Rouville is perfect for lunch time, but it also has a beautiful bar where you can enjoy drinks at night or late evening. Try to book a table on the balcony, as it is the best view of Curaçao!
Landhuis Klein Santha Martha
Lanhuis Klein Santha Martha has its own magic as it has this indescribable nostalgic feel the minute you step onto the property. What used to be a Landhouse (=slave and plantation owners main house) during slavery is today one of the best restaurants on the Island situated on top of a hill. Below is where many years back the plantations used to be. It is actually also a Boutique Hotel and has a little pool in the backyard. The architecture and the way it is decorated inside captures perfectly what it may have been here during those times in Curaçao.
The food here is top notch and so is the service. Dinner is the best time to come by. But breakfast during sunrise could be worth a visit too. Landhuis Klein Santha Martha is a very quiet place and the perfect city escape. You won’t find it very busy which is why it feels very exclusive too. Watching the sunset between the mountains across as you wine and dine makes you feel like the world and time just stops for a few minutes. No place I visited compares to this view. Also getting here means driving through Curaçao’s lands and fields of nature as it is situated on the countryside far away from Willemstad.
For late dinner you should head to Zanzibar, especially on a Wednesday evening because each Wednesday they host an unplugged beach session with talented local artists that serenade you into the night bringing you the full island experience. You can see the stars from here and it’s right on the Jan Thiel Beach. Coming during sunset is probably the most romantic thing to do. Zanzibar has a beautiful island vibe that’s super easy going and laid back. The food there is great and you should definitely try red snapper, local favorite. You cannot leave Curaçao without trying red snapper.
The place to be. It is the hippest and chicest café Curaçao has to offer and probably my favorite café. When you enter you can’t help but feel like it is Curaçao in its essence stuffed into a small living room: colorfulness, timelessness and total disregard of time aka so-called island time. You can spend hours here! You’ll find a mix of islanders here usually doing “home office”. Coffee and freshly pressed orange juice or lemonade is a must! The bagels and salmon sandwiches are to die for. For your sandwiches you and bagels you can even choose what kind of bread you want (light, dark, corn). They also serve Banana bread and cookies, croissants and all sorts of pastries here.
If there is only one place you can visit for breakfast/brunch my bet is on Number Ten.
Beans serves Poke Bowls, so it’s not very local, but it’s one of the cutest Cafés you will find in Curaçao. It’s said to have the best coffee on the island. From pasteries to coffee and tea or slow juices (try carrot – so so good!) lunch time is the best to visit as you can and should try a Poke Bowl. They are quite large and super filling. Plus they taste great too. My personal recommendation: choose between Chicken and Mango or Goat Cheese and Walnut. Beans is situated in one the most beautiful and historic building in the Pietermaai District. Another plus: the lovely staff and you can tell how passionate they are about making coffee.
Other Places to note: Next to the Williwood sign. Great BBQ sessions. Very local cuisine and people!
Curaçao Travel guide – Snorkeling and diving
With such clear waters, snorkeling and diving in Curacao in very popular.
The most popular sight for snorkeling is Caracas Bay. Caracas Bay has a lot to offer from vibrant sea life to the Tugboat wreck, a shipwreck that sunk 30 years ago. It’s a very popular sight and your best bet is to book a tour and explore the wreck for yourself. Yes you can even swim through the sunken boat!
Another favorite is the Blue Room. Usually you take a boat down to the snorkel site and jump into the ocean. You can also hike to the site like I did and then jump off the cliffs. From there it’s a 2 minute dive into the cave. Because of the reflection of the water the cave lights up completely blue! That is where it got its name from.
Other places to check out and are considered good snorkeling places:
– Playa Piskado – lots of sea life on the west coast of Curaçao
– Playa Grandi is for swimming and sunbathing, but most people come for snorkeling or diving. Also you are almost always guaranteed to see turtles.
Diving in Curaçao
Curaçao has some amazing dive sites. For advanced divers, the wreck at Superior Producer, located just West of the Curaçao Main Pier, is known to be one of the best wrecks in the Caribbean.
If you want to see turtles and colorful fishes you might want to dive the reef at Watamula. It is the most famous diving place in Curaçao and suitable for beginners.
For hammer heads sharks you will want to hear over to Klein Curaçao that you can combine with East Point. East Point is the most preserved diving site, with untouched corals and where you will be able to see sharks and rays.
Water sports activities in Curaçao
Surfing in Curaçao
Curaçao might not be Hawaii but it still have some good waves that makes it a good spot for beginners or those wanting to work on their tricks. The beach at St Joris can be good for surfing as well as Playa Canoe. Playa Canoe is better known so it might be more busy. If you are there in December, don’t miss the island’s annual surfing championship.
The eastern coast of the island is subject to strong winds and rough water making it perfect also for kitesurfing!
Deep sea fishing
Deep sea fishing has nothing to do with lake fishing. Its a real sport. Curaçao is the perfect place to try it. But beware to book a tout that does catch and release!
Finally, you will be able to do all kind of fun water sports on any of the beaches such as jet ski, kayak, aquaboat etc
Best beaches in Curaçao for swimming
Curaçao is full of magic beaches and has a lot of hidden gems to discover. You can just rent a car and hop from one beach to the next.
Kenepa Grandi (Grote Knip) and Playa Kenepa Chiki (Klein Knip)
All beaches on the west side are highly recommended as Curaçao’s west coast is full of nature and where islanders go for weekend holidays to retreat from the busy city life.
If you are looking for a white sandy beach, quiet and not so busy Grote Knip is your best bet. It is definitely on of the most beautiful beaches on Curaçao.
Other than that our tour guide recommended Klein Knip and Playa Pertomari.
Mambo Beach, the party beach
Mambo Beach is more of a tourist attraction but situated in the island center it is the perfect getaway when you don’t have time to drive far from Willemstad or if you want to party! The access to the beach is free but you pay 7 dollars for a sun chair.
Jan Thiel Beach
Day trip to Klein Curaçao aka Little Curaçao
Klein Curaçao is only accessible by boat but it is the longest and whitest beach in Curaçao and the sea is crystal clear.
Curaçao slave museum
As interesting as Curaçao is, so is its history. It has deep roots in slavery, which shaped today’s culture. If you get bored of relaxing by the beaches and pool all day you should take a tour through the Slave Museum on the country side, that used to be a slave house and learn a lot about Curaçao’s history. You even get to bake the traditional bread and listen to slave music that is known today as Tumba.
Museo Ka’i Orgel
Curaçao and music go hand in hand as the slaves from all across Africa brought when they were deported here. Music is ingrained in Curaçaos identity like nothing else.
One impressive figure is Serapio Pinedo who invented the Curaçao Music Box inspired by an Italian instrument he once saw in his childhood and later in his life built start to finish all by himself. A notable song you’ve probably heard before but never knew it was by him is “Wallflower” he wrote for his wife.
To document his efforts and all the work and craftsmanship he has done, Museo Ka’I Orgel was opened. It is run by his family, his youngest daughter and her husband on their private property. This museum is like no other as you feel welcomed into their home and if you are lucky you’ll get to meet the man himself and play the Music Box with him. Until today each box is still handmade by Mr. Serapio Pinedo and takes up to 3-6 months to make. You wont regret visiting his lovely family and having a go at the Music Box yourself.
The Curaçao Distillery
Curaçao is probably best known for its Blue Curaçao liquor made from the Laraha citrus fruit. You can take a tour of the museum that is one of the original distilleries and learn all about how the famous Curaçao is made. What you will also learn is that Curaçao is originally colorless but was later colored in all colors of the rainbow to be more appealing. Across the world the Curaçao Blue is the most famous.
*Article written by Lois Opoku
**In collaboration with Curacao tourism – All opinions remains our own