The ‘C’ of the ABC Netherlands Antilles group in the southern Caribbean, Curaçao (pronounced cure-a-sow) is a popular year-round destination for sun-seekers. It doesn’t have the best beaches in the Caribbean, but the island’s great weather, superb scuba diving, and Dutch charm are reason enough to visit.
Curaçao has many things going for it, not least its beaches, which are close to the main town and on the properties of many big hotels and resorts. Water sports are low-key, although there is excellent windsurfing and diving, and you can snorkel over the reefs. The beaches are good for families, couples and singletons, with quiet ones in the north.
Chief of sightseeing is the pleasant capital, Willemstad, which is best known for its low-rise skyline of colorful harbor front buildings. There is a popular floating market, along with an antique floating bridge and several forts. Willemstad can mostly be seen on foot and is within walking distance from the main beaches of Mambo and Kontiki.
Curaçao has good hotels, most being mid-range to high-end and residing on or near a beach. They typically come with good restaurants and lively entertainment, and sometimes spas and casinos for entertainment. The diverse culture has taught the island a great compliment of cuisines, while the nightlife is the busiest in this part of the Caribbean.
The shopping is intriguing and consists of an entire duty-free section tailored to the thousands of visiting cruise passengers, along with rows of boutiques and souvenirs shops for clothing and crafts. Value wise, Curaçao is on par with Aruba and Bonaire for eating out, shopping and accommodation, but you get slightly more for your money here than in the Bahamas.
Boat trips around the island are popular, from deep-sea fishing charters to cruises to nearby Klein. Aruba and Bonaire are also within reach by boat or 30-minute shuttle flight, while Curaçao itself has plenty to entice those with itchy feet. Christoffel National Park is a sizeable, hilly region of the north with hiking and caves, plus the island has good horseback riding potential.
Direct flights come in from around the Caribbean region and the US, Canada, Europe and South America. Major cruises also call on Willemstad. While not large, Curaçao doesn’t have the most comprehensive transport network. Most tourists rely on taxis and buses for getting around, while car rental is reasonably priced and the driving relaxed.
- Protected Mambo and Kontiki beaches in Willemstad
- Willemstad sightseeing, including its famed painted houses
- Snorkeling around coral reefs amid hundreds of exotic fish
- Year-round scuba diving with great visibility
- Exploring the Arawak caves of Christoffel National Park
- Duty-free shopping at the port
- A smorgasbord of cultures
- Having fun during the month-long Curaçao Carnival