Curacao Island Travel Guide 2023: What You Need to Know
Last Updated on December 16, 2022 by Dana Berez
Curacao Island Guide
Bon Bini! Welcome to your ultimate Curacao Island Travel Guide covering everything you need to know about visiting the sunny island of Curacao.
How do you even pronounce Curaçao? It’s Kur-uh-sow.
I wasn’t too sure what I was going to expect when visiting Curacao. But after my visit, Curacao exceeded my expectations, and it’s become one of my favorite islands in the Caribbean.
The island is located outside of the hurricane belt weather making the island warm and sunny with little precipitation year-round. The people on the island are so kind, and since Curacao is an autonomous country within the Dutch Kingdom, you really get that European flair within the island. Plus, I could not get over the gorgeous untouched beaches either with incredible snorkeling and diving.
Curacao is a perfect destination for all kinds of travelers: families, couples, girls trips, group trips, and more with different kinds of activities, beaches, and things to do. Let’s get into the Curacao Island Guide.
Where is Curacao?
Curacao is located in the southern Caribbean Sea and is located between the islands of Aruba and Bonaire, and is 40 miles north of Venezuela. All three of these islands make up the ABC Islands: Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao.
You can find direct flights from the USA, or have a connection to reach Curacao.
Curacao’s location is outside of the storm belt, so you’ll find a sunny and driest climate with less rainfall all year round. In fact, you’ll notice desert-like vegetation on the island. Cacti thrive here and they even have cactus soup to try when you’re here)
When to Visit Curacao?
There really isn’t a bad time to visit Curacao, for the sunny weather, but you run the risk of some light rain in the months of October-December. However, considering the other Caribbean Islands the total rainfall is much less.
The months with the least rainfall are from February to June averaging one inch per month.
And note, hang on to your hat! Curacao is a windy destination with trade winds that will definitely cool you off at the beach.
Where to Stay in Curacao
Depending on the type of trip you are looking for, there are certain neighborhoods that can be a better fit for your needs.
Pietermaai is a trendy neighborhood with plenty of bars, restaurants, and small boutique hotels lining the street. This area at night is super fun and great for couples, friends, and group trips. Hotels include Scuba Lodge, Bij Blauw, Avila Beach Hotel.
Blue Bay is a great location for families and couples. Blue Bay has residences, small boutique Hotels, and Villas which creates this private resort-like feeling with a gorgeous soft sand beach where children can play in the sand easily. Hotels include Bayside Boutique Hotel,
Jan Thiel & Mambo Beach are fun upbeat neighborhoods located south of Willemstad. Jan Thiel has a popular beachfront restaurant and bar where young adults and locals enjoy the sun and party at night. Hotel in Jan Thiel: Papagayo Beach Resort and Mambo Beach Hotel: Lion’s Dive Resort.
If you’re looking for a relaxed resort feel check out these options:
- Dreams Curacao: All-Inclusive beachfront property with 7 food and beverage outlets, beachfront, infinity pool, and modern rooms.
- Renaissance Hotel Curacao: Recently renovated located steps from Queen Emma Bridge in Willemstad. Rooms have ocean views and an impressive infinity salt lake lagoon.
- Avila Beach Hotel: Centrally located in Pietermaai and is a beachfront property.
- Corendon Mangrove Beach Resort: The newest 5-star all-inclusive resort on Curacao island situated on a private beach. The finishes are modern and spacious great for families, couples, and groups.
How to get around Curacao Island
Depending on your itinerary and where you are staying there are a few ways you can get around Curacao Island: renting a car, taxi, or bus.
Rent a Car: If you plan on visiting one of the many Curacao Beaches, it is best to rent a car for those days. Taking a taxi from your hotel to a beach one way will cost more than your car rental for the day.
You can find car rental stations at the airport, and some rental companies have desks at larger hotels.
From personal experience, it is best to rent a car so you can see and explore more throughout your stay. The roads are modern, easy to navigate, and each beach & activity has clear signs so you won’t get lost!
Taxi: Taxi rides are available and can be spotted by a sign on the roof and the letters TX on the license plate. If your trip is not metered, be sure to settle on a price before your ride.
Bus: You can also use the local Mini-Bus to reach the beaches. You can find them with the word ‘BUS’ on the license plate. These busses run all over the island and the fares range from $0.50-$2.00, however, there is no fixed schedule.
Just to note, Curacao is a smaller island that runs only 40 miles long and 10 miles wide. You will never be to far to do any activity, and you can see the entire island well with just 3 days!
Things to do in Curacao
Visit Curacao Beaches
The beaches in Curacao blew me away! Unlike Curacao’s neighbor Aruba where there is one long beach, Curacao has around 40 beaches and each has its own character and protected by cliffs and coves.
Curacao beaches have excellent snorkeling and diving spots for amazing sea life. In fact, I spotted sea turtles at Playa Piskado. Because they are so many incredible beaches, my Best Curacao Beaches post has more details on which beaches you can’t miss. Here are some of my favorites:
- Cas Abao: Cas Abao has a large stretch of white sand that leads to crystal clear waters. This beach is great for all swimmers, and there is a bar, restaurant, showers, massage, and dive shop on site. (P.S. the Mango smoothie here will cool you off and is delicious)
- Playa Kenepa: Playa Kenepa is Curacao’s largest beach and has a natural relaxed feel. This is one of the most popular amongst the locals and on weekends, Playa Kenepa gets very busy, open with snack trucks. Also, there is free admission.
- Playa Porto Marie: Playa Porto Marie is another large relaxed beach with soft sand and clear waters. What makes this one unique are the wild pigs that roam the beach in the late afternoon around 5/6 PM.
Willemstad Walking Tour
A must when in Curacao is touring the capital neighborhood of Willemstad, a UNESCO World Heritage site. You can wander on your own to find shopping, unique buildings, restaurants, markets, and more or you can use a hired guide. When touring Willemsted here are some sights you can’t miss in the Punda district:
- Queen Emma Floating Bridge: This walking bridge, originally built-in 1888 connects Willemstad to the Otrobanda neighborhood and frequently swings open to allow boats to pass by! If you need to get to the other side while the bridge is open, you can take a free ferry to the other side.
- Lunch at Old Market: (Plasa Bieu) Here you can sample local delicacies at local prices. Dishes are served with rice and beans, polenta, or mashed potatoes. Favorite staples include Cactus Soup, stewed salted pork tails, salted mackerel, and iguana soup.
- Street Art: You’ll notice colorful local street art surrounding the neighborhood.
- Shopping: You’ll find local shops and international brands along the streets here. And be sure not to miss Penha Perfumery near the Queen Emma Bridge. This is the most photographed building and has a great example of Dutch colonial architecture.
Ever see the iconic Blue Curacao Liquor bottle? It’s made right in Curacao and you can take an immersive tour to learn how the liquor came to be and learn about the distillation process with trained guides.
You get the opportunity to taste each flavor: Chocolate, Coffee, Rum Rasin, Tamarind, and after the tour, you get to create your very own cocktail with any kind of Curacao Liqueur. I personally made a Curacao Liqueur mojito and kept the recipe to make at home.
Cruise along the Curacao coastline into the Spanish Waters all along to downtown Willamsted to enjoy the sunset and the view. Pelican Express tours offer a 2-hour cruise, with light bites and complimentary beer and wine.
A unique thing to do in Curacao is visiting Dinah Veeris, the ‘herb lady’ in Curacao. You can visit her extensive botanical herb garden, Den Paradera, to learn about the healing power of plants. She has a cure for nearly every ailment!
You can take a wander around yourself or take a guided tour, and browse the shop!
Open: Monday-Saturday (Closed Sundays) 9AM – 6PM
Tours: Monday-Friday 9:30 AM and 10:30 AM Guided Price: $9 Adults, $5 Children
To see how windy Curacao really is, check out Shete Boka located on the Western part of the island. You can hear the incredible waves from the loud echoes. Plus you can enter a small cave to see the waves up close.
Open: Everyday 9AM- 4PM
Price: $6 per car
Where to Eat in Curacao Island
Curacao has a variety of cuisines and options range from Asian-Caribbean to Spanish, Italian, Chinese, and Dutch. Because Willamsted is a major shipping hub you can find imports from Europe, North, and South America.
You have endless options for quick casual bites or an elegant night out.
- BijBlauw: (above) Bijblauw is located waterfront in a gorgeous open-aired setting (reminding me a lot of Greece) They serve both Caribbean and European Cuisine, and the food was just as great as the scenery!
- Cana Bar & Kitchen: Known for its great cocktails and excellent food, Cana Bar & Kitchen is a must when in Curacao.
- Zanzibar Beach Restaurant: (above) Located on the Beach at Jan Thiel, you can find a mix of casual bites from sandwiches. burgers, and salads, open from 12PM-12AM.
- BBQ Express: $ Trying a Truk’i pan is a must when in Curacao. You’ll find plenty of these food trucks all over Curacao. Locals and visitors alike love the laid-back vibe and great food for a low price.
At BBQ express you’ll find meats served with fries with a variety of sauces to choose from. The real star is the one-of-a-kind pindasaus, a spicy Dutch- Indonesian peanut dip.
To try local flavor be sure to stop in the food markets in Willemstad, a snack bar along the road, and of course a late night Truk’i pan. If you like trying authentic Food and local delicacies here are some items to check out:
- Stews: Karni stobá (beef) Kabritu Stoba (goat)
- Kadushi (Cactus Soup)
- Iguana Soup
- Pastechis (savory pastries)
- Sate Ku Batata (chicken skewer and fries)
Curacao Island Shopping
You can find plenty of local shops in Willemstad and the Mambo Beach shops. Boutiques sell a variety of items including swimwear, clothing, bohemian home decor, and jewelry.
- Seeya Collection: Located at Mambo Beach, this boho shop sells cute clothing, jewelry, home decor, and more!
- Renaissance Rif Fort & Mall: Here you can find plenty of shops, bars, and restaurants located in Historic Fort from 1828.
What to pack for Curacao
Curacao is a warm and windy destination so it’s best to pack lightweight casual items.
- Water Shoes: If you plan on doing snorkeling and swimming its important to pack water shoes as many of the beaches have rocks when you first enter the waters
- Bug Spray: At night the mosquitoes come out!
- Sunscreen: Being one of the warmest & sunniest Caribbean Islands, Sunscreen is a must. Choose a reef-friendly sunscreen that protects sea life by avoiding chemical-based sunscreens. Safe options include: P40 & Badger.
- Wireless Phone Charger: If you plan on having a full beach day, be sure to pack a portable charger for your devices.
Things to Know about Curacao
Curacao Language: 4 languages widely spoken: Papiamentu, English, Dutch, and Spanish. Some useful words to know are:
- Bon Dia: Good Morning
- Bon Biní: Welcome
- Danki: Thank you
- Ayó: Good-Bye
Curacao Currency: The Netherlands-Antillean Guilder (Nafl or ANG) US $1 = 1.80 Nafl.
Outlets: Hotels offer both American outlets, as well as European Outlets, but to be on the safe side, I would call your hotel to confirm.
Drinking-Water: The tap water on the island is safe to drink. In fact, it’s one of the finest quality with a Curacao Distillery right on the island.
Curacao Weather: Curacao is a very sunny destination year-round with little precipitation and an average temperature of 86F. You’ll notice plenty of dry Cacti thrive in this climate.
Hope you enjoyed this Curacao Island Travel Guide. Leave any questions down below:
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