With its delightful Dutch colonial architecture, bustling commercial capital and excellent history museums, go-go Curaçao feels like a little piece of Europe on the edge of the Caribbean. That is, a little piece of Europe with glorious hidden beaches, amazing onshore snorkeling and diving, and a wild undeveloped windward coast.
Curaçao has historic settlements, rugged landscapes and plenty of fun in the sun. Curaçao’s main port city, Willemstad is like an Old World European city. The brightly painted Dutch colonial buildings reflect pinks, yellows and blues. Once you leave the city, the landscape shifts to a desert scene, with spiny aloe and mesquite shooting upwards on weathered limestone cliffs. But Curaçao’s real draw is the beach. You will find picture-perfect bays and coves and turquoise waters gently lapping against powdery white sand. Curaçao’s reefs are packed with marine life, providing an excellent underwater playground for scuba divers and snorkelers. Best of all, the island is sheltered from the worst of the Atlantic’s hurricane season. Gentle trade winds keep temperatures in the mid-80s, so you can enjoy the outdoors year-round. To learn more about all the beautiful beaches on Curaçao, visit here. Now view our Curaçao travel guide to help plan your next Curaçao vacation!
Located in the tropics, just 12° north of the Equator, and outside of the hurricane belt, Curaçao has a warm, sunny climate year round. The average temperature is in the mid 80s. Refreshing trade winds blow constantly from the east, picking up in the spring months. The rainy season, October to February, is marked by short, occasional showers, usually at night, and continued sunny weather by day. Total annual rainfall averages only 22 inches. Occasionally a tropical storm brewing elsewhere in the Caribbean can cause some cloudy weather for a day or two.
Best Time to Visit
The high season for Curaçao runs from December thru April. Accommodations will fill up fast and prices are significantly higher. January thru February is the Carnival, Curaçao’s biggest celebration. This is a month of music, costumes, parades and parties. It starts just after the New Year and runs thru Ash Wednesday. Although Curaçao is below the hurricane belt, the island does experience an increase in rain during hurricane season which is September thru December.
Getting to Curaçao
Tourist entry is generally only for 30 days, but a maximum of 90 days may be given. You must hold a valid passport to enter Curaçao, a return or outward ticket on arrival, sufficient funds for accommodations and food and the necessary documents for returning to the country of origin, or further travel elsewhere. Extensions are available at immigration. Dutch passport holders may stay for up to 180 days, but must get an extension first from immigration. Tourists who apply for an extension beyond the 30 days must have travel insurance for the duration of their extended stay. Visas are not required for citizens of the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and most EU countries.
Curacao is serviced by many airlines and flights are available from the United States and a few other countries. You can fly to Curacao direct from Miami, Newark, Amsterdam and Caracas. It’s a nine-hour flight from Amsterdam, a one-hour flight from Caracas, a two-hour flight from Miami and a little over a 4 1/2-hour flight from Newark, NJ. All flights land at Curacao’s Hato International Airport.
Getting Around Curaçao
The best way to get around Curaçao is by car. Some of Curaçao’s hotels offer area shuttles, and the public buses cover the majority island, but service is infrequent. If you want to explore the island on your own time, then you’ll want your own set of wheels. Taxis are available from Curaçao’s major airport, Hato International Airport (CUR), about 8 miles northwest of Willemstad. However, cabs can be expensive, especially if you are planning on using them frequently.
Renting a car is a worthwhile investment if you plan to explore outside major urban areas like Willemstad. Car rentals can cost you a pretty penny, but you don’t have to keep the car for your entire stay. You can pick up a rental at the airport, or have one delivered to your hotel. Agencies will rent to anyone with a valid driver’s license, but age restrictions vary by rental agency. Rates range from about $30 to $80 a day, depending on the type of vehicle you choose.
Taxis are good for short jaunts around Willemstad, but longer journeys and island tours will put a considerable dent in your wallet. Curaçao’s taxis are unmetered, but drivers may have rate sheets available for different destinations. Fares from Hato International Airport (CUR) to Willemstad range from about $40 to $50. A cab ride to the northwestern side of the island will cost you about $80 to $100. Before 6 a.m. and after 11 p.m., or if you have more than four passengers, cab drivers raise fares by 25 percent. Also, taxi drivers expect a 10-percent tip. It’s best to agree on a fare before you enter the cab.
Public transportation on Curaçao is limited. The large “convoy” buses will get you around Willemstad, with stations located in Punda and Otrobanda. However, convoys only run about once an hour on weekdays, and even more rarely on weekends. Convoys will also shuttle you westward, but service along these routes is infrequent (every two hours or so). Fares within and east of Willemstad are about $0.90, and $1.45 for points west of Willemstad. You can also ride the smaller “buses” (actually nine-person vans labeled “BUS”), which run more frequently than the convoys, but have no set schedule.
Curaçao hotels offer free shuttle service into Willemstad or to the beach. Take advantage of this amenity if you can, but make sure to check what time the shuttles stop running so you don’t get stranded.
Things Not To Miss
Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge
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 — a ferry will get you back across the bay at no charge.
On the Punda side of Willemstad is Handelskade, on the picturesque stretch of pier you’ve seen on every Curaçao postcard, you’ll find 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.
Christoffel National Park
The park has indigenous flora and fauna, such as barn owls, the rare and endangered Curaçao White Tailed deer, and 450 species of plants. While you can take a scenic drive through Curaçao’s largest national park, hiking is the best way to experience Christoffel’s rugged landscape. 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 people to start their hike after 11 a.m., so make sure to get there early. Make sure you take along a couple of waters and wear a good pair of shoes.
Klein Curaçao is the ideal day trip for snorkelers, scuba divers and sun worshippers. You will notice a few signs of Klein Curaçao’s former residents, like the 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.
Rif Fort Village
Jutting out into the St. Anna Bay on the Otrobanda side of Willemstad, Rif Fort was built in the 19th century to protect Curaçao from pirates and invaders. The fort has since been decommissioned and designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its 5-foot walls now has an upscale shopping mall with high-end stores like Armani Exchange and Tiffany & Co. You can enjoy strolling around the historic grounds and snapping pictures of the Caribbean Sea.
Dolphin Academy Curacao
Dolphin Academy offers fun and educational intimate experiences, like a Dolphin Encounter, a Dolphin Swim, a Dolphin Snorkel with Coastal Bottlenose Dolphins in a natural saltwater lagoon and the open sea. Different programs and courses available for all ages. For more information call 599-9-465-8900, or visit them on the web at Dolphin Academy Curacao.
The Dive Bus
Enjoy a scuba diving experience in one of the TOP Caribbean shore-diving destinations. Small dive groups led by friendly, experienced PADI dive professionals. The Dive Bus is a PADI 5 Star Dive Resort, guided or independent, at the best of Curacao’s shore dive sites. For more information call 599-9-693-8305, or visit them on the web at The Dive Bus.
ATV & Buggy Tours
Explore the natural beauties of the island of Curacao from the seat of a Buggy or a Quad. Buggies or Quad allow access to places where few people go. In fact, these sure-footed machines can take you places that even a horse fear to tread! Whether you are a beginner wanting an easy ride or an expert looking for a challenge, or you classify yourself somewhere in between, ATV & Buggy Tours offers it. For more information call 599-9-540-5640, or visit them on the web at ATV & Buggy Tours.
B Diving & Watersports
Whether you have thousands of dives or trying diving for the first time, the house reef has something to offer for everybody. They can take you on your first dive, offer PADI dive courses or take you on a guided dive. For the snorkelers, they provide daily rental of snorkel equipment or you can purchase your own set in their beach shop which is filled with everything you need for a relaxing day at the beach. With other water sports like Stand Up Paddle Boards, Kayaking, Banana Boat Rides, and Wake boarding soon to come, they can offer you a fun day at Cas Abao Beach! For more information call 599-9-864-0554, or visit them on the web at B Diving & Watersports.
With twenty years of experience and as the only catamaran day sail charter, Bounty Adventures offers by far the most wonderful boat and sailing trips, scuba diving, Island tours and water sports on Curaçao! Join them on their daily trip to paradise Island Klein (little) Curaçao, a romantic Sunset Sail or jump aboard for an awesome half day Sail and Snorkel adventure! For more information call 599-9-767-9998, or visit them on the web at Bounty Adventures.
Top Rated Restaurants
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$$ Gouverneur de Rouville
Restaurant & Café Gouverneur de Rouville is situated at the Otrabanda Waterfront, in the historic part of Willemstad. Enjoy your dinner while looking at big ocean-vessels passing you by on their way to the harbor or back to the Caribbean Sea. You will find great international cuisine and Antillean classics like stuffed cheese in a in a beautifully restored historic building. For more information call 599-9-462-5999, or visit them on the web at Gouverneur de Rouville.
$$$$ Restaurant Fishalicious
Their culinary team considers quality as one of the key ingredients. Therefore they are only working with the freshest and finest products. Fish is delivered daily from local fishermen and flew in from Europe. Thhey have wines from all over the world, and focus on finding selections that pair well with what comes from the kitchen. For more information call 599-9-461-8844, or visit them on the web at Restaurant Fishalicious.
$$ Pirate Bay Beach Bar and Restaurant (Hook’s Hut)
With Spirited atmosphere, a sprinkle of salt and a healthy drizzle of YO HO HO, Pirates Bay is where people meet people to sample Island-fare and where the island’s friendly staff is serving up smiles with your ice cold drinks. You can bet yer Golden Doubloons yer “Catch of the day” freshly caught by local fishermen at Piscadera Bay will be served to you at the water’s edge for your memorable, magical evening charmed by Local Musicians performing Island tunes or perhaps the sounds of haughty Jazz and Blues. For more information call 599-9-461-0183, or visit them on the web at Pirate Bay Beach Bar and Restaurant.
$$ Zanzibar Beach & Restaurant
Located at the eastern part of the island, at Jan Thiel Beach, you can find the charming Zanzibar Beach & Restaurant. As the name implies, the bar and the restaurant radiate warmth and coziness of East Africa. For more information call 599-9-747-0633, or visit them on Facebook at Zanzibar Beach & Restaurant.
$$$ Landhuis Daniel Country Inn and Restaurant
They invite you for breakfast, dinner or a snack, which are served on the cool and shady terrace in front of the old plantation house in a bistro like setting. The cuisine of Landhuis Daniel can be outlined as an eclectic mix of modern French, Mediterranean, Caribbean and Asian cuisine. Their kitchen staff is dedicated to work with the freshest and finest products available on the island. Besides locally produced ingredients such as herbs and vegetables, fish and lobster, and they also serve Dutch seasonal specialties as steamed mussels, north Atlantic fish, white asparagus and game, all fresh flown in from Holland. For the little ones they have a variety of 20 different Dutch style pancakes. An extensive winelist with old- en new world wines complements the menu. For more information call 599-9-864-8400, or visit them on the web at Landhuis Daniel Country Inn and Restaurant.
Bars & Nightlife
Schooner Beach Bar
Resembling a wooden boat halfway buried in the white sands of Avila’s beach, Schooner Bar & Restaurant presents you with the ultimate in taste combined with relaxation. Pick a seat at our unique bar, covered sea terrace or lazy Adirondack seats at the beach. Refresh with your favorite drink, bite and dish during daytime, at sunset and into the balmy, tropical night. Sit back, relax and indulge your mouthwatering bites, food and beverages, served with a warm smile. We hope you don’t mind the beautiful ocean view. Sunset Happy Hour with complimentary snacks and live music every Friday from 5.00 PM – 7.00 PM For more information call 599-9-461-4377, or visit them on the web at Schooner Beach Bar.
Splash Pool Bar & Grill
Splash Pool Bar and Grill offers delicious frozen drinks and beach favorites including Fish Tacos, Volcano Nachos and the amazing Splash Burger. Relax with a cocktail or ice-cold beer while sun-bathing on beautiful Santa Barbara Beach or by the pool. It is located in the Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort. For more information call 599-9-840-4787, or visit them on the web at Splash Pool Bar & Grill.
Captain Bligh’s Bar
Enjoy your favorite drink during our daily happy hour, refuel with a delicious meal, or have a beer while watching your favorite sports match. The Bligh’s Bar boasts a romantic view over the Caribbean Sea, while sitting in the shade of our indigenous Flamboyant tree and palm trees surrounding the bar. Be refreshed by the constant trade winds and of course the best cocktails of this island! For more information call 599-9-462-5000, or visit them on the web at Captain Bligh’s Bar.
Celeste Beach Bar
The Celeste Beach Bar is the place to unwind and enjoy a well-deserved Caribbean cocktail, to eat freshly caught fish and South-American dishes. Visit us during one of our theme nights to enjoy delicious BBQ or steaks beneath the night sky with live entertainment! Located at the beach of the Hilton Curacao Hotel, overlooking the magnificent Piscadera Bay For more information call 599-9-462-5000, or visit them on the web at Celeste Beach Bar.
Scuba Lodge Ocean Bar & Restaurant
Scuba Lodge Ocean Bar is located in Pietermaai, the most vibrant area of Curacao. Between the torches and with your feet in the sand, you can enjoy the sound of the sea and a romantic sunset. Scuba Lodge Ocean Bar is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For more information call 599-9-465-4575, or visit them on the web at Scuba Lodge Ocean Bar & Restaurant.
Top Curaçao Hotels
This property is 3 minutes walk from the beach. Located in Willemstad, Curacao, this hotel features an on-site diving centre, sight-seeing tours, 2 restaurants and 2 bars. The hotel also provides a casino, spa and 2 private white sand beaches. The Curacao Hilton offers on-site scuba diving, snorkeling and kayaking. A car rental desk and coffee and gift shop are at the hotel as well. There is also a swimming pool and gym. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Hilton Curacao.
Curacao Avila Beach Hotel
Curaçao Avila Hotel is on the beach, just a 5 minute drive from central Willemstad, on the island of Curaçao. This hotel offers access to a variety of activities, a full-service spa and an array of dining and beverage options. Avila Hotel features an outdoor pool and state-of-the-art fitness center. Guests can spend the day scuba diving or swimming with dolphins, then relax with a massage in the Santai spa. After playing a game of golf at a nearby course, guests can relax on the beach. The Blues restaurant at the Avila Hotel serves fresh seafood for dinner, in addition to live jazz music. Guests can visit the hotel’s Avila Cafe for an extensive breakfast buffet, then stop by the Belle Terrace for lunch and dinner. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Curacao Avila Beach Hotel.
Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort
This hotel in Nieuwpoort, Curaçao is on a beautiful peninsula next to the Caribbean Sea and Spanish Water Bay. The hotel features a golf course, full-service spa and marina. Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort features 4 tennis courts, 3 outdoor pools and a fully equipped fitness center. Snorkeling, diving and other water sports are available only steps away. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort.
Baoase Luxury Resort – Children’s Activities
Ideally situated along the Caribbean Sea, this 5-star resort in Netherland Antilles boasts a private beach, free Wi-Fi and deluxe suites with private hot tubs and villas with private pools. Curacao Sea Aquarium is 5 minutes away by car. The Culinary Beach Restaurant, located directly on the beach, is open daily and features international cuisine in a romantic atmosphere. Butlers are available throughout the day to serve guests on the beach. Guests can relax by the outdoor pool or with a variety of spa services. Concierge and child services are available for added convenience. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Baoase Luxury Resort.
BijBlauw is located over the seafront, 10 minutes’ walk from Willemstad’s Historic Centre and 2.5 miles from Curaçao Sea Aquarium. It features stunning sea views, a garden and a free Wi-Fi throughout. A variety of restaurants offering international cuisine and local food can be reached 5 minutes’ walk away. For more information, pricing, or to reserve your room, visit Hotel BijBlauw.