Curaçao Travel Guide
If you are here, it might broadly be because of one of three things:
You love travel and follow me (maybe on instagram — if not, why not?) and are excited to get inspired and learn about a new place you could visit or add to your travel list
You are planning a trip to Curacao and are looking to research and learn more about what to know before you embark on your trip
You are looking for where to visit in the Caribbean and/or you stumbled on my blog
Great news! You are at the right place. I spill all the tea; you can thank me later!
I linked some outfits I wore below…
C U R A Ç A O 1 0 1
WHERE TO GO
You definitely want to visit Willemstad, the capital of Curaçao, with pastel-colored colonial architecture, a pontoon bridge - Queen Emma Floating Bridge (popularly known as the Swinging Old Lady) and Mikvé Israel-Emanuel Synagogue, the oldest continually used Synagogue in the Western Hemisphere.
Willemstad is made up of four quarters, Punda and Otrobanda (being the largest), Scharloo and Pietermaai. You should definitely use a day out of your trip to take a walking tour around this beautiful picturesque city (every corner is picture worthy, TRUST ME - or just see below)
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), committed to preserving the culture and heritage of major sites around the world, in November 2015 named Willemstad, Curaçao one of its World Heritage sites amongst historic sites like the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef of Australia and East Africa’s Serengeti. (even UNESCO thinks Willemstad is amazing, who am I to question? haha!!!)
If you have some extra time after exploring Williemstad, the beautiful expansive coral reefs and marine life, you should definitely venture east of the island. The western/northern part of the island arguably has better beaches (I will share with you shortly) but the views in Jan Thiel are breathtaking. The east also has amazing beaches like the Mambo beach and Jan Thiel beach.
I personally took an east side tour of the island on the last day of my solo trip to the island with Irie Tours, where we got to see Jan Thiel, Mambo beach, Queen Emma Pontoon Bridge, Saliña - a residential area in southeast Curaçao and took a tour of Blue Curaçao Liquer Distillery (we even got to taste all the flavors they had and did some shopping!)
WHEN TO GO
Curacao is known to have three seasons (rainy, windy and dry (‘summer’) but really its warm throughout the year so one can visit at anytime. The best time to visit, according to US news is May to November during the off-peak season when everything is cheap(er). I visited during the fall (first week in December) and it was a great escape from the cold. Prices were reasonably affordable and the weather was great. It might be useful to add curaçao is at very low risk to come into direct contact with hurricanes unlike many Caribbean countries since its well outside the hurricane belt.
Where to Eat
I truly enjoyed lots of the meals I had in curaçao. The KFC on the island is amazing and very well seasoned — do not knock it before you try it! If you are looking for something a little fancier, the Steak & Ribs at the Rif Fort was amazing. Very delicious food and an extensive menu with great ambiance. You can even get a seat overlooking the Caribbean ocean and listen to the sound of the waves kiss the cliff.
Where to stay
I stayed at the Renaissance Curacao Resort & Casino and it was hands down one of the best living experiences I have ever had in my life. The customer service was a dream, food was exquisite and the actual facility was gorgeous. There is a huge casino attached for entertainment and there is no way you will get bored at Renaissance Curacao.
Telephone: +599 9 435 5000
There is no visa required for US citizens. However, for more information on other nationals, see The Kingdom of Netherlands website.
The Netherlands Antillean guilders is the national currency of Curacao however, US dollars are widely accepted everywhere on the island. It may be helpful to have a few guilders on hand since prices and exchange rates may vary slightly at certain restaurants and stores
It may interest you to know that the average person in curaçao can speak at least three languages; YES THREE!!! The official languages are Dutch, English and Papiamento. Papiamento to me sounds like a mixture of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, English, French and even African languages. The island is heavily multifaceted since it was colonized by the Spanish, Dutch, British and now finally owned by the Dutch as one of the Netherland Antilles. I went on a beach tour with bounty adventures and both the guide and her kid (it was a Saturday, hence no school lol) could speak four languages (English, Spanish, Dutch and Papiamento). The tour guide could even speak a little German! It was just fascinating to see how this little cutie switched between Dutch and English while having conversations with me and my new friend, Rand, who was also solo traveling from Netherlands!
Transportation (public transportation) around the island can be a little expensive and it adds up quickly. You might want to consider renting a car at the airport so you can get around easily at your own pace especially if your traveling in a group. However, if you’re riding solo like me, it doesn’t always make sense to rent a car and drive around ALONE. I mean you may be on a solo trip to find solitude but you don’t have to do everything alone. Part of the adventure is meeting new people alone and making connections. I booked several adventures and tours right at the hotel — a beach tour to three beaches, an east side tour of the island, a free walking tour of Willemstad etc. I wish I had time for a day at Klein Curacao; its a total must see! From what I hear its breathtaking and extremely relaxing but i wanted to have a holistic view of the island and time will not permit a full day lounge at Klein Curacao.
I got the opportunity to meet other people on these tours and even met another solo traveler from The Netherlands. She was so sweet and we took a zillion pictures. I was glad to have met someone who shared in my crazy love for pictures and preserving memories.
A ride from the airport to most places in Willemstad should be about $40 US dollars (I did my research before and after I landed on the island). However, I was able to strike a deal with my driver for $30 on condition that I will call him to pick me up when I was ready to leave for $30 — win, WIN!
You definitely need a bunch of cute swimsuits and your favorite sunscreen and you should be good lol. Okay, I will be serious :
Travel documents of course - passport, return ticket, hotel information
Cash - for transportation to your hotel if you are like me and have not already made arrangement for pick up
Camera (I highly recommend an underwater camera), Phone, memory cards to capture all your adventures both on land and underwater
Sun protection - just carry your favorite sunscreen
Swimsuit - lots of them; you will probably be in water EVERYDAY you’re there
Bug repellent - though I did not need any; its the AFRICAN in me hehe
Beach bag / Water bag
Dresses - easy flowy colorful dresses if you wanna be cute and have dope shots with pastel-colored buildings, palm trees or the crystal clear Caribbean waters as a backdrop! You can thank me later…
BUT REALLY, LESS IS MORE! You do not need much to have an amazing time on this gorgeous island.
WHAT TO DO…
Walking Tour of Willemstad
Get your favorite walking shoes and get ready to explore this beautiful colorful capital town of Curacao. Don’t be surprised if you run into iguana man (he’s a sweet man with iguanas). Explore the quintessential nature of a town that has been preserved for its heritage. The town is not that big and is easy to walk and explore. Every corner is picturesque so be sure to grab your camera to capture every moment.
Queen Emma Pontoon BridgeWalk
Queen Emma bridge, popularly known as the “Swinging Old Lady”, is a pedestrian pontoon bridge on the St. Anna bay that opens laterally for passage of ships and boats. It connects the two halves of the capital city Willemstad, Punda and Otrobanda. It’s a major thoroughfare for local pedestrians and tourists alike and has breathtaking instagrammable views from any angle on the bridge.
Oops! Stuck on the bridge while it opens? Just enjoy the views and wave at the people on the ship. It’ll close up shortly. If you happen to want to cross while its open, don’t worry there are water taxi’s that will get you across the bay for FREE!
Wanna stunt on the gram with minimal photo bombers? Go at sunrise, preferably on a Sunday; the views against the sunrise is phenomenal. You can thank me later!
Tour the beaches
I took the curacao beach tour with Bounty Adventures Tours while on my 4-day solo trip in curacao and it was nothing but a dream. This tour explores the white sand beaches in the west of the island which starts from Grote Knip, where you can snorkel, lunch is offered at a restaurant on a cliff overlooking Playa Lagun with panoramic views and iguanas - yes, Iguanas and ends at Cas Abao, the most pristine beach i have even seen in my entire 29 years of life. The water at Cas Abao is crystal clear —as in you can see the rocks at the bottom kinda clear. Be sure to bring your cameras and favorite swimwear and let your creativity flow for the gram.
Mambo beach on the south eastern part of the island is also popular with lots of shops and bars nearby.
Tour the Museums
Clearly, the trans-Atlantic slave trade did a great number on the world at large and the exhibition at Kura Hulanda Museum captures it in its entirety. Kura Hulanda can be found in the heart of Otrobanda, Willemstad and you can visit during your walking tour of this beautiful pastel-colored city.
Snorkeling & Scuba Diving
The beaches on the west of curacao were perfect for snorkeling, though I had definitely seen better sea life in Grenada and Jamaica, it was still easy and relaxing to explore the amazing sea life at the Grote knip and Cas Abao. If you are looking to dive, the cliffs at Playa Lagun are perfect.
Day trip to Klein Curacao
I had only 4 days to see the entire island and most tours to Klein (small) curacao took the entire day so i had to make the executive decision to not go in order to maximize my time on the island. I am definitely visiting again and next time i am TOTALLY visiting Klein curacao, from what i hear, it is a perfect place for a day of relaxing at the beach and unplugging from the world. You should definitely check it out if you want to find some solitude on the island.
Christoffel park is another spot i did not get the chance to explore. according to www.christoffelpark.org “Christoffelpark is the largest national park of Curacao and a must see for everyone. The park has a rich variety of local flora and fauna. Nature lovers will find the park teeming with local birds and plants, including species, which are not easily seen elsewhere on the island.” Again, i had to look at my scale of preference and work with the time I had. Next time.. definitely next time…
The Hato caves situated on the north side, is the most prominent cave on the island and consists of marine coral limestone. It has been publicly accessible by foot since 1991 and can be explored for a fee of $9 for adults and $7 for kids 12 and under
Handelskade is a nice spot to take a quiet walk along the water and grab a bite to eat since it has lots of nice cafes. You can stop at the entrance of the Queen Emma bridge and take a photo with ‘Iguana man’, and people watch or watch the sunset.
Blue Curacao Distillery Tour
Blue Curacao is one of the most famous liqueurs in the world and the distillery is located in… you guessed it, Curacao. I took an east side tour with Irie Tours and a guided tour of this amazing distillery was a part of the tour. We even got to taste the various amazing flavors and had the opportunity to purchase some amongst other souvenirs at their well stocked gift shop.
Bonus: If you love shopping, the stores around the Rif Fort Village by the Renaissance Curacao Resort & Casino are amazing and an actual vibe. Lots of tourists and amazing restaurants - I will delve deeper shortly. Speaking of casino, I won $16.80 with a free $10 voucher I got for staying at this amazing hotel. I cashed out immediately for din din. (I was not trying to be greedy; came in with nothing, left with sixteen bucks!)
This guide has been a long time coming so I think I am going to end here and just publish. Curacao is, without a doubt, my best trip ever since it was my first solo trip ever and I learned to love my company even more and truly explore a new city on my own terms. If you are on the fence about traveling alone and need a little push.. This is it — be like nike,
I cannot wait for my next solo adventure!
Until next time, much love boos